Blackpool hits jackpot in global poker contest -Consumer

Campaign: World's first million-dollar Freeroll online poker tournament Client: PR team: Hill & Knowlton Timescale: August-September 2005 Budget: £10,000-£20,000

This summer aimed to position itself as a leader in the online gaming market, and establish a reputation for offering consumers lucrative competitions.

To this end, it established the world's first $1m free-to-enter online poker tournament and used Hill & Knowlton's consumer technology and entertainment division to create media interest.

To raise awareness of the Paradise-Poker website and drive players to the $1m 'Freeroll' tournament. To lay the groundwork for future big-money competitions.

Strategy and Plan
The campaign was divided into two stages to cover the tournament itself and the eventual winner (rounds were played online, with the top ten players going to Costa Rica for a final play-off). Initial activity covered the run-up to the Costa Rica final.

In the build-up to this event, H&K negotiated with targeted media to feature stories and competitions to encourage participation. The PR team also used an existing partnership between ParadisePoker and model Caprice to generate awareness and explain the details of the competition.

To further increase interest, some journalists were offered a place in the tournament's online stages - involving around 4,000 players - to use as a competition prize or for feature hooks.

The second stage of PR activity kicked in following the tournament, won by Lee Biddulph, a chef from Blackpool and the only UK finalist. H&K organised a 'welcome home' photocall in Manchester for the $1m-winning 28-year-old.

Measurement and Evaluation
The photocall was attended by broadcast and print media including BBC News, ITV News, Five, BBC Radio One and the Daily Mirror. In the two days following the announcement of the winner, ParadisePoker achieved more than 35 items of print and broadcast coverage, including 15 radio interviews and seven national newspaper articles in titles including the Daily Star, Daily Express, The Independent and The Times.

More than 300,000 people entered the tournament for the chance to play in the Costa Rica final. Paul Broster, North-West correspondent at the Daily Express, says the media attention around Biddulph was similar to that surrounding National Lottery winners when the game was introduced.

'Interest comes from the current growth of online poker in this country,' he says. 'This was one of the first examples of a Mr Ordinary becoming a millionaire overnight.'

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