Home Depot, an Olympic supporter since 1992, did not plan any new activations for the 2000 Olympic year. The team was faced with the challenge of penetrating a cluttered and sponsor-laden Olympic landscape with dozens of other major corporate sponsors, suppliers and licensees vying for recognition. Furthermore, coverage was to be evaluated largely on significance of branding or “amount of orange,” which meant lofty goals for headlines, features and photos. The team was able to utilize the athletes employed by Home Depot for media purposes. Their compelling stories and membership in the community workforce provided an excellent opportunity for local, grassroots coverage, while Home Depot’s position as the world’s leading employer of Olympic athletes would be a hook for national outlets.
After conducting exhaustive research on other sponsors, related events, media targets and more than 100 employment program athletes, the team devised a master plan to leverage opportunities associated with heightened interest in the 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Objectives: Maximize awareness for Home Depot’s Olympic sponsorship and leadership role in OJOP/COP by
- generating coverage in national general interest and entertainment outlets including one major “break-through” print and broadcast feature placement
- generating heavily-branded regional feature stories
- Enhance Home Depot’s corporate image in store market communities through association with the Olympic movement.
- Break through sponsor-cluttered landscape.
The team’s strategic approach included identifying news time pegs from Home Depot athlete achievements, key competition dates, Olympic dates and milestones to job program milestones and official Olympic Committee activities; working closely with the USOC, the Canadian Olympic Association and 25 National Governing Bodies to develop strong relationships and ensure consistent communication of messaging and establishing team members as “the contact” for media considering anything related to Olympic athletes.
In an effort to deliver branded coverage, the team focused on bringing media into the stores to do interviews with athletes about their training. Later, local “athlete send-off celebrations” were planned before the Games to create festive store events for associates and customers, at the same time forging a tangible connection between Home Depot and the Olympic Games.
Edelman also coordinated a comprehensive national print media outreach initiative targeting general interest, men’s and women’s, health and fitness, family, disabled, minority, sports and sports business publications. National broadcast outreach included television news, sports and entertainment programs, radio and online media covering the Games. Carefully tailored pitches were made to each genre of publication with sample story ideas specific to demographics (A Day in the Life of an Olympian, Fitness Tips from Olympic Hopefuls, Juggling Work and Training, Beautiful Athletes of the Olympics, Staying Injury Free at Work and on the Track, Disabled Athletes Find Support in Quest for Paralympic Games). The team also coordinated dozens of photo shoots of the athletes at work so reporters could visualize world-class volleyball players and wrestlers mixing paint and loading 2x4’s in the aisles of Home Depot.
The team generated more than 330 stories and 186 million media impressions for Home Depot’s Olympic sponsorship, filling the country’s newspapers and airwaves with accounts and images of the company’s orange-clad Olympic workforce.
ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings aired a 2 ½-minute glowing piece on Home Depot’s leadership role in OJOP.
The New York Times printed a front-page business section story detailing the company’s employment of Olympic hopefuls.
Other national coverage highlights included the Associated Press, Bloomberg, USA TODAY, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Fitness, Shape, Essence, Women’s Sports & Fitness, Delta Sky, Christian Science Monitor, E! TV, Extra, CNBC Market Wrap and National Public Radio; and trade coverage in Advertising Age, Sports Business Journal, PROMO and PRWeek. Online outlets like nbcolympics.com, wemedia.com, and usoc.org also provided information about Home Depot’s sponsorship to hundreds of thousands of people via the Internet.
Home Depot’s support of Olympic athletes literally made headlines in more than 50 local markets – Dallas Morning News, “Home Depot Gives A Hand To Olympic-Hopeful Workers”; Sacramento Bee “Working For Olympic Gold”; St. Paul Pioneer Press, “A Chance To Finish Their Job”; The Denver Post “Boxer Working Next Aisle Over”; Colorado Springs Gazette “Jobs Are Part Of Workout For Olympic Athletes”; The Times of Trenton “An Olympic Dream Job”; Marietta Daily Journal “Home Depot Helping Build Better Athletes”; and the Calgary Sun “Olympic Quest Begins At Home”.
U.S. Regional broadcast and print publicity in local markets totaled nearly 90 million media impressions. Local coverage provided invaluable grassroots brand exposure and goodwill towards Home Depot. National media outreach resulted in more than 86 million media impressions. Placements in major consumer publications increased awareness of Home Depot’s association with the Olympic movement and in particular its leadership role in supporting athletes through OJOP.
Home Depot was repeatedly the only sponsor mentioned in Olympic stories by top-tier publications, including Sports Illustrated, Associated Press, Esquire, GQ and in Christine Brennan’s USA TODAY sports column.