Florida PSA campaign taps famous coaches

TALLAHASSEE, FL: Ernesto, the first hurricane of the season, was barreling down on the state of Florida this week.

TALLAHASSEE, FL: Ernesto, the first hurricane of the season, was barreling down on the state of Florida this week.

But the state's football fans were presumably at least somewhat prepared for the disaster thanks to a series of PSAs produced by the state government.

Following the destructive force that was Hurricane Katrina, Florida's Department of Community Affairs (DCA) decided to put together a public education campaign that would tap some of the state's most visible celebrities: its football coaches.

Adam Sohn, a former Ruder Finn VP who now works for the DCA as director of communications and served as creative director of the campaign, said its aim was to "Create a culture of preparedness, and come up with some new marketing tactics and strategies that can help get folks to think about preparing for hurricane season before storms are in the forecast."

The DCA secured the cooperation of four of the state's most prominent athletic coaches: Nick Saban of the Miami Dolphins, Pat Riley of the Miami Heat, Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden, and University of Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan. Each man recorded a separate PSA emphasizing hurricane preparedness

"Who are the folk heroes of today? Very often, in the local community, it's the coach of your local sports team," Sohn said. "Bobby Bowden [for example] carries a certain gravitas in the Panhandle, and, certainly… resonate[s] with those folks."

The four PSAs have already been filmed. Three of them were debuted during a press conference before the Miami Dolphins' preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on August 12; the fourth, coach Saban's, was shown during halftime of the game on the stadium's big screen. Media outlets including ESPN and CNN radio ran stories on the effort, according to Sohn.

"In the post-9/11 world, we're all living with the threat of potential pan-flus and terrorist attacks, and down South here we've got these hurricanes to worry about on top of that," said Sohn. "It's very hard to compete against the noise that's being made in the commercial advertising industry and be heard when you have a government shoestring marketing budget to get a message out that can potentially help save people's lives."

The Coaches Campaign cost the DCA only $75,000 to produce. Rochester, NY-based Mason Selkowitz Marketing produced the spots. The spots will run on statewide television, and are formatted to be picked up on radio as well. Sohn said that the PSAs will be played on local TV and radio networks beginning September 1, and will run throughout the entire football season.

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