CASSIES Silver: Miami Valley Gaming gets lucky

The casino company used Ohio values and symbols to offer something different.

This story appears in the February/March 2016 issue of strategy.

Silver: Canadian Success on the Global Stage

Situation Analysis:

When Miami Valley Gaming (MVG) planned the launch of a new racino (racetrack/casino), halfway between Dayton and Cincinnati, they were entering a crowded market, with six established national brand-name casinos that were much larger in size and had many more amenities within a 55-mile radius. In addition, a further three casinos were slated to open during 2014.

The issue for MVG was how to launch and sustain a smaller, local casino amid the aggressive marketing efforts of established national brands, with targets to generate annual revenue of $100 million and sign up 50,000 player membership rewards in the first year.

Insight & Strategy:

Research highlighted that, while MVG’s competitors were national chains with the advantage of superior amenities (i.e. table games, hotels, universal reward cards, properties in Las Vegas and national gaming experiences), their brands were virtually interchangeable, offering the “proxy Vegas” gaming experience. Whereas Ohioans didn’t want Vegas, they wanted an entertainment option they could “own” and feel proud of, one that was in touch with the values of Ohioans – their independence, uniqueness and their fierce love of all things.

MVG would be positioned as “Ohio’s casino,” a brand that was welcoming, entertaining, exciting, yet accessible and homegrown.

Ohio is known as the Buckeye State, and many Ohioans refer to themselves as “Buckeyes.” Further research revealed an acorn-like nut from the state tree, Aesculus glabra, commonly known as the Ohio buckeye, was a symbol of good luck to Ohioans. The Buckeye – the state symbol, a source of local identity and pride, and a symbol of luck – would drive the campaign.


Launching on November 18, 2013 in Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio, and running throughout 2014 with a support of $3 to $4 million, a multi-disciplined campaign featured two affable characters representing a fictitious company called the Lucky Buckeye Company, whose prime product was to ensure that every buckeye at Miami Valley Gaming was a “lucky buckeye.”

It ran across conventional and cable television, radio, OOH (billboards and bus wraps), print, website, digital, social media, place-based ads (Dayton Airport/Cincinnati Outlet Mall) and community engagement through various local sponsorships.

The two pitch men anchored a series of spots that introduced the casino and delivered the story of The Lucky Buckeye Company and how having a buckeye in your pocket could bring you luck. To support the idea, MVG offered free buckeyes to patrons at the casino. The TV characters made appearances at the casino and in the community, becoming local celebrities.


In its first year of operations, MVG exceeded its objective for revenue by 20%, raking in over $119 million, making it the third-largest casino amongst the closest competitors. Also, the original objective of acquiring 50,000 MVG Club membership sign-ups was beaten three-fold with just over 150,000 sign-ups. The industry standard of “revenue per slot machine” was second-highest in the market at $207 per machine per day. As the additional revenue had very little additional expense attached to it, the company’s net income increased more than 25%.

Cause & Effect:

All launch and promotional efforts centered on the “Lucky Buckeye” campaign idea. MVG had budgeted on spending 4% of revenue on advertising, but held investment at the planned dollar value, resulting in a lower advertising-to-sales ratio. Within six months of opening, MVG gave out an estimated 40,000 buckeye nuts, creating Ohio’s first-ever state-wide buckeye shortage.


Client: Miami Valley Gaming

VP of marketing: Deborah Murray

President & GM: Domenic Mancini

Sr. director of marketing: Rob Swedinovich

Director of marketing: Jerry Abner

Advertising manager: Pat Shaw

Promotions manager: Taylor Gilliam

Agency: Marshall Fenn

Co-CDs: Daniel Couto, Mike Vinakmens

Jr. AD: Daejoon Kim

Jr. CW: Kelly O’Neill

Partner, CEO: Jim Kabrajee

Account director: Lesley Dikeos

Account executive: Roberta Weisbrot

Media director: Tammy Silny

Producers: Clare Cashman, Lisa Moore, Gill Gardner

Director: Craig Brownrigg

Other partners: Radke Films, School, Sonic Kore