Jays plan hits home run

Agency/Media Company: MediaVest Worldwide Client: Toronto Blue Jays Team: Brent McKenzie, vice-president, group media director Timing: March to September 1999 Best Use of Radio: Runner-up The Background The Toronto Blue Jays once were celebrated as one of the...

Agency/Media Company: MediaVest Worldwide

Client: Toronto Blue Jays

Team: Brent McKenzie, vice-president, group media director

Timing: March to September 1999

Best Use of Radio: Runner-up

The Background

The Toronto Blue Jays once were celebrated as one of the most successful franchises in Major League Baseball history. During their peak years, in the early part of this decade, they earned back-to-back World Series titles, while smashing regular-season attendance levels.

The team’s triumph at the box office reflected both the hunger of Torontonians for the game, and the skill of management at leveraging this phenomenon. Of course, the opening of the spectacular SkyDome in 1989 had also added significantly to the experience of ‘being at the game.’

From 1994 onward, however, the attendance picture had begun to change. The players’ strike that year had a serious effect on fan attitudes – not just in Toronto, but in every Major League town. Also, a number of popular players had departed, and there were no high-profile replacements on the roster to maintain public attachment and support. The novelty of the Dome was dimming, ticket prices were going up and it was getting easier to watch the game at home. To say nothing of all the other entertainment options in the city that were vying for attention.

Promotional budgets for the Blue Jays tended to be relatively small – an indicator of the degree to which the franchise depended on public sentiment and public vehicles to carry the day. The Jays had always maintained that they didn’t need to advertise. But ticket sales suggested otherwise.

The objective of this plan was to develop an advertising program that would get the fans into the game, as a first step toward actually drawing them into the stadium. The key insight was that baseball itself is only part of ‘the game.’

The Plan

Radio advertising formed the core of the campaign. Key to the success of the plan, however, was inducing the participating radio stations to let the Jays tap into their considerable promotional resources as well. In this way, the team ‘grew’ a comparatively modest radio advertising budget of $500,000 into a dynamic promotional war chest. In some cases, this increased the value of their media investment by three to four times.

Radio was the showcase medium for several reasons. For one, it offered the exciting retail imperative considered essential to the team’s promotional needs. And it provided both immediacy and flexibility, which made it easy to adjust the Jays’ messages to suit the changing needs of the program.

Advertising messages, which focused on the inherent rewards of ‘being at the game,’ constituted the bulk of the branding effort. There were 30-second spots that ran throughout the day, backed up by 10-second tags that ran exclusively during drive time. Posters and newspapers provided additional support.

Promotion, meanwhile, formed the largest part of the total effort. Eight stations in the Greater Toronto Area were contracted to (a) carry the Jays’ brand message, and (b) lend support to specific home-stand promotion days. These were negotiated on a case-by-case basis with the stations, all of which had historically been successful at linking the Blue Jays with segments of their fan base. The steady, week-long airing of promotional spots ensured a constant level of baseball ‘buzz’ in the air, while the use of specific promo days helped to dramatize a genuine need for action.

The promotional schedule locked into virtually every major Toronto home game. In all, there were some 60 events through the course of the season, many wrapped around special occasions such as Father’s Day and Canada Day. Fan incentives ran the gamut – from the opportunity to meet the players, to reduced ticket prices, to cash and prize giveaways.

The Results

For the first time in several years, the Jays actually surpassed their attendance goals, attracting 2.1 million-plus fans to their home games last season. By that measure alone, the 1999 program was a resounding success.

The plan was built on the recognition that baseball is a total entertainment experience – one that encompasses the players, the fans, the venue, the sights, the sounds and everything else that contributes to the carnival atmosphere of being at the ballpark. And nothing validated the currency of that insight more than the success of Austin Powers Night. Developed in collaboration with Q107-FM to tap the popularity of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, the promotion encouraged fans to come dressed as characters from the movie. Attendance for that single night was up 20%, and the event enjoyed potent PR power as well, attracting North America-wide coverage via TSN, CTV Sportsnet, CNN and others. It added to the fun of the game, and helped fans share the experience. Not bad for a fictional character who, frankly, has nothing much to do with baseball. Yeah, baby!

Also in this report:

* Bates takes the cake p.BMP2

* MaxAir fires on all cylinders: Multi-tiered plan for high-menthol gum was imbued with irreverence p.BMP3

* Dentyne Ice kisses up to teens with party promo: Initiative was designed to drive both brand awareness and sales p.BMP4

* Kool-Aid placement reflected fun, refreshment p.BMP6

* Aussie creates ‘in your face’ presence: Repositions brand as funky, outrageous p.BMP8

* Guerrilla tactics get Panasonic noticed: Campaign used underground channels to reach club crowd p.BMP10

* Much VJ follows his Natural Instincts on air p.BMP12

* Chapters stands out in dot-com crowd: Multimedia approach helped retailer create perception of market and category dominance p.BMP15

* Campbell’s cooks up targeted advertorial: Partners with CTV, magazines to create a presence beyond traditional ad buy p.BMP16

* Looking at Philips through fresh eyes: Redefinition of target market sparked departure from the traditional choice of television p.BMP18

* Minute Maid aims for morning ownership p.BMP24

* Western Union a global Villager p.BMP28

* Scotiabank breaks out of the mold p.BMP32

* Clearnet clusters creative: Complementary boards were positioned in proximity to one another to maximize visibility, engage consumer p.BMP38

* The Judges p.BMP43

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.