CAMPAIGNS: Spicy chef fires up public on Monaco motor-home drive

PR Team: Monaco Coach Corp. (Coburg, OR) and CTA Public Relations (Boulder, CO) Campaign: Monaco Tailgating 2002 Time Frame: NFL season (September through January) Budget: $15,000

PR Team: Monaco Coach Corp. (Coburg, OR) and CTA Public Relations (Boulder, CO) Campaign: Monaco Tailgating 2002 Time Frame: NFL season (September through January) Budget: $15,000

In 1996, well-known New Orleans chef Joe Cahn exchanged his marinades for a motor home. A dedicated football fan, Joe abdicated his culinary career in favor of tailgating at football games around the US. Knowing he'd live in his RV for long stretches, Cahn did thorough research, and opted for a model from Monaco Coach, a leading manufacturer of recreational vehicles and motor homes. Joe's unique travels gained immediate notoriety. And much like Bayou brethren Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme, Cahn loves attention. He persistently extolled his Monaco's virtues. At the end of his first season on the road, he called the company to gauge its interest in a joint promotional venture. Naturally, Monaco devoured the opportunity. As years passed, tailgaters recognized Cahn more readily, anointing him "Commissioner of Tailgating." Monaco marveled at Cahn's PR aplomb, but more organization was needed from a media relations standpoint, recalls Monaco marketing director Mike Duncan. Enter CTA Public Relations, who'd worked with the company for seven years on various projects. Strategy Though Monaco has dealerships in 35 states, the market for motor homes is somewhat limited. As such, CTA and Monaco initially concentrated their efforts on current owners. "Reinforcement is often overlooked in PR," says Duncan. "Before going after new customers, we wanted to make sure current RV owners were happy." The neighborhood atmosphere of tailgating presented the perfect forum for such an effort. Tailgaters love to eat, so who better to play into that than a famous chef? Of course, it also helped that that the enjoyable experience of owning an RV was the backdrop. Tactics Massive tailgating parties were quickly orchestrated at the 2002 Fiesta Bowl - which, along with Cahn himself, is sponsored by Tostitos - and the 2002 Super Bowl, held in Cahn's hometown of New Orleans. CTA's biggest coup, however, was saved for a Monday-night game in Denver between the Broncos and the Oakland Raiders. The Broncos had moved into their new home stadium, Invesco Field, to open the 2001-2002 season. The club wanted to drum up tailgating, and CTA was ready to help. Not only did Cahn entertain a few thousand friends in front of his Monaco, CTA arranged for him to present the Broncos' MVT (Most Valuable Tailgater) award in front of 76,000 fans during the game. In conjunction with Cahn's visit, CTA organized interviews with several local and national outlets. This enabled a wider audience to see Cahn's Monaco Signature Series motor home. Monaco was a bit concerned that its name might get lost in the hoopla. Cahn quelled those fears by plugging the brand repeatedly, even inviting people inside his RV to see his traveling abode firsthand. Moreover, whenever Cahn saw a Monaco owner in the parking lot, he adorned them with free gifts and a bottle of his secret New Orleans seasoning. "Joe is no longer just the 'Commissioner of Tailgating,'" says Bevo Beaven, VP at CTA. "He's now also known as the 'Prime Minister of Monaco.'" Results The coverage of Cahn's Denver stop included interviews on practically every local TV and radio station, along with stories in The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News, the area's two major newspapers. Nationally, Cahn appeared on Fox Sports Net and ESPN Radio, and was featured in a seven-minute segment on CBS Sunday Morning. However, the most crucial factor, says Duncan, was the public's reaction to Cahn. While admitting the difficulty of quantifying sales results based on the tour, Duncan notes, "The level of this tour's exposure is five times greater that any previous campaign. We've never gotten anywhere near this number of calls from folks telling us how much they love their Monacos. Joe's ability to reinforce our brand far exceeded our expectations." Future "Tailgating is so germane to our product," says Duncan, "I can't imagine not continuing this initiative for many years." And for as long as the drive continues, he adds, Cahn will be at the wheel.

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