UPS fosters fashionable presence

Think New York Fashion Week - the marquee event drawing more than 100,000 industry insiders - and UPS probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind.

PR team: UPS (Atlanta) and Edelman (Atlanta)
Campaign: UPS Delivers Fashion's Future
Duration: September 8-15, 2006
Budget: $20,000 (in addition to retainer fees)

Think Olympus Fashion Week in New York - the twice-annual marquee event drawing more than 100,000 industry insiders - and UPS probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind.

If anything, the world's largest package delivery company is often perceived as fashion-impaired, with its legions clad in blah brown.

"Obviously, it is not the natural inclination to think of UPS when you think of the latest in fashion," concedes Karen Cole, international PR supervisor for UPS.

Set aside the aesthetics of fashion, though, and focus on the critical business needs of coordinating rapid and reliable shipments between suppliers, designers, and buyers, and UPS' sponsorship at the weeklong event makes much more sense.

Strategy
"UPS has been dabbling in the fashion industry for a few years with smaller sponsorships with designers at Fashion Week, so this was the natural evolution," says Edelman VP Marisa Puthoff.

"UPS Delivering Fashion's Future" aimed to promote 10 emerging designers and present their collections as part of a platform for up-and-coming talent.

Leaders from various UPS departments collaborated to ensure consistent messages conveying UPS as a carrier of choice for the global fashion industry, Cole says.

The international PR team, working with Edelman, devised a strategy to secure coverage, plan valuable VIP events for current and potential customers, raise brand awareness among fashionistas, and use innovative tactics.

Tactics
The program involved four components: a pre-Fashion Week media/VIP cocktail reception, an "Inside Fashion's Future" panel discussion, third-party outreach, and media outreach.

The media/VIP cocktail reception attracted some 200 attendees from top-tier business publications, fashion magazines, and broadcast outlets. At the event, UPS announced the 10 designers selected to show at the UPS Hub.

UPS then hosted the interactive panel with three of the designers to share insight on the art and business of fashion design.

The PR team edited and converted an audio recording of the event, as well as a radio interview from 1010 WINS (featuring Kenneth Cole and UPS Hub designer Toni Maticevski), into podcasts.

Several collateral pieces were created, including the Fashion Week program, 10 designer bios, a fact sheet, and a creative "Top 10" list that was used to drive booth traffic.

And, the team developed a press kit accessible via a USB cable shaped like a UPS truck.

Results
"We were able to connect messages with key audiences that included not just the fashion press, but industry pull-through of our core messaging and coverage in the business media," Cole says.

With a mix of fashion, business, and foreign press coverage, the campaign generated more than 89 million audience impressions through 158 media placements spanning print, online, blog, and broadcast media, Puthoff says.

The team exceeded its goal of media attendees by 25% and secured 90 pre-Fashion Week media placements, ranging from business coverage in The Wall Street Journal to fashion trades, such as Women's Wear Daily, as well as a NY1 News segment.

Future

UPS is exploring negotiating a new multi-year sponsorship with Fashion Week organizers, Cole says. The company is also targeting other fashion events, especially in Europe, such as its sponsorships last year at similar events in Rome and Paris, she adds.

PRWeek's View
To the common observer, UPS may not have seemed a good fit for Olympus Fashion Week. However, by focusing on the business of fashion, UPS was able to establish a legitimate platform to promote a message that was relevant, but also transcended the fashion industry.

And the association with an event that is watched on a global scale furthered its battle to dispel misperceptions that it is not an international player.

So, what of those brown uniforms? "Actually, most of the designers we spoke with said the one thing they would not change about the uniform was the color," Puthoff says. "Apparently, it has reached iconic status."

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