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

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group