Pokemon Gold and Silver Launch Event
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Holmes Report
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Pokemon Gold and Silver Launch Event

To build consumer awareness, Golin/Harris used a massive grassroots marketing campaign to garner national media coverage and broad direct-to-consumer outreach.

Paul Holmes

In October of 2000, Nintendo of America released the projected best-selling video games of all time, Pokémon Gold and Silver for Game Boy Color.  To build consumer awareness, Golin/Harris used a massive grassroots marketing campaign to garner national media coverage and broad direct-to-consumer outreach.  Between September 1 and the games’ October 15 launch, five Chrysler PT Cruisers customized to look like Lugia, a new and legendary winged Pokémon featured in the new games, struck gold and silver in 32 U.S. media markets.  Golin/Harris equipped each of these cruisers with a beak, wings and a five-foot tail, along with a 27-inch TV monitor to demonstrate the new video games to media and consumers.  The tour culminated at a launch event October 10 at Fort Knox, Kentucky, the nation’s largest and best-known gold reserve.   Nearly 500 kids and parents took part in the festivities at Keyes Park on the Fort Knox military base, celebrating the launch of the two most anticipated video games of all time, capped off by the appearance of two Pikachu characters, along with all five Lugia-decorated Pokémon Tour Cruisers. 
 
BACKGROUND/RESEARCH/OBSTACLES
 
What began in 1998 as two video games for Game Boy Color spiraled into a global obsession, with Pokémon successfully penetrating the national consciousness, resulting in numerous spin-offs, such as popular toys, a blockbuster movie, a top-rated television show, and scads of other merchandise.  By 2000, the public was beginning to feel Poké-saturated.  While everyone waited for Pokémon to fall from its perch, Nintendo knew the frenzy could enter a whole new phase and introduced a whole new set of 150 characters to the public via a new movie, new television shows and the Pokémon Gold and Silver game for Game Boy Color.
 
These two video games had been successful in Japan, selling more than 5 million copies in the first six weeks of their release.  Nintendo would not be satisfied with a mere duplication of these results for the U.S. launch on October 15- Nintendo would settle for nothing less than for Pokémon Gold and Silver to be both the best and fastest selling video games of all time.  The sales goal was set at 10 million units in the first six months.  G/H was charged with securing national media coverage and extending consumer outreach to build momentum and support for Pokémon Gold and Silver.  G/H needed to create local, grassroots events that would create anticipation for a national launch of these titles that would help the public identify with these new Pokémon games, while reinforcing the strength of the franchise.
 
G/H tapped Ft. Knox as the ideal location for the tour endpoint and the launch of these historic video games, due to its close association with the concept of gold.  Additionally, we leveraged the national perception that only things of utmost importance are kept at Ft. Knox.  It was a perfect fit as the launching point for the second wave of the Pokémon franchise.
 
PLANNING
 
To build early awareness and anticipation for Pokémon Gold and Silver as “must have” titles and help boost pre-sell, Golin/Harris planned a presence at family, children and teen-friendly events and locations.  For this effort, Golin/Harris customized five Chrysler PT Cruisers to look like Lugia, a new character featured in the games, and sent them on the national Pokémon Gold and Silver Adventure Tour.
 
Golin/Harris capitalized on existing events and locations that engaged local broadcast media, showcasing the game directly to the target audience, and made the Pokémon Tour Cruiser a ‘must see’ while in town.  G/H secured 127 consumer venues and coordinated logistics such as driving and travel arrangements for media, tour drivers and Team Nintendo members.  Golin/Harris solicited the help of 24 staff members to secure venues and conduct media outreach, and also designated five region managers to coordinate these tasks, which proved to be a round-the-clock job.
 
To garner additional media coverage, the five Pokémon Tour Cruisers made stops at 70 local media outlets for scheduled television, radio and print interviews and game demonstrations by Team Nintendo members.  Media got a sneak peek at not only Pokémon Gold and Silver, but also other up-and-coming Pokémon titles including Pokémon Puzzle League, Hey You, Pikachu! and Pokémon Pikachu 2.  The personalized presentation helped to further convey the message that the second wave of the Pokémon phenomenon had only just begun.
 
To give Pokémon fans a stake in the tour and to build anticipation for Lugia’s arrival, Golin/Harris developed and helped to coordinate a “Where will Lugia Land Next?” contest on pokemon.com.  Site users were invited to vote on the last of the six cities that Lugia would visit in each of the five tour regions.  Along with the contest, the site displayed an updated tour schedule daily for Pokémon fans to follow.  Tour goers were then invited to “Help Us Look for Lugia” by submitting snap shots of themselves with the car for display on pokemon.com.
 
G/H began planning for the launch event more than three months out.  With the game scheduled for release on Sunday, October 15, G/H chose the week before to hold the launch celebration.  Mondays are traditionally tough days to pre-pitch national media, so we targeted Tuesday, October 10.  All Ft. Knox schools were on fall break that week, which ensured a high turnout of kids and created an evergreen media pitch to continue through the weekend launch.
 
To create the carnival-style atmosphere, G/H coordinated tents, staging, balloon arches, a detailed overhead map of the event area, two giant “Welcome to Pokémon World” banners, unique signage for each activity station featuring a new of Pokémon character, and created interactive play stations with N64s and Game Boy Colors to preview Pokémon Gold and Silver and all other Pokémon titles for release this year.  G/H coordinated promotions with local radio stations to provide area children and families with tickets for the event.  Nationally known radio deejay G-Man from Radio Disney was chosen as the emcee which provided the event with a high level of energy for the kids.
 
OBJECTIVES
 
  • Build early awareness and anticipation for Pokémon Gold and Silver as “must have” titles and help boost pre-sell figures to meet projections
  • Communicate Pokémon’s mass appeal and driving early word-of-mouth through themed, comprehensive media outreach beginning in September, two and a half months prior to the titles’ Oct. 15 launch
  • Maximize and broaden impact through a comprehensive, tiered communications program designed to highlight the games’ multitude of unique features, clearly differentiate the games from previous Pokémon titles, and introduce the second wave of Pokémon
  • Maintain awareness of strength for Pokémon franchise
  • Sustain momentum for Pokémon Gold and Silver and fuel its popularity through the holidays
 
STRATEGY
 
Customize five Chrysler PT Cruisers to look like Lugia, a new character featured in the games, and send them to 32 cities in five national regions: the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, the Midwest, the Northeast and the Southeast. 
 
Culminate 32-city grassroots tour at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, to signify arrival of America’s new reserve of Pokémon
 
Draw children to event by giving them a chance to play the new of Pokémon games before anyone else in the country
 
Design a carnival-style atmosphere at launch event with plenty of fun and engaging activities, compelling visuals and real-life representations of Pokémon Gold and Silver to capture media attention
 
EXECUTION
 
To take Pokémon Gold and Silver to mass consumers and generate local and national media coverage for the Pokémon Gold and Silver Adventure Tour, Golin/Harris designed, developed and executed a multi-tiered program that provided the following elements:
  • Visuals:  Customized five Chrysler PT Cruisers to look like Lugia, a new and legendary, winged Pokémon.  Car design featured a beak, wings and a five-foot tail that extended from the car’s trunk space.
  • Hands-on Experiences:  Equipped Cruisers with 27” TV monitors connected to Game Boy Colors and N64 consoles
  • Business News:  Wrote and distributed three press releases: 1) tour/pre-launch, which listed target cities and dates, 2) game pre-sell success, announcing the breaking of industry records and 3) launch event,
  • Mementos:  Provided free bookmarks, postcards, temporary tattoos and stickers of Lugia and other new Pokémon characters featured in Pokémon Gold and Silver at each event to help spread “word-of-mouth” about the games
  • Expert Advice:  Coordinated with Team Nintendo members, Nintendo’s video game players, to present key messages at tour events and media appointments about the game and franchise
 
Then, five days before launch, on October 10, Pokémon Gold and Silver busted out of the United States Bullion Depository in Ft. Knox.  Nearly 500 kids and parents took part in the festivities at Keyes Park on the Ft. Knox military base, celebrating the launch of the two most anticipated video games of all time, capped off by the appearance of not one, but two costumed Pikachu characters along with all five Lugia-decorated Pokémon Tour Cruisers.  The valuable cargo, the “first copies” of Pokémon Gold and Silver arrived in an armored Brinks Truck straight from the vault.
 
Upon arrival at the event, kids were given a Johto Passport, which featured a listing of all the gyms and an area for a stamp to be placed upon completion.  After receiving all nine stamps on their Johto Passports, kids were given a gift bag which included a lunchbox featuring Marill, Pokémon bookmarks, Pokémon tattoos, Pokémon chocolate coins, a Burger King Pokémon toy, a postcard announcing release dates and important upcoming Pokémon dates and a Hasbro Pokémon Think Chip set.  Throughout the event, Radio Disney “G-Man” conducted Pokémon trivia contests for prizes, such as Pokémon 2000 T-shirts, copies of Pokémon Gold and Silver and limited edition Gold and Silver Game Boy Colors from Japan.
 
EVALUATION
 
Including television station drop-bys and a national b-roll feed, the tour and event resulted in 127 consumer venue stops and more than 70 confirmed media appointments, with more than 12 million broadcast impressions on 96 television segments, 3 million print impressions, 300,000 direct consumer impressions, and 20,000 hands-on consumer impressions.
 
Pokémon Gold /Silver pre-sold more than 600,000 copies and sold more than 1.4 million copies in its first week of availability, smashing industry sales records.   With 6 million units sold by the end of December, they are on track to make their goal of 10 million units sold.
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