Round Rock, TX, a suburb of Austin, had been doing well for years, thanks to the Dell Computers headquarters located within its limits.
However, officials knew that if PC sales ever faltered, the suburb's lack of economic diversity would cause the tax base to crumble.
After calling in a destination consultant to assess the city's attributes, including a minor-league ballpark and a 570-acre multi-use sports complex, it was suggested that the city would be the perfect candidate for the title of "Sports Capital of Texas."
Though initially met with doubts, it became apparent that the city's proximity and standout facilities made it an ideal location for youth, recreational, and amateur sports. Using the two arenas and the abundance of family-friendly lodging and dining options as cornerstones, the Round Rock Convention
& Visitors Bureau (CVB) and TateAustin PR decided to christen Round Rock as the "Sports Capital of Texas."
"It was something we could sink our teeth into immediately- we just had to learn how to do everything we were doing bigger and better," says Nancy Yawn, director of the CVB.
The campaign initially focused on the residents of Round Rock and making them aware of what would be happening in town. By showcasing the economic benefits that the "Sports Capital" title would bring to the city, TateAustin hoped to give them some context for what it was doing.
"We knew that in order for this brand to be sustainable over time, the [residents] of Round Rock really had to buy into it," says Brad Mays, a director at TateAustin PR.
Once residents realized what it meant to be the "Sports Capital of Texas," the emphasis could shift to the influential people that could bring events into town - the Texas sports decision-makers and tournament directors. By zeroing in on sports planners, TateAustin hoped to give the initiative some focus and help build the brand.
"We wanted to really own being the 'Sports Capital of Texas,'" says Mays. "Those kinds of tournaments are what really drive the hotel stays."
Things kicked off with a summer media weekend, during which TateAustin set up a website and held briefings with local news outlets and put the message into papers. Using the slogan "Game on!" to signify the readiness of the town and its venues, the firm filmed a PSA, set up booths at trade shows, and placed ads in various sports-related publications.
The real home run, however, was hit with the direct mailing of folding chairs emblazoned with the Texas flag and "Game on!" URL. As one of the most popular accessories at any amateur sporting event, the Round Rock folding chair was a big hit. "It's an inviting symbol," says Mays. "It really hit the target audience we sought to influence."
As a pleasant surprise, pictures of people with folding chairs started pouring in from places as far as Greece and Iraq, and the website (roundrockcvb.com) saw 75,000 initial hits. Skeptical reporters soon changed their minds in print, and other departments within the city began to direct people to the site, making it the unofficial "game program" for Round Rock.
To date, the site has had more than 120,000 visitors, and 10 new event contracts have been signed as a result of the effort.
Initially designed as a three-year campaign, TateAustin foresees a long-term effort to sustain the brand both internally and externally. The advertising series has a new campaign rolling out over the summer, and following the huge success of the chairs, several more direct mailings are anticipated to bring as many people on board as possible.
"We want people to think of Round Rock as the ultimate host city and to want to come back," says Yawn. "And that takes the whole community."
PR team: TateAustin PR (Austin, TX) and Round Rock (TX) Convention & Visitors Bureau
Campaign: Round Rock - The Sports Capital of Texas
Time frame: June 2004 to present (ongoing)