Baltimore City Super Bowl PR Campaign
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Baltimore City Super Bowl PR Campaign

On January 18, 2001, just 10 days before Super Bowl Sunday, Warschawski Public Relations was appointed by the Office of the Mayor of the City of Baltimore to handle Baltimore City’s national media relations surrounding the Super Bowl.

Paul Holmes

On January 18, 2001, just 10 days before Super Bowl Sunday, Warschawski Public Relations (WPR) was appointed by the Office of the Mayor of the City of Baltimore to handle Baltimore City’s national media relations surrounding the Super Bowl.  The goal was to leverage the Baltimore Ravens playing in the Super Bowl to secure coverage for the city’s recent economic turnaround in prominent national print and broadcast outlets.  Emphasis was placed on obtaining interview opportunities with major media for Mayor Martin O’Malley that allowed him to recast the city’s image by hammering home the message that, like the Ravens, Baltimore is a city on the move – from reduced crime to higher home values.  For the past 10 years, Baltimore has been portrayed nationally as a symbol of urban decay, particularly through TV shows like Homicide and The Corner that highlighted its high crime rate and prevalent drug culture. 
 
With only 10 days before the Super Bowl, WPR immediately launched a proactive public relations campaign.  This included arranging all of the mayor’s interviews for the week, as well as compiling press materials and statistics, developing key message points, advising the mayor, and accompanying the mayor on all interviews.  As a result of our work, in the week before the Super Bowl, 93 positive stories were printed highlighting the city’s turnaround, reaching a total circulation of more than 7.2 million readers.  Additionally, 29 TV news stories appeared, 29 Internet stories were secured, and Baltimore media outlets ran positive stories on the mayor’s national outreach efforts (the mayor even mentioned the campaign in his State of the City address).  Perhaps most importantly, WPR’s PR strategy created a positive “buzz” about Baltimore City’s comeback.
 
OBJECTIVES
 
WPR outlined the following four objectives for the City of Baltimore’s public relations campaign:
  • Leverage interest in the Ravens to recast Baltimore as a city on the rise (tout its recent drop in violent crime, increased property resale values, improvements in elementary school test scores, etc.).
  • Secure coverage from at least two major wire services from which coverage would “trickle down.”
  • Secure placements from at least two broadcast affiliates and one major daily newspaper in NYC.
  • Lay the foundation for the city’s future national media outreach activities.
 
HURDLES TO OVERCOME TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS
 
In implementing this public relations campaign, WPR faced three distinct challenges: 
The limited amount of time before the Super Bowl (just 10 days from when we were appointed). 
 
The mayor only was available for a press tour of NYC (a critical component of our campaign) on Tuesday, January 23rd – less than three business days after WPR was appointed to handle the city’s national media relations.  This left us with just two days to secure interviews and coordinate logistics. 
 
Most media outlets typically assigned all Super Bowl-related stories to their sports departments, which wasn’t the appropriate outlet for our key message about Baltimore City’s economic turnaround.
 
STRATEGY
 
Recognizing the limited amount of time before the Super Bowl – and the mayor’s limited availability for interviews during that time – WPR developed a PR strategy to aggressively target top national print and broadcast outlets and wire services from which coverage would “trickle down” to regional outlets.  The centerpiece of our PR campaign was a one-day “all out” NYC press tour.  NYC was chosen because it is the nation’s No. 1 media market which allowed us to maximize our window for press coverage and schedule 14 interviews for the mayor in an eight hour period.  NYC also is the base for much of the private investment dollars Baltimore is trying to attract, and home to the Giants, the Ravens’ Super Bowl opponent.
 
To accommodate media outside of NYC, and the tight deadline before the Super Bowl, WPR arranged for the mayor to be interviewed in-person and by telephone from his office in Baltimore, and on-set or via satellite remote once he arrived in Tampa for the Super Bowl.  In addition to securing interviews with top-level business outlets, WPR leveraged the mayor’s charisma by arranging, where appropriate, interviews that offered him the opportunity to “cheerlead” for the Ravens as well as deliver his key message of the city’s turnaround.
 
IMPLEMENTATION
 
WPR developed an underlying theme for the campaign that connected the rise of the Ravens with Baltimore’s recent economic turnaround, and demonstrated how the Ravens’ Super Bowl appearance will provide additional momentum to the city.  To document the city’s turnaround, WPR researched economic and social indicators where Baltimore has made significant gains.  We also gathered statistics on the impact of recent Super Bowl teams on their hometown’s economy.  WPR developed fact sheets and compiled articles on Baltimore’s turnaround for use in pitching journalists.  WPR then crafted key message points for the mayor, and coached him on how to leverage the news “hook” of the Ravens’ success to trumpet the city’s recent success, and how to steer the interview to his points when journalists wanted to “talk Ravens.”
 
To expand the coverage, WPR arranged for several TV stations to tape interviews with the mayor at NYC’s popular ESPN Zone restaurant.  We even convinced one station to film the mayor throwing a football in an interactive game at the sports-theme restaurant’s arcade.  Similarly, the mayor agreed to mockingly “talk trash” with Giants fans in Times Square for a two-minute feature story that ran three times on the local CBS affiliate’s news programs.  WPR offered national business outlets based in New York more serious interviews with the mayor as a timely opportunity to profile a city on the rise.  WPR also worked with the mayor’s office to prepare “b-roll” footage of a send-off rally for the Ravens and of city buildings that were lit in purple (the Ravens’ color) in support of the team.  Where appropriate, we also suggested the mayor wear his Ravens jacket for interviews and/or pose throwing a football, adding excitement to the interviews and providing valuable photos to accompany coverage.  At WPR’s recommendation, stock photos also were available. 
 
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
 
WPR’s strategy proved to be an overwhelming success.  By creating an upbeat PR campaign, and securing a high level of national media coverage, WPR was able to achieve all of the outlined goals for the campaign in a very tight timeframe.  Photos and video of the mayor wearing a Ravens jacket enhanced the coverage.  Scheduling private, one-on-one interviews between key wire services and the mayor at city hall (which was lit in purple, with huge purple banners and statues dressed in Ravens jerseys) resulted in lengthy feature wire service stories on Baltimore’s turnaround and how, led by the mayor, the city was uniting behind the Ravens.  The following highlights the outstanding results WPR achieved in just 10 days:
 
Leverage interest in the Ravens to recast Baltimore as a city on the rise (tout its recent drop in violent crime, increased property resale values, improvements in public school test scores, etc.).
In the week before the Super Bowl, 93 positive print placements were received, reaching a total circulation of over 7.2 million readers.  Additionally, 29 TV placements were received, including such major outlets as Today, Bloomberg News, CNBC, CNN, CNN Headline News, FOX Sports, and all NY affiliates of the major broadcast networks.  The segments from Headline News and WCBS-NY were distributed via satellite feed to stations in Baltimore and elsewhere which aired it in their evening news.  WPR also secured 29 Internet placements, including CNN Interactive and Kiplingers Personal Finance.
 
Secure coverage from at least two wire services from which coverage would “trickle down.”
Our strategy to target wire services was an overwhelming success.  WPR secured coverage in nearly all of the wire services (Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg, Christian Science Monitor).  This resulted in more than 80 print stories in major daily newspapers such as the Washington Post, Times Picayune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Oregonian, and Richmond Times-Dispatch.  The Reuters story was even carried in Bahrain. 
 
Secure placements from at least two network affiliates and one major daily newspaper in NYC.
WPR arranged a NYC press tour during which Mayor O’Malley was interviewed in an eight hour period by CNBC, Today, all five of the NYC affiliates of the major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, UPN), CNN Headline News, the NY Post, NY Daily News, and Bloomberg radio, TV and wire services.  WPR also secured a story in the Daily News previewing the mayor’s press tour.  Baltimore media outlets – including Maryland’s largest paper, the Baltimore Sun – favorably covered the mayor’s NYC press tour: one TV station sent a crew to follow the mayor in NYC; another rebroadcast the mayor’s Today show segment in its entirety on its 11 p.m. newscast; two stations reported on the mayor’s NYC tour during their morning “news breaks.”   
 
Lay the foundation for the city’s future national media outreach activities.
As a result of our work, the Baltimore mayor’s office now is in regular contact with journalists who covered the city’s economic turnaround.  At WPR’s suggestion, the Bloomberg TV reporter who interviewed the mayor in NYC covered the opening one-month later of the landmark Marriott Hotel in Baltimore as a follow-up story.  Similarly, the NY Daily News reporter who covered the mayor’s NYC press tour later wrote a positive story on similarities between the way O’Malley and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani govern – and the great results.
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