Retail giant Sears Roebuck works with some of the largest public relations firms in the country, but when it comes to sports and entertainment sponsorships, it turns to a Chicago boutique agency, Donnellon Public Relations, to deliver results. Donnellon has worked with Sears on the company’s Collegiate Champions program, which recognizes achievement in men’s and women’s college sports, on Sears’ sponsorship of the WNBA (including its award-winning Kid Beat Reporter program), and more recently on its sponsorship of Christina Aguilera, conducted in partnership with Levi’s jeans.
Donnellon, which is best known for its work in the sports and fitness, and lifestyle marketing categories, uses a distinctive approach it calls Donnellon Dialogue to maximize the value of its relationship with clients. The five-phase program starts with research (“gathering insight,” principal Kevin Donnellon says) and proceeds to ideation, followed by collaboration with the client to define the strategy, and culminating in communication and evaluation—which leads to a new cycle of dialogue in which the program is refined and new ideas are generated.
The approach is paying off in terms of growth: Donnellon will hit $2 million in fees for the first time this year, thanks to new clients such as Sage Products (the firm’s first healthcare account), nutritional supplement manufacturer Experimental & Applied Sciences, and LifeSketch, which allows consumers to create customized photo albums online.