Campaign: Croquet uses Prescott to win media interest

Croquet has a low media profile and a reputation for being old-fashioned and elitist. So out what has The Croquet Association done about it?

Campaign The 2006 Mitsubishi Motors British Open
Client The Croquet Association
PR team ENS 
Timescale 3-9 July 2006
Budget Undisclosed

The Croquet Association, which regulates and promotes the sport in England and Wales, has a network of 134 member clubs with 5,000 regular players, who compete in the annual British Open tournament.

Earlier this year it charged retained agency ENS with widening the game's appeal.

When croquet enjoyed a brief spell in the limelight after deputy PM John Prescott was photographed playing a game with colleagues at his official residence at Dorneywood, the PR team knew it could turn personal
misfortune for Prezza into much-needed publicity for the sport.

To generate public interest in the sport, and to raise the profile of the Croquet Association in the media.

Strategy and Plan
ENS centred its campaign around July's Mitsubishi Motors British Open, at Cheltenham Croquet Club. Despite the fact that world number one Robert Fulford would be chasing his seventh British Open title, ENS knew that the football World Cup and Wimbledon would be dominating the back pages.

After it emerged that Prescott had been playing croquet while supposedly in charge of the country (in Tony Blair's absence), the agency moved the campaign up a gear, targeting national press, which had ignored the tourn­ament in previous years. It also iden­tified an opportunity with cricket correspondents, since there was no significant cricket activity in an otherwise sports-saturated month. The tag­line was ‘Desperately seeking a British champion in any sport'.

The Observer's Will Buckley was invited to play a game with Fulford, who was also interviewed by The Times.

Measurement and Evaluation
The British Open was covered throughout the tournament week in The Daily Telegraph, which ran a full results service. In-depth follow-up articles featuring the winner, Fulford, appeared in The Times and The Observer, as well as local press including the Gloucester Echo and the Cheltenham News. The broadsheets explained the game and its history, lamented its lack of audience, and identified the need to promote its personalities.

Although attendance at the Open was low, and tabloid coverage proved more elusive than expected, the association says its exploitation of Prescott, and the news hook of  Britain's lack of sporting success, were successful. Moreover, hits to the Croquet Association's official website in the month of the tournament increased by 400 per cent, according to ENS.

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