PR know-how: Successful guerrilla marketing PR primer

A guerrilla marketing PR campaign takes a focused plan of attack. This case study from a veteran PR company shows how its PR blitzkrieg at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games generated one company's highest online sales ever.
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When 180s, a manufacturer of wintersport performance accessories including gloves and ear warmers, reported the highest volume of online sales in its history during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, it was no accident. The sales boost could be directly linked to a three-day guerrilla marketing initiative that had everything to do with highly coordinated PR efforts and blanket saturation through product seeding.

The onsite marketing program was developed to support 180s’ sponsorship of Olympic hopeful Patrick Deneen, who, although he did not medal, played a key role in raising product awareness for the year leading up to the Olympic Games through social media and traditional media relations. Over 1,000 fans and followers regularly received updates.

SNEWS® spoke with the agency behind the PR blitzkrieg, CGPR, and asked company president Chris Goddard to share her thoughts on what makes a guerrilla PR campaign successful.

Step 1 - Client commitment: First and foremost for any PR campaign like this, you must have a client who is committed to the project, both with regard to financial resources and providing necessary product for distribution. It is all about going big or going home…seriously. This only worked for us and 180s because the company was completely committed to the concept and carefully considered our recommendations, and then fully embraced the project from the very top of management. Having a strong partnership is critical to the success of this kind event.

Step 2 - Do your homework: It is all about doing in-depth homework and conducting investigative research to find out what the opportunities are for a guerrilla PR initiative. In this case, it was the Olympics. As a result, we had to be very buttoned up with the details for security, access, distribution restrictions, venue limitations, the best sources of possible media exposure and more.

Step 3 - Measurement goals: Establish very clear goals that you will measure all of your actions and planning against. For us, after distilling our research, we felt generating additional onsite visibility on the “Today Show” by putting product in the hands of its staff, camera crew and technicians was key. We also planned on seeding over 500 ear warmers in high-traffic areas where TV cameras and news coverage would film people wearing our client’s products. Where possible, we planned to distribute ear warmers to people of note so that we could leverage that exposure later.

Step 4 - Leveraging success: Have a plan to leverage the success of what you do at an event back to retailers and your client’s sales force. It was part of our plan to take all the photos and video we shot, as well as media exposure we received, and package it in a way that would reinforce 180s’ leadership in the category and could be used as a sales tool.

Step 5 - Branding: Prior to this event, we approached Eastern Mountain Sports management, who provided our team with jackets to wear at the Olympics. We had 180s embroidered in large, 12-inch letters on the back of the jacket and the logo on the front, so it was clearly visible whenever we appeared on TV or had a photo taken.

Step 6 - Organize:

• We organized bags for carrying product to make it easy for our team to carry and distribute the give-aways.

• We made sure to have a plan for social media while at the Olympic venue, using both CGPR and 180s.

• We brought an easy-to-use camera that would facilitate quick downloading of photos, and videos for updating websites, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

• We also had video-enabled iPhones, which we used frequently to send updates directly to social media pages.

• We booked a hotel that was close to public transportation, so we did not have to use a car (also utilizing our client’s budget wisely).

• We studied all the maps of the area and the Olympic venues (we were primarily going to be in Vancouver and at the men’s freestyle mogul competition) to be sure any question we might have would not go unanswered.

Step 7 - Execute: Upon arrival in Vancouver, we warmed up before our three-day blitzkrieg by distributing ear warmers on the train heading downtown to Robson Square and distributed more ear warmers to the crowd gathered to watch the opening ceremonies on the big screens. The key was to capture as many people wearing the ear warmers as we could with photos, which we did. We watched the opening ceremonies in the Fairmont Hotel and gave more ear warmers to people at the bar and to the bartender who put them on.

Day 1: We woke up at 2:30 a.m. and headed to Grouse Mountain, where the “Today Show” TV show was broadcasting. As it was so early, it was not crowded at all, which was great for us. We took the tram up and gave ear warmers to mountain personnel. We arrived to the “Today Show” set, just as they were doing an outdoor segment in the fog (timing is everything) and gave 180s ear warmers to Stephanie Abrams, the on-air Saturday host and the camera crew outside. We also gave ear warmers to all set staff, producers, pages, etc. (In all, we probably handed out 150 ear warmers to the “Today Show” set.) During the segment on gear, the 180s Quantum Vent glovPRes were one of the products talked about by the publisher/editor of Men’s Health as we had secured this segment earlier. As it happened, Gore-Tex, another client of ours, was being featured, because of the Burton snowboard uniform. We were able to shoot video of that, and send it immediately to our client. Opportunistic and effective. Our plan of attack was similar in the afternoon, as we went back downtown to key traffic areas and distributed product, took photos and then downloaded them to Facebook and Twitter.

Day 2: The following day, we arrived at the parking lot to catch a bus to Cypress Mountain to watch Olympian Patrick Deneen in his attempt to win gold. We gave out product to people parking their cars to go to the event, which were gratefully received by people who really needed to stay warm. We gave ear warmers to people at the event, standing in the security lines and in other places. Again, we took lots of photos and posted them to Facebook.

Day 3: Our homework paid off once more on the last day of our guerilla marketing campaign. We knew the mayor of Richmond would be on hand at the Olympic Zone (including the Heineken House) and might be walking around. We hustled over there and found the mayor, walked up to him and introduced ourselves, then gave him a pair of ear warmers. The local news cameras were running, and they filmed him putting the ear warmers on and smiling.

--Michael Hodgson

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