Paul Holmes 27 May 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
Cable & Wireless (C&W), one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies, offers a wide range of services spanning broadband data, Internet and voice. The company is focusing on future growth by providing Internet Protocol (IP) and data services to business customers and is developing advanced networks and value-added services in the US, Europe and the Asia Pacific region in support of this strategy. C&W holds a unique position in terms of global coverage and services to business customers: the company is one of only three Tier 1 network providers in the world.
C&W was preparing to launch its newest wholly-owned subsidiary Cable & Wireless a-Services, which provides businesses with a revolutionary way to deploy IT and business applications. C&W a-Services provides small and medium-sized businesses with end-to-end solutions, unlike other Application Service Providers (ASPs) who usually combine different vendors to offer such solutions. Instead, a-Services customers have direct access to C&W’s global network.
In July 2000, C&W brought a $50,000 budget to Brodeur Worldwide and asked the agency to build awareness around a-Services -- specifically around its launch at Networld + Interop (N+I) on September 26, 2000. Brodeur’s responsibilities included everything from initial launch concept brainstorming to coordinating media and event logistics at the show.
The a-Services N+I event launch would kick-off a larger ongoing media relations campaign, so C&W needed to make a strong impression and establish solid relationships with the media in order to receive coverage and reviews as it released products throughout the year. For its launch to be the most talked about event at N+I, C&W wanted to make the event a unique and memorable one. The goal of the event was to increase sales leads, raise public awareness of the company and garner positive media coverage. The target audience was small and medium-sized businesses who are unable to afford licensing fees geared toward business customers, as well as the IT department to support it.
The a-Services launch strategy centered around two key points:
- a highly effective press tour in the Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. markets, which would generate the kind of pre-launch buzz C&W needed before N+I; and
- an entertaining N+I event to formally launch a-Services.
The “I Pity the Fool” Approach:
Early results from the media and analyst tour were extremely promising, and the team was confident the coverage would start building the advance buzz needed for the official a-Services launch. So their next task was figuring out how to create lots of interest at N+I. In addition to the research conducted in-house by Cable & Wireless, Brodeur’s brainstorming sessions resulted in an interesting idea: having the infamous Mr. T serve as the main attraction for the a-Services launch. Early on the team agreed Mr. T would not act as a spokesperson in any fashion, but more as an attention-grabber and buzz-generator at N+I. Brodeur researched Mr. T’s entire career and created a persuasive PowerPoint presentation that convinced C&W that Mr. T would be a hit at the N+I launch.
Why Mr. T? Aside from being a colorful and evocative celebrity, Brodeur and C&W agreed upon Mr. T because of the brand tie-in between his cult TV show, “A-Team,” and C&W’s new offering via “a-Services.” The other big factor in deciding to have Mr. T was his appeal, particularly to the technology community. Research showed that many technology professionals grew up watching and admiring Mr. T.
The idea of using an eccentric celebrity like Mr. T was a new concept for C&W. It took time to convince C&W that Mr. T’s involvement would benefit the launch. And celebrity involvement comes at a price -- planning the logistics for Mr. T’s involvement at the tradeshow was time-consuming. The Brodeur / C&W team faced other challenges as well. There would be tough competition at N+I, such as WorldCom, Qwest, Digital Island, Sprint, Jamcracker, and they needed their launch event to rise above the promotional activities of these companies.
Working with Mr. T’s agency was no easy task, as his handlers required constant follow-up on tasks asked of them and were reluctant to help with planning. However, contracts were eventually signed and planning the rest of the launch could get underway.
Limousines for Mr. T were reserved in Los Angeles and Atlanta. First class airfare and suite hotels with special arrangements for the celebrity were booked. From securing a suite at the Atlanta Ritz-Carlton to finding a Hummer limousine to chauffeur Mr. T around the city, Brodeur and C&W worked hard to oversee every last detail. Mr. T’s agency wanted to make sure the event went smoothly and hassle-free for the celebrity, so an itinerary was prepared for Mr. T’s involvement with the show. Again, Brodeur and C&W were cautious to use Mr. T to draw attention, not as a spokesperson.
EXECUTION / TACTICS:
Invitations to the a-Services booth party were sent to key media and analysts in advance of N+I. The invites included a pre-show mailer and a thematic premium item that doubled as an admission ticket to the booth party -- dog tags, a Mr. T trademark fashion accessory. (Mr. T would also hand out plenty of these dog tag “admission tickets” during N+I to passers-by.)
On the morning of the launch, Brodeur arranged for Mr. T to appear on local radio shows to promote his appearance at N+I on behalf of C&W and a-Services. After the radio spots, Mr. T was taken to the a-Services booth, dressed in an “a-Services Team” t-shirt, and tasked with handing out promotional materials and more Mr. T fashion accessories, this time fake gold necklaces. Later at the booth party Mr. T posed for pictures with fans and signed autographs.
The hype around Mr. T’s appearance created a lively and exciting environment for C&W execs, who were conducting media interviews nearby. During the pre-trade show press tour, Brodeur secured 15 briefings with key media and analysts. Additional outreach just prior to N+I added nine more scheduled interviews, plus numerous on-the-spot interviews.
EVALUATION / MEASUREMENT OF SUCCESS:
Mr. T was one of the biggest hits of the show. Reporters and attendees alike lined up to meet him and get photographs and autographs. This buzz among industry thought leaders at the show would lay down a strong foundation for an extended a-Services communications campaign in the U.S. (beginning with the official launch at N+I). Brodeur secured a total of 15 pre-trade show interviews with reporters and analysts. During the three-day event, a-Services executives interviewed with nine additional reporters and conducted numerous amounts of other on-the-spot interviews.
C&W received 1,200 qualified first-day sales leads, which is 300 more than received on the same day last year. Of the 1,500 invitations distributed at the show, C&W expected 200 to attend the a-Services booth party. But because of the draw of Mr. T and the positive coverage generated in advance of N+I, 400 people attended the booth party – twice as many as expected. Coverage from the Mr. T a-Service extravaganza at N+I resulted in 40 positive articles about a-Services.
Brodeur and C&W believe this event is award-worthy because C&W surpassed its goals -- and turned heads while doing so. C&W a-Services created a name for itself during the press tour, but made a permanent mark at their trade show launch with the help of Mr. T. After much research, brainstorming and hard work, C&W and Brodeur’s efforts paid off, resulting in increased sales and impressions.