PR team: Dan Klores Communications (New York) and the US Tennis Association (White Plains, NY)
Campaign: US Open 2005
Time frame: April to Sept. 2005
Roger Federer easily triumphed in men's singles at the 2005 US Open tennis tournament, as he successfully defended his title from the year before.
While the Swiss star's work on the court produced results similar to previous years, attendance in the stands and TV viewership for the 2005 event were markedly different from 2004.
For this year's US Open, the United States Tennis Association (USTA), which operates the annual event, decided to introduce a blue look for its tennis courts at the venue in Queens, NY. The association also opted to switch PR agencies in an effort to reinvigorate interest in its signature tournament.
Dan Klores Communications (DKC), which took over the US Open account from Edelman, created a series of events in the New York area that it hoped would drive ticket sales.
"Edelman had been the AOR for nearly a decade," says Chris Widmaier, senior director of PR for the USTA. "We thought it was time to go in a new direction and get a fresh perspective."
DKC aggressively pitched new story angles to the most influential media outlets in the metropolitan area and sought exposure in publications that do not traditionally cover tennis.
Scott Miranda, SVP and head of DKC's sports division, says the firm worked hard to solicit interest beyond the sports pages. "We were looking for the business angle and looking for the entertainment angle," he says.
Tennis, Miranda explains, has become a major story in the style pages, with Serena Williams and other players making "a fashion statement on the court as much as they do tennis statements."
DKC linked the launch of ticket sales to the 2005 Open to the unveiling of the event's new blue courts. To help promote the event, a blue court was built on the flight deck of the USS Intrepid, located on the Hudson River near midtown Manhattan, and tennis stars Monica Seles and Mary Joe Fernandez held a tennis clinic.
Today's Al Roker covered the event on the Intrepid, as did the WB11 Morning News, which broadcast live from the unveiling.
DKC also landed coverage on the editorial page of The New York Times. "Traditionally, we do well in the Times - in the sports pages," Widmaier notes. Times editorial writer Philip Boffey was surprised by how the USTA's "marketing whizzes...gussied up the proceedings."
DKC also helped the Open land its first-ever cover story in TimeOut New York, including an impressive aerial photo of one of the new blue courts. "It's important for us to grow our audience and move into ethnic and younger publications to reach new audiences," Widmaier says.
The new marketing approach paid off. The Open set an all-time attendance record of 659,538 fans, breaking the previous record, set in 2001, by more than 20,000. Total TV viewership on CBS for the two-week tournament was up 18% compared to 2004, while total viewership on the USA Network was up 8%.
Traffic on the USOpen.org website set a record of 28 million visitors, versus 15.4 million the year before.
"DKC was a vital part of that in increasing our publicity outreach," Widmaier says. "We saw unprecedented pre-US Open television coverage. We saw some real big surprises in the print world, as well."
The US Open's courts will remain blue for the 2006 event, Widmaier says, after receiving positive reviews by the players. DKC will also return as the tournament's PR agency, he added.
DKC will approach its relationship with the US Open one year at a time. By adopting that attitude, Miranda explains, it keeps the "hunger and creativity going" and the "ideas fresh."