Swimming made waves at the 2004 Summer Olympics. With star swimmers, such as Michael Phelps and Amanda Beard, diving straight into the hearts of fans across the US, the sport gained recognition and had many people grabbing their goggles for a lap in the pool.
As the excitement faded in the following months, however, USA Swimming, the national governing body for the sport in the US, wanted to find a way to sustain the buzz. To do this, the group sought the help of Warschawski Public Relations.
Warschawski's goal was to position swimming as the number-one family sport in the US heading into the summer. To accomplish this, the firm decided to use water safety as a springboard for an aggressive campaign.
"We wanted to make sure that kids had the tools to be safe while increasing the visibility of the sport in the US," says Amy Christopher, SVP at the agency.
Water safety was a "natural way to promote our sport," says Rod Davis, USA Swimming's CMO, because all parents want their children to learn how to swim in order to prevent accidents. (Research shows that drowning is the leading cause of death for kids under 5.)
"Our goal isn't to turn kids into Olympians," he adds, "but getting more kids in the sport is good for our industry. [And] we don't want to see any more reports of drowning."
Warschawski decided to use USA Swimming's annual April Pool's Day initiative, which promotes water safety, to launch the campaign.
Warschawski created an SMT to secure coverage for the campaign in at least 10 broadcast markets. The agency kicked off the effort with satellite media coverage of the 2005 World Swimming Trials, where several star Olympic swimmers were on site, including Beard and Phelps.
Warschawski prepared the athletes to deliver the key messages of water safety and to promote the first-ever Water Safety Pledge - an online pledge to practice safety in the water. Both Beard and Phelps signed the pledge, encouraging kids to do so, as well.
By signing the pledge, children also had the opportunity to vote for their schools to win the Ultimate Pool Party, another new feature that Warschawski added to April Pool's Day. The firm ensured that USA Swimming's website information was included on-screen in each media placement to boost participation.
To build local interest, Warschawski hosted events at individual USA Swimming member pools, where the firm distributed media kits, including water-safety statistics, and encouraged April Pool's Day participation.
Warschawski also distributed educational materials - including word finds, crossword puzzles, fun facts, and more, all related to water safety - to more than 30,000 elementary schools.
While USA Swimming has used similar educational curriculum efforts in the past, Warschawski informed the media of the initiative, including top-tier education beat writers, and incorporated the information into press releases.
Warschawski's efforts generated more than 20,000 online registrations for April Pool's Day - an increase of more than 1,000% from the 2004 campaign. The company secured feature coverage about the campaign in many daily newspapers, including USA Today and The Washington Post. "We're really pleased with how our coverage matched up with some of our key markets," Davis says.
USA Swimming will work with Warschawski on next year's April Pool's Day. The team will also reach out to elementary schools - this time with a different approach. The theme of the new educational effort will be, "We Want You on Our Team."
PR team: USA Swimming (Colorado Springs, CO) and Warschawski Public Relations (Washington, DC)
Campaign: Warschawski Makes a Splash with USA Swimming
Time frame: March 31 through April 2005
Budget: Under $40,000