Charting the future of public relations
Best Buy Takes Manhattan
Paul Holmes
Holmes Report

Best Buy Takes Manhattan

Best Buy, the nation’s largest consumer electronics retailer, was faced with the challenge of creating awareness of the grand openings of 15 stores in New York and New Jersey – a market where the company had no presence.

Paul Holmes


How do you make a SPLASH in New York City - the most competitive market in the nation? “Turn on the fun” by holding strategic, branded events in high-profile locations and get celebrities involved. Infiltrate the City with colorful mascots and connect with consumers on the street. Sponsor a free Sting concert in Central Park. And secure hard-hitting coverage from national and local consumer media through highly strategic media relations efforts. The situation? Best Buy, the nation’s largest consumer electronics retailer, was faced with the challenge of creating awareness of the grand openings of 15 stores in New York and New Jersey – a market where the company had no presence, and a market that had very little knowledge about Best Buy’s brand. Prior to the planning phase, Best Buy and its PR firms conducted extensive research. To develop suitable objectives and strategies, consumer focus groups and several brainstorms were held with professionals at all levels and in several offices. We gathered information regarding Metro Transit Authority and New York Police Department regulations, New York-based vendors, permits, national media outlets, demographics of New York-area consumers, and high-profile locations for events (Central Park, Grand Central, Wall Street, MTV’s Total Request Live, CBS Early Show, Today Show, and several subway and train locations). We also examined case studies that outlined how similar retailers (i.e. Target) introduced themselves to the New York market.


Planning began in June 1999. Best Buy and its agencies devised the following objectives:

  • Introduce the Best Buy brand to the New York/New Jersey area and position the new stores as THE SOURCE for electronics and small appliances in the local and national media.
  • Position Best Buy as the ultimate destination for enhancing fun time among consumers through the use of technology products.
  • Drive traffic to Best Buy stores.
  • To reach our New York-based target audiences of males 16 to 40 years of age, young families, white-collar professionals and media, we formulated the following strategies:
  • Generate media coverage to drive traffic to Best Buy stores in lifestyle and local sections of targeted regional/national media.
  • Incorporate high-impact promotions featuring mascots and celebrities to build a grassroots buzz about the new stores.
  • Leverage events in Manhattan where media is located to create excitement about and awareness of the Best Buy brand.
  • Leverage advertising efforts to support public relations efforts.

The success of the program was based on the following measurement criteria: the number of attendees at events, measured through register-to-win vouchers; print and broadcast media placements (including circulation figures and advertising equivalency); return on investment; quantity of consumer/media inquiries; store sales figures on opening day, and conversations with consumers and analysts. The budget did not exceed $1 million.


To communicate Best Buy’s brand message, we executed several newsworthy events and guerilla marketing tactics on September 12 and September 18 - 21, roughly a week prior to the grand openings. Some of our biggest public relations challenges was to garner media attention and to create a buzz among consumers in the nation’s largest market. Additionally, Fashion Week and the United Nation’s General Assembly were happening at the same time as our efforts. 

*Media Relations - To successfully reach targeted media, we developed a strategic, comprehensive list of media outlets, factoring the new store locations and the New York/New Jersey media. The media list included features/lifestyle, business, consumer technology and sports editors; assignment desks; and news directors for television and radio. Several press releases were issued nationally throughout 1999 – 2000; grand opening media kits were distributed a few weeks prior to the store openings; and media alerts were issued throughout grand opening week to the New York/New Jersey area. Also, we fed a b-roll package nationally via satellite that covered all events/tactics held the week prior to the New York grand openings. Specific media relations efforts for each tactic are outlined below. (See Execution section for media materials, broadcast clips, B-roll.)

*Sting Concert – To communicate that Best Buy is about fun, music and technology, the company sponsored a free Sting concert in Central Park on September 12. Best Buy gave-away 25,000 tickets beginning in early September. Westwood One radio network simulcast the concert on radio stations nationwide. Consumers nationwide were offered the chance to win 15 trips to NYC with round-trip airfare for two, a hotel package and two tickets to the concert. Participants entered the sweepstakes through throughout August 2000. On the day of the concert, we fed a concert b-roll package nationally via satellite and issued a release. 

(See Execution section for Sting details. B-roll available upon request.)

*Guerilla/National Broadcast Efforts – To introduce Best Buy to the “neighborhood,” several yellow and blue Best Buy mascots distributed 20,000 free subway/train tokens and 8,000 $5 Best Buy gift cards (cards included information on grand opening dates and store locations) to commuters at six different subway/train locations throughout New York and New Jersey on September 18. Locations were carefully scouted, considering new store locations and high-commuter subway train stops. We secured permits from the City and hired the NYPD to protect mascots and staff members. During the give-away process, many people commented on the nice gesture and the cute mascots, asked when and where the stores were being opened, and inquired about the electronics sold at Best Buy. A media alert was issued via the NYC features wire on September 15. Follow-up calls were conducted that same day. Additionally, we distributed 50 Best Buy umbrellas and one million branded coffee cups to various Manhattan delis and street vendors.

To generate talk value among key consumers in the New York/New Jersey area with the message that Best Buy is the most fun, hip and savvy place to shop for the latest consumer electronics, and to garner national broadcast attention, we stationed mascots bearing branded gifts at the CBS Early Show, Today Show, and MTV’s Total Request Live. Mascots and staff members gave-away Best Buy hats, $5 gift cards and subway tokens to people outside of the CBS Early Show window on September 18. A staff member communicated the brand messages on-air to weather reporter Mark McEwan during a brief interview, with mascots and signage in full view of the camera. On September 20, mascots and staff members gave away the same items to people outside of the Today Show window. We also stationed mascots and staff members at the window of Total Request Live (TRL) on September 21. We gave away the same items as before, as well as Joey McIntyre’s new CD, since he was the featured guest that day. On several occasions at TRL, the camera captured our branding. And in all three cases, signage with Best Buy branding messages were in full view of the cameras and people outside of the windows wore the branded hats, held Best Buy signs and inquired about the grand openings.  

*Grand Central Fun Zone – To reach consumers directly with Best Buy’s brand and to demonstrate the hottest home technologies, Best Buy held an event at Grand Central on September 18. We constructed the ultimate urban apartment, equipped with a home entertainment room, an office and a kitchen. The apartment was outfitted with comfortable furniture and several leading-edge appliance and entertainment technologies from Best Buy. Branded signage, a New York skyline backdrop and mascots also served as impressive visuals. Attendees had the opportunity to register to win valuable prizes, such as a laptop, gaming systems, a home entertainment center, and a full kitchen appliance set (all featured at the event). Gift bags (quantity 1,500), including a T-shirt or hat, a subway token and Best Buy gift card, were given to guests, and mascots and Best Buy experts interacted with event attendees. Based on the number of enter-to-win slips, attendance was estimated at 3,500, however, several people passed by the area all day. A media alert and photo were issued via the NYC features wire on September 15, and follow-up calls were conducted that same day. 

*Community Relations – Because Best Buy is committed to improving the lives of children, the company donated $1 million to New York area youth programs. A portion of the money was donated to a struggling middle school in Staten Island to initiate a “ScholarShop” program to prepare students for post-secondary education. ScholarShop and Best Buy hosted an event at the middle school on September 20 to motivate students to plan for their futures. Marcus Camby of the New York Knicks spoke with the students about the importance of higher education. Camby was chosen as the main speaker because he taught English and math to middle school kids during college and because of his aspiration to become a principal after his professional basketball career. A media alert and photo were issued via the NYC features and sports wire on September 19. Media calls were conducted that same day. 

*New York Stock Exchange Fun Zone – Another consumer-focused, branded event was held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on 

September 21 outside of the New York Stock Exchange to show business consumers how to make work more productive and free time more fun. Branded signage on the façade of the NYSE building, a New York skyline backdrop and mascots served as compelling visuals. Attendees interacted with a variety of cutting-edge tech toys and tools – featured in Best Buy's quintessential urban office, as well as the latest in mobile video and car audio technology – featured in a fully-loaded 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser. Attendees could also enter to win an office package; a notebook computer; and Personal Digital Assistants. Those attending received free doughnuts and coffee; and gift bags (quantity 3,000) with a free T-shirt or hat, a subway token and a $5 Best Buy gift card. Based on the number of enter-to-win slips, attendance was estimated at 9,300, however, several people passed by the area all day. A media alert and photo were issued via the NYC features wire on September 20. Media calls were conducted that same day. According to NYSE officials, the event was one of the most successful outdoor initiatives to date. (See Execution section for photos/details.) 

*New York Stock Exchange Analyst Meeting – An analyst meeting at the NYSE was held the same morning as the NYSE Fun Zone, serving as a branding initiative targeted at the financial community. Best Buy’s CEO and mascot rang the opening bell, providing excellent photo opportunities. Additionally, Best Buy executives met with analysts to discuss how entering the New York market will impact the company and affect Best Buy’s position in the marketplace.  

*Advertising – An extensive advertising campaign was executed in conjunction with the PR campaign that included: 

  • Multiple in-store promotional signage and flyer inserts
  • 300 three-sheet posters on train station platforms
  • Newspaper teaser ads – Full and quarter-page ads ran daily from Sept. 17 - 21 in 15 New York market newspapers 
  • 12 fully-painted buses, Sept. 15 - Dec.31
  • 60 full bus backs, Sept. 15 - Dec. 31
  • 20 giant 30-second Jumbotron spots ran daily, Sept. 17 - 30
  • 13 outdoor billboards, 12-by-48 feet, in New York and New Jersey, Sept. 1 - Dec. 31
  • 4,000 bus interior cards, Sept. 15 - Oct. 15
  • 1,700 interior rail cards per month, Sept. - Dec. 

*Grand Openings – Eleven stores were opened on Sept. 22 and four in November. Stores were decorated with balloons and cookies and Best Buy “beanie babies” were given away; a ribbon-cutting ceremony with store employees, executives and mascots was held; and local dignitaries and media were invited to attend. A media alert was issued via the NYC features wire on September 21.


Public relations efforts surrounding the grand openings of the Best Buy stores in New York produced impressive results, and all objectives were achieved. To date, Best Buy garnered coverage in more than 300 local and national media outlets (including programs such as the “CBS Early Show,” “Today” show and “Total Request Live” and newspapers such as the 
New York Times, Wall Street Journal and New York Post) and generated more than 85 million impressions, worth an advertising equivalency of nearly $12 million. Best Buy achieved a 2,176 percent return on investment, translating to almost $11 million. All media coverage and events positioned Best Buy as a fun brand that offers technology solutions for work and play. Additionally, approximately 3,500 people attended the Grand Central Fun Zone while 9,300 people attended the NYSE Fun Zone. During August – September 2000, Best Buy corporate headquarters received 48 emails from consumers and media regarding the store openings, and from September 1 – 21, Best Buy received approximately 2,300 emails from consumers and media regarding the Sting Concert. And traffic at the new stores was significant as store sales figures on opening day were between 25 percent and 150 percent beyond projections. 

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