The AmericInn Lodging National Chess Tournament
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
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The AmericInn Lodging National Chess Tournament

AmericInn, one of the country’s fast-growing lodging systems, hosted the largest-ever national amateur chess tournament in conjunction with the United States Chess Federation (USCF), all in support of a new brand position.

Paul Holmes

Peace. Quiet. Checkmate.
 
AmericInn Lodging Systems is the new castle for chess royalty.  Kings, queens, knights and bishops can battle it out on the chessboard as part of the first-ever AmericInn Lodging National Chess Tournament. 
 
AmericInn, one of the country’s fast-growing lodging systems, hosted the largest-ever national amateur chess tournament in conjunction with the United States Chess Federation (USCF), all in support of a new brand position, based in extensive qualitative and quantitative research.  The non-rated tournament featured both adult and youth divisions, and is the first national tournament to be held by a major lodging system in partnership with the USCF. One of the primary objectives of the public relations program was to realize at least 50 percent franchisee participation, that objective was met along with all the other objectives set forth for the program.
 
The Challenge
 
AmericInn Lodging challenged CKPR to develop an integrated marketing and public relations program that would not only reinforce the brand’s new positioning, but would illicit franchisee support and participation. CKPR needed to create a public relations program that the hotel franchisees could embrace because their role would be critical to the program’s success.  One of the primary objectives of the public relations program was to realize at least 50 percent franchisee participation.
 
Research
 
CKPR conducted extensive consumer research to identify the brand’s point of difference.  The result was the creation of a new brand identification for AmericInn.  Elaborate research showed that AmericInn properties offer something its lodging competitors do not – a quieter experience (due to unique masonry construction).   The results of the research, as well as a full communications program, were quickly introduced to all 160 franchisees.  Their enthusiasm and support were immediate and extremely positive. The quiet message quickly became the focal point of all communications material and could be seen externally and on-site at each AmericInn property.  
 
Strategic Approach
 
CKPR’s next step was to unveil the idea for a franchisee-wide public relations plan.   With a limited budget the agency created a special event program, custom-made for AmericInn’s new brand identification; it had the potential to produce millions of impressions.  CKPR recommended that AmericInn sponsor one of the world’s most quiet sports – chess.  The agency partnered with the United States Chess Federation (USCF) and utilized Chess Grandmaster Maurice Ashley as national spokesperson. The idea gave AmericInn Lodging the opportunity to reinforce the company’s dedication to providing quests with a quiet night’s stay and gave each franchisee and his/her employees the opportunity to participate.
 
Campaign Execution
 
Almost 70 percent of the franchisees elected to participate — a phenomenal first-time participation rate that far surpassed the 50 percent goal.  Participation meant they were to work with a certified Tournament Director from the USCF to host the local portion of the chess tournament at their property.  Since the franchisees also were responsible for local market publicity, CKPR worked with the properties and instructed each one on how to successfully work with the media. CKPR created a simple turnkey program and instructional “How To” tool kit including sample press releases, pitch letters and media relations tips.   This program highlighted the new brand position.
 
Results
 
Almost one million media impressions resulted from local efforts, in small markets, alone. Subsequent regional tournaments were held at 15 properties a month later.  Publicity efforts for the regional portion of the tournament generated more than 2 million impressions.  Several weeks later, the inaugural AmericInn Lodging National Chess Tournament finals were held in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  CKPR took spokesperson Maurice Ashley on a media blitz of the greater-Minneapolis area. The program received national press attention and support from the franchisees.  The entire program was considered a success by the AmericInn franchisee base and AmericInn Lodging plans to make this an annual event.
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