ALPHARETTA, GA: When most people saw millions of midges attacking the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians during a playoff game earlier this month at Jacobs Field, the people at United Industries, the makers of Cutter insect repellent, saw a marketing opportunity.
"We were watching this on TV and it hit the Internet with some pretty broad coverage
the next morning," said Gary Ramey, divisional VP at United. "Whatever they were [spraying on the players] didn't seem to be working. So we felt we should take advantage of it. [We] saw it as a great opportunity to have some fun."
When fans came out to see the Indians host the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series last week, they were greeted by four people dressed as bees handing out Cutter Advanced insect repellent wipes and cards that read: "Enjoy the game. Keep the midges on the mound!"
Midges are gnat-like creatures that breed on the outskirts of lakes during warm fall weather. Around 10,000 packets were handed out.
Cutter worked with its AOR Fleishman-Hillard on the effort, which Ramey said took less than a week to put together and some "beer money" to fund.
For that "beer money," Cutter got the equivalent of a $200,000 TV spot - which is what Fox was charging for a 30-second commercial during the game - when the network showed footage of the bees handing out the wipes. One of its on-field reporters then talked about the effort and held up one of the packets.
"It's unbelievable ROI and a great case study for the power of PR," Ramey said. ESPN, the Associated Press, and local TV and radio stations picked up the story. "We didn't expect such broad coverage, so it exceeded our expectations."
Ramey said there are no definitive plans going forward, unless the Indians reach the World Series. (The team was one victory away from advancing to the Fall Classic at press time.)
"I'll tell you one thing," Ramey said. "If there's a World Series game there and it's warm out, I'm going to buy a ticket and be there with more Cutter wipes."