In early 2006, Hasbro asked the question “What would the Monopoly game board look like if it were created in 2006 instead of 1935?” The answer to this question would result in a new game: the Monopoly: Here & Now Edition.
There were three objectives: to make the new version of monopoly one of the most popular board game of the 2006 holiday season; to generate nationwide high-profile consumer media impressions during two distinct publicity windows; and to generate high-profile consumer media impressions in the 22 cities that would be represented on the game board.
There were several challenges. For one, the classic Monopoly game has sold more than 250 million copies in 80 countries and 26 languages. Additionally, through a licensing agreement with USAopoly, more than 200 varieties of the game have been created and sold across the country. Hunter PR and Hasbro needed to demonstrate to the media why this edition was unique as compared to those other 200 varieties.
For another, a week after the vote launched, Atlantic City launched a petition campaign to “save Monopoly,” claiming that Hasbro was booting Atlantic City out of the new Monopoly and that the original game would no longer be printed (which was not true). This petition challenged the team to come up with a solution that would appease the city.
Moreover, after generating a flood of placements during phase one of the launch (in Spring), the brand team expected similar—if not larger—results during phase two in September, when the game went on sale.
And finally, the September media launch had to break on September 12 due to a hard-and-fast on-sale date of September 14. That date wasn’t ideal as it was the day after the 5th anniversary of 9/11. The team simply had to employ unique pitching efforts to ensure the story broke on September 12 while not doing any pitching on September 11.
Hasbro and Hunter Public Relations realized that the best way to reach the sales goal for the game would be allowing Americans the ‘chance’ to participate in the creation of the new edition. Additionally, it was recognized that PR would be the driving marketing vehicle for the new edition, and as such, PR was given a larger-than-normal opportunity to shape specific components of the game.
In March, the team selected 22 great American cities to occupy the 22 property spaces on the new game board.
The team worked with local Convention & Visitors Bureaus and mayors’ offices to create a list of three landmark “candidates” for a consumer on-line ballot, resulting in local relationships that supported the campaign throughout the year, with officials often serving as spokespeople for the game within their home market.
After garnering millions of impressions during the Spring, the team realized that the best way to reignite the excitement at launch time was to keep the results of the on-line vote under wraps until the very last moment before the game went on sale. This resulted in a frenzy from media outlets within the 22 cities who were anxious to have the “local exclusive” announcing their hometown’s landmark that made it onto the board.
With the exception of a brief announcement event in Times Square with Mr. Monopoly to unveil the game board’s new properties (which included Times Square as the new “Boardwalk”), the campaign relied heavily on media relations to deliver the results. As such, the team utilized multiple pitch angles and creative approaches to traditional tactics to ensure success.
For example, during the first week of the online vote, the team focused solely on the fact that Monopoly fans could help change the game board. After the first week, the team hyped the controversy that organically happened related to Atlantic City’s concerns. And during the final week of the vote, HPR pitted cities against each other in efforts to move to a higher rent spot on the board. Fans were told that cities’ landmarks would be placed on the board based on the number of votes generated for each city.
Then, to create added news value at launch time, the PR team recommended adding two newsworthy elements to the game-moving tokens: put a 21st century twist on a few of the classic tokens (such as removing the Scottish Terrier dog and replacing him with the trendy Labradoodle; and include branding on a few tokens (such as a Toyota Prius hybrid car).
During phase one, Mr. Monopoly appeared on “Good Morning America” behind a massive Monopoly board filled with question marks on each property space on the day the website went live. After the segment, CNN aired video of the website before b-roll was distributed to newsrooms. Jay Leno said in his monologue on “The Tonight Show” that the game was so modern, Robert Blake appeared on the “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
The vote launch news ran in a USA Today “Lifeline” article (with graphic), and the piece was teased on the front page of the newspaper.
HPR also generated hundreds of local hits that started with a teaser kit sent to key media within each of the 22 markets.
When HPR realized Phoenix appeared destined to become a “dark purple” property, HPR encouraged Phoenix’s mayor to rally his citizens. The effort moved them halfway around the board to a red property group after the media played up the story.
In September, Stuart Elliot at The New York Times broke the news about the branded tokens in his advertising column. The article, which came out on September 12, was the catalyst for additional print and broadcast coverage. (It was also picked up in the paper’s Sunday section called “The Chatter”). Additionally, USA Today linked the new Labradoodle token to a new dog adopted by Tiger Woods and showcased the sports stadiums included in the game.
Mark Blecher, senior vice president of marketing at Hasbro Games, appeared on “The Most” on MSNBC on Sept. 12 to discuss the new game board and tokens.
HPR also orchestrated the delivery of 500 press kits (personalized to each market) to arrive the morning of September 12 in newsrooms across the country. The kit included a copy of Monopoly: Here & Now Edition game and a full color press release announcing the layout of the game board. B-roll footage of the new game board was also distributed to newsrooms. This sparked hundreds of fun segments within the local markets touting their addition to the game.
Other results included:
• The vote in April/May received more than 3 million on-line votes.
• To date, PR efforts have garnered more than 3,090 placements and 458 million media impressions.
• Major broadcast hits include Good Morning America, CNN American Morning, Early Show, Nightline, Tonight Show, and Anderson Cooper 360.
• Major print hits include USA Today, The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, Forbes and Sports Illustrated, and stories in 13 of the top 15 daily newspapers.
• Media outlets in each of the 22 cities included on the board covered the launch of the vote and game. In fact, 1,012 placements were garnered in the 22 cities, with an average of 46 placements per market.
• As a result of the relationship with The Johnson Space Center (which is on the board), a copy of the game is scheduled to be included on a Space Shuttle mission launched in spring of 2007.
• Monopoly: Here & Now Edition was chosen as one of Toy Wishes “Hot Dozen” (the top 12 toys for the holiday) and featured on the cover of the Holiday 2006 issue.
At the conclusion of 2006, the game had met its aggressive sales goal that was set by Hasbro and was one of the best selling board game of the holiday season. More importantly, the new edition did not cannibalize sales of the classic Monopoly game. During the first week that the new game was in stores, overall sales of Monopoly were up 14 percent.