DisneyQuest Pirates Invade Chicago
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Holmes Report

DisneyQuest Pirates Invade Chicago

Dome’s first charge was to produce and choreograph a high-profile press event to unveil DisneyQuest’s newest attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold.

Paul Holmes


In October of 2000, Dome Communications was selected to be the agency of record for DisneyQuest Chicago.  Dome’s first charge was to produce and choreograph a high-profile press event to unveil DisneyQuest’s newest attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold, an all-new attraction with cutting-edge technologies involving sight, sound and motion allowing guests to fulfill their fantasy of becoming a pirate and interacting in a pirate world.   In just six weeks, Dome transformed the simple opening of the new attraction into a citywide phenomenon.  Dome’s efforts resulted in multi-layered local and regional media coverage that helped drive unprecedented traffic to DisneyQuest, shattering the indoor theme park’s previous holiday season attendance records.  The initiative not only exceeded the client’s expectations, but also established Pirates of the Caribbean as Chicago’s newest and most exciting family attraction.


Working within a compressed timeframe and a limited budget, Dome’s launch demanded a succinct, targeted and impactful strategy.  In addition to creating and managing the extensive media relations initiative, Dome was also charged with conceptualizing and producing a  “Disney quality” launch event – one with sweeping consumer and media appeal.


Dome’s primary objective was to generate awareness among consumers in the Chicago area and regional feeder markets, across all mediums, surrounding the event launch.  In doing so, Dome hoped to leverage the Disney name and Pirates of the Caribbean nostalgia to secure a variety of news-, entertainment- and special-events-related media coverage

Prior to the launch, Dome conducted informal research to gauge the public’s perception of DisneyQuest.  In talking to both urban and suburban parents, Dome learned that the target audience was not clear about DisneyQuest’s offerings.  However, they did have a strong emotional connection to the Disney brand, with vivid memories of the first time they experienced the original “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride.  Dome used these findings to create a media relations strategy that played up the historical popularity and the nostalgic appeal of that experience.


Stage I: Pirates Invade Chicago!: To generate curiosity in the Chicago market, Dome crafted a teaser campaign, which took place during the three days prior to the launch.  The unique campaign featured friendly, “renegade” pirates roaming Chicago’s high-profile business and shopping districts.  The charismatic pirates helped generate a “buzz” around the city, building expectations that something new and exciting was about to hit Chicago.  In addition, Dome produced a comprehensive B-roll package featuring the pirate actors interacting with Chicagoans and handing out thousands of eye-patches to curious passersby.  Included were vintage video clips from the original Pirates attraction.  The video provided a historical connection between the nostalgia of the original ride and the high-tech, virtual excitement of the new attraction.

Stage II: Pirates Take Over DisneyQuest  : Stage two of the strategy was to create a mediagenic press conference that would help “pay off” on the teaser campaign.  The press conference featured Chicago-area kids riding the attraction so they could express to attending media their first-hand impressions of the ride.  Holding the press conference at DisneyQuest also gave reporters the opportunity to experience the ride for themselves.  In addition, Dome staged a mock pirate invasion to provide additional “Disney-quality” visuals and interviews for the evening news.


In the three days prior to the press conference, Dome assembled and prepared scripts for nine professional actors to appear as pirates overtaking Chicago.  The pirates also participated in “DJ Drops” on the day of the event, delivering “Treasure Chests” to local radio and TV stations, complete with press kits and photos.  B-roll footage of the pirate actors traversing the city   helped create the illusion that that the pirates had truly landed!  

Dome also contacted local building engineers to negotiate the placement of pirate flags atop Chicago’s most visible buildings.  Among the participants was the Chicago Sun-Times, which allowed the flag to fly overhead for the three days leading up to the main event.

The event, itself, began as a seemingly traditional press conference. Disney executives stood at a podium to discuss the attraction’s historical relevance and technological innovation.  Suddenly, an explosion of sound and music rocked the event, as pirate actors repelled from above to engage in an action-packed, choreographed battle.  In true “swashbuckling” fashion, the pirates introduced the 20 ft. attraction logo banner with a sword’s slash of a rope, revealing the new Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.  Also on hand, were pirate-costumed kids from Chicago’s Performing Arts School.  They sang the “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme song and rode the attraction for photo opportunities.  

Dome also secured a representative from American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) to offer his third-party endorsement of the “Pirates” ride, calling it the “hottest trend” in theme part attractions.

In the days following, Dome forwarded photos and b-roll to key media outlets to ensure additional coverage, especially in regional markets.  Dome also worked closely with the Mayor’s Office of Special Events and the Chicago Bureau of Tourism to ensure coverage in all tourist-targeted publications.  Dome leveraged the business impact of Disney’s investment in Chicago to city officials to secure an official proclamation for Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold day in Chicago. 


Dome successfully turned the introduction of DisneyQuest’s new ride into a citywide event.  Feature articles with photos ran in weekend section pullouts in Chicago’s two largest daily newspapers, including a front-page Chicago Sun-Times photo of pirates the day after the event.  In all, Dome secured seven feature pieces in local and regional daily publications, most featuring photos and key pricing messages.  DJ drops resulted in seven on-air mentions at Chicago’s top radio stations, such as WGN-AM, WTMX-FM, WGCI-FM, WKIS-FM, and WBUT-FM.
The dramatic, highly visual kick-off press event and accompanying B-roll generated three major TV placements, including a 2 ½-minute feature segment on WGN-TV broadcast around the country, as well as mentions on WLS-TV/ABC and WMAQ-TV/NBC.   Additional story placements in numerous regional, trade and tourism publications resulted in more than 14 million measurable consumer impressions in less than a month’s time.  

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