CAMPAIGNS: Visiball turns Tiger Woods' Open woes into solid exposure

PR Team: Visiball Solutions (Toronto) and The Graubard Group (New York) Campaign: Visiball launch Time Frame: May 2003-ongoing Budget:$20,000 total for launch

PR Team: Visiball Solutions (Toronto) and The Graubard Group (New York) Campaign: Visiball launch Time Frame: May 2003-ongoing Budget:$20,000 total for launch

The big story of this year's British Open was unknown American Ben Curtis taking home the Claret Jug in his first major. But in the first round of the four-day golf tournament it was Tiger Woods who made headlines, as expected. Unfortunately, it was because he lost his ball in the deep rough off his tee shot on the first hole, earning him a two-stroke penalty and a long, humbling walk back to the tee to try again. It was just the opportunity that The Graubard Group, which works with Canadian company Visiball Solutions, had been waiting for. Developed over four years by nuclear engineer and company founder Tom Chapman, Visiball glasses make partially concealed golf balls stand out. After a particularly bad round, Chapman and his playing partner "tried a whole bunch of different things, and eventually struck on using the elemental properties of light," he recalls. "They make things that are in the visible field jump out, and they weed out everything else. Don't be afraid to go into the long stuff. I thought that because of the height of the grass and the color, because it's really light brown, but [the glasses] were better than I thought." Exactly the type of help Tiger could have used. Strategy Until that point, the campaign had been restricted to six markets in the US due to a limited quantity of available product. "We were trying to get golf writers and tech writers to try out the product and write about it from the two different perspectives," says Bill Pearse, VP at Graubard. But when Tiger lost his ball, agency president Jeff Graubard immediately saw a chance to get attention, and start driving sales of the $30 product. "This is not a product that's going to help your swing or correct a slice, but it can save you strokes. Tiger's quandary really crystallized it for a lot of people," says Pearse. Tactics As soon as Tiger's misfortune hit the news, Graubard contacted some of its other golf-affiliated clients, and managed to get in touch with the British Open pressroom and the person in charge of working with the reporters covering the event. "He was happy to take our press release, and distribute it to everyone sitting there banging away their stories," says Pearse. The agency also got the name of Tiger's on-site assistant, and sent a pair of Visiball glasses to him. "They probably didn't get there until Sunday, but it was more the idea of getting them to him rather than having him use them on the British Open course. The release said that we were sending Tiger a pair to give him a hand," says Pearse. He's quick to note, however, that Visiball glasses are not currently USGA-approved, so even if he'd received the glasses right away, Tiger likely would not have been able to use them during the tournament. "It was more the concept and the idea that worked for us," says Pearse. Results "We were a little concerned about getting too much exposure," says Chapman. "The problem with a high-profile player like Tiger Woods is that you can get a lot more exposure than you want. We wanted to bring the product to market in a rational way, and that's one of the risks you run - you don't know how big it could be." A story appeared immediately in USA Today, and Golf Week ran an item the following Monday. Nevertheless, these two hits alone resulted in a sales jump of 1,000%. Neither Tiger Woods nor his representatives responded to his receiving the glasses. "Losing a ball is a pretty substantial thing to those guys," says Chapman. "It was an opportunity when it happened, and then you say, 'OK, we can get a little exposure.' But you're surely not going to wish a PGA player bad luck." Future Visiball's nationwide launch is coming soon, says Pearse, at which time the agency will approach mainstream papers, magazines, and TV shows. "We'd love to be in the golf-specific titles, but any of the men's publications like Maxim and Men's Journal would be a great target for us." Meanwhile, Chapman says a US distribution deal is being put in place, after which a full PR, marketing, and ad effort will roll out. "It's the full gamut," he says.

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