PR team: Chicago White Sox
Campaign: Vote for Scott
Time frame: July 4 to 6, 2005
Scott Reifert, VP of communications for the Chicago White Sox, was on the team plane July 3 when he started talking with players about how he could get a fourth White Sox player nominated to this year's American League All-Star team.
Three White Sox had already been selected for the team, but Major League Baseball lets fans vote for the last player named to each league's team every year. Sox left fielder Scott Podsednik was in the running for the final spot this year, competing against four other players, including the New York Yankees' ever-popular shortstop, Derek Jeter.
Reifert decided that he would start a grassroots campaign to get votes for Podsednik. He would only have until July 6, when voting ended, to get his team's outfielder more votes than anyone else, so he knew he had to move fast.
"It was like taking a political campaign and jamming it into 72 hours," Reifert recalls.
The White Sox wanted to involve fans, front-office staff, and team members in the effort, creating a unifying event that would bring together the White Sox community, not just in Chicago, but across the US. The campaign would start with fan outreach on the assumption that the media would take note and eventually add to the attention the campaign was getting from fans.
Reifert announced the effort on a blog he maintains, and information was also put on the Sox's team website. An e-mail was sent to 135,000 registered users of the White Sox site, encouraging them to vote often for Podsednik. A second e-mail updated fans on voting totals as the deadline for voting approached. "It just became this grassroots, viral campaign," recalls Reifert.
The team created a "Vote for Scott" logo on 500 buttons distributed to team staff to wear at the July 4 game. One hundred T-shirts with the logos were given to Sox players, coaches, and staff, including security officers around the team's home ballpark, US Cellular Field.
Public address announcements were made during games and flashed on stadium message boards asking fans to vote for Podsednik.
Beginning with the team's home game on July 5, a Vote for Scott logo was placed behind home plate at US Cellular Field, visible to TV viewers throughout the game.
A laptop was put in the White Sox dugout so players and media could vote on the site. Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf cast his vote wearing his Vote for Scott button.
Players were also enthused by what the team was doing, and many became involved. All-Star pitcher Mark Buehrle addressed crowds at two Sox games, asking them to vote for his teammate.
"It was a very unifying effort for the whole staff, for everyone," says Brooks Boyer, the Sox VP of marketing.
Press releases kept the media up to date on how the voting was progressing. When Podsednik took the lead over Jeter, a release was done to encourage last-minute voting to ensure he kept the top spot.
Podsednik was selected, receiving nearly 4 million of the 11.5 million votes cast for the five candidates. The last player selected for the National League team received 2.65 million votes, well more than a million less.
"The groundswell that our fans created out of this was truly unique," says Boyer.
The effort garnered 20.4 million TV impressions, receiving coverage in 95 TV reports on both local and national outlets. Print impressions totaled 10.8 million, with 37 stories.
Podsednik's selection gave the White Sox four players on the All-Star team for the first time in 30 years.
The campaign showed Reifert the effectiveness of reaching out online. "I learned the power of a spark of an idea coupled with the power of the internet," he says.