In 2000, Edelman spearheaded the creation of “Step up to the Plate,” a fully integrated cause-related marketing program designed to leverage Claritin’s Major League Baseball (MLB) sponsorship both on a national and grassroots level. Through a $500,000 contribution to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the official charity of MLB, Claritin funded the refurbishment of grass baseball fields at inner-city clubs in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Houston, Dallas, Sacramento, New York and Los Angeles.
The campaign was designed to build goodwill for the Claritin brand through community service and positive press. A national kick-off, featuring allergy-suffering New York Mets superstar Mike Piazza with appearances on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, the CBS Early Show and a satellite media tour, launched the initiative. This initial media push kicked off a market-by-market roll out campaign. In addition to building awareness for the field refurbishments, media outreach was used to drive fans to the Claritin Web site where each hit to the “Step up to the Plate” section triggered a dollar donation to the cause, and automatic registration to win a trip to the 2000 All Star Game or World Series.
Through this program, Claritin enabled hundreds of urban children the opportunity to play ball on clean, safe fields. Edelman secured nationwide media coverage for Claritin and the “Step up to the Plate” program, garnering over 49 million media impressions.
With three major partners (Claritin, Major League Baseball and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America), it was paramount that we secured prominent coverage for the Claritin brand and delivered its key messages which underscored that Claritin enables even allergy sufferers to enjoy baseball on real grass. In addition, leveraging the assets of each partner while mobilizing them to contribute and work within the allotted timeframe was critical given we only had one season to complete all nine fields. Through Edelman’s network of local offices, each Club had a local Edelman contact and project manager to monitor timing and quality control.
While Claritin had already done an extensive evaluation to determine that MLB offered the most advantageous sponsorship benefits for the brand, the relationship had not been leveraged beyond the traditional advertising, signage and hospitality. It was clear that the relationship could be utilized to help soften the aggressive marketing that the brand has been known for. Edelman researched many local not-for-profit organizations for the program and decided on the Boys & Girls Clubs of America since it is the official charity of Major League Baseball and has strong roots in urban communities
Edelman orchestrated all aspects of the program through a convergence team of Sports, Healthcare and Hispanic groups in New York, with local Edelman offices handling execution based on guidelines provided by the core team.
Following the national media launch, Edelman selected the high-profile Major League Baseball All-Star Week in Atlanta as the site of the program’s first grassroots event. The week attracts both sports and entertainment media from around the country, providing a natural and captive audience to cover the inaugural field unveiling. Edelman secured Atlanta Braves first baseman and All-Star hero Andres Galarraga to play ball with members of the local Boys & Girls Club, attracting dozens of local and national media.
Following the Atlanta event, “Step up to the Plate” grassroots events were staged in all remaining eight markets. Each event included an allergy-suffering MLB player along with other local celebrities who joined the Boys & Girls Club children for a clinic and motivational session. In addition, Edelman orchestrated a local radio promotion in each market to deliver Claritin messages and drive additional Web traffic.
Reaching the Hispanic community within each of these markets was a high priority for Claritin, therefore, where possible, Spanish-speaking players were used as the local spokesperson and a major effort was put toward securing Hispanic media coverage. Texas Ranger First Baseman Rafael Palmeiro was hired to target national Hispanic audiences.
Claritin received outstanding brand exposure in both national and local outlets. Throughout the coverage, Claritin was positioned as a company that cares about the community. Stories appeared in outlets including: USA Today, Advertising Age, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, Noticias Del Mundo, Tiempos Del Mundo, La Estrella-CLa Fuente, La Ola Tribune, La Opinion, Que Onda! Magazine, plus extensive local television coverage.
The program also received praise from key community leaders: New York City Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern, praised the program and its sponsors, “such initiatives are of the utmost importance to all city leaders. It’s important to have well maintained parks in New York City, especially in areas like the Lower East Side.” Kurt Ascherman, senior vice president of marketing and communications of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, said the event represented the best that public/private partnership has to offer. “Our friends at the New York Parks, Major League Baseball and Claritin, have teamed up to provide our kids with the types of things they deserve.”