Plaid pays off for Heritage PGA

Dixon Schwabl created the "Get Your Plaid On" campaign, in which an actor brought 18th century Scottish golfer Sir William Innes to life for the Heritage PGA Tour golf tournament.

Client: The Heritage Classic Foundation (Hilton Head Island, SC)
Agency: Dixon Schwabl (Rochester, New York)
Campaign: Get Your Plaid On!
Duration: January 1, 2011-May 1, 2011
Budget: about $40,000

The Heritage Classic Foundation is a nonprofit that organizes and runs the Heritage PGA Tour golf tournament, proceeds from which benefit other local nonprofits. The tournament and the foundation are steeped in Scottish tradition – tournament winners receive a special plaid jacket and 18th century Scottish golfer Sir William Innes (a.k.a. “Willie”) is integral to the foundation's brand identity.

Last year, AOR Dixon Schwabl created the “Get Your Plaid On” campaign, in which an actor brought Willie to life, making public appearances as the character. The team expanded the effort this year. Willie led communications outreach, helping drive community engagement and ticket sales.

“This tournament is unique because it's a party – people make a vacation out of it,” explains marketing director Angela McSwain. “We wanted to capitalize on that and [highlight] the fun aspect.”

Serving as the Heritage ambassador, Willie engaged reporters, social media audiences, and fans at the tournament April 18 to 24.

Two new programs, “Willie at Work” and “Plaid About Reading,” were launched to extend sponsor and community engagement.

All messaging emphasized the tournament's unique features and community involvement.

“Willie at Work” kicked off in March, with Willie assuming various roles – from bank teller to TV sports reporter – at the workplaces of local sponsors. Dixon Schwabl associate PR director Greg Kamp says the program generated goodwill and attracted media attention. It continued through the tournament, where Willie's roles included serving as a soundman for CBS Sports.

“Plaid About Reading,” an elementary school reading competition, ran March 21 to April 11. Prizes included $1,000, a visit from Willie, and a chance to putt with PGA Tour pros.

Pitches, press releases, and emails were sent from Willie. He attended a February 28 media day event with PGA Tour and foundation officials that included golf and meals.

Willie regularly communicated on his Facebook and Twitter pages. The team also developed social media contests, including one that awarded media day passes to six participants.

Videos of Willie giving tours of tournament activities were posted on the PGA's YouTube page.

The tournament generated more than $1.5 million, up $158,007 from 2010. First-time ticket buyers increased 20% from 2010, and 61% tickets were pre-sold in March and April, up 50% from 2010.

“Plaid About Reading” reached 3,500 students, who read 7,801 books.

Facebook likes increased from 750 to 2,864.

The team is preparing the 2012 ticket sale kickoff with Willie in November and promoting the tournament's new title sponsor, Royal Bank of Canada.

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