Paul Holmes 22 May 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
Rolex, maker of the world’s best-known luxury watch, planned to launch its largest philanthropic endeavor – the Rolex Awards for Enterprise – in the United States, the first time this event had ever occurred outside Switzerland. It was scheduled to unfold over four days of special events in New York City. The company turned to M Booth & Associates to develop a campaign to establish an identity in North America for the Rolex Awards, which would reinforce and complement the brand’s presence. The agency was also tapped to lead global publicity efforts in concert with other agencies around the world. The results: more than 600 million media impressions.
The Rolex Awards for Enterprise honor five individuals worldwide for their outstanding achievements in the fields of discovery, exploration, science, technology and cultural heritage.
The basic public relations challenge was twofold: to link the awards with the brand’s international reputation for innovation and excellence and to overcome the notion that this was “just another” corporate award program. A further challenge involved issues of scientific peer review. Since a basic feature of the Rolex Awards is to recognize and support ongoing scientific work, most of the Laureates’ projects had not been “peer-reviewed,” a necessary prerequisite for publicity in major scientific media in the United States. Furthermore, few people outside the scientific community, and very few in the media, had ever heard of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise.
Independent research on corporate award programs, which Rolex commissioned, indicated that no other corporation in the world is involved in recognizing pioneering efforts to focus on exploration and culture throughout the world. This research offered an opportunity to position the Rolex Awards as unusual and the award winners as fresh and unsung pathfinders. In a series of “pre” calls to reporters, Booth found that even journalists who had never heard of the awards were open to hearing more about them because of the prestige of Rolex.
The campaign that Booth created linked the pathfinding accomplishments of five outstanding individuals from around the world with the prestige of the Rolex brand. To lend third-party credibility, the National Geographic Society, the world’s foremost authority in discovery and exploration, co-hosted the award ceremony. To extend the reach of the program to influential audiences, Booth aggressively pursued lecture opportunities, as well as interviews for individual Laureates with national and international media.
These efforts unfolded in a four-day series of media briefings, interviews, Laureate lectures and receptions that culminated in a gala dinner on Wall Street hosted jointly by Rolex and the National Geographic Society, with NBC-TV’s Tom Brokaw as master of ceremonies.
Tactical support included a 20-minute video documenting the work of each of the winners that was shot on location around the world and shown to the 450 invited guests at the awards dinner in New York; B-roll on each of the winners that was made available to television outlets worldwide; a CD-Rom of visually arresting color photos that was posted on the M Booth website for easy access and downloading by interested journalists; a full-color program book; and a comprehensive media kit distributed (via e-mail and standard mail) to a carefully targeted list of science and feature editors and writers in the U.S. and Canada.
- Booth’s strategic approach produced eye-catching results for this pre-eminent brand:
More than 50 feature interviews for the Laureates that helped generate more than 600 million media impressions worldwide.
- Feature stories on CNN International and CNN in the United States.
- Two Associated Press stories distributed over the world wire.
- Feature on Pan African News Agency distributed throughout the continent.
- Three feature stories in the Financial Times.
- Interviews on Univision (distributed throughout North and South America), CBC Radio, and CTV’s “AM Canada.”
- Articles in the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Newsday, Christian Science Monitor, Pittsburgh Post and Gazette, Toronto Globe and Mail, MacLean’s Magazine, Scientific American and Popular Science, among others.
- Two Laureate lectures delivered to prestigious audiences at New York University and the Explorers Club of New York. (One Laureate has since been contacted by officials of the United Nations Development Program who attended his lecture at NYU about possibilities of expanding his project in Africa.).