Think you need a Michigan Avenue PR firm to get Big City Media Results? Think again.
All you need is proper planning and the right idea at the right time.
One of my favorite client promotions over the past 25 years had to be what I refer to as “Soxtober” —the 2005 White Sox Playoff Pep Rally on behalf of longtime agency client, The Westin Michigan Avenue Hotel.
The ‘unofficial’ pep rally that Media referred to as ‘Official’.
Holding a 10-game lead with less than a month to play, it looked promising that the Chicago White Sox were going to earn a playoff berth in what would become the team’s magical 2005 post season.
That's when we approached our client, The Westin Michigan Avenue, with the idea to have the hotel host a pep rally for the team right on the Magnificent Mile at the conclusion of the regular season….which was still roughly one month away. This was back when the city of Chicago had yet to host pep rallies for its sports teams. In fact, no one held pep rallies for the Bulls, Cubs, Sox, Bears, Blackhawks, etc.
Knowing the White Sox were going to be THE STORY come playoff time, being able to tie into the team and its success would result in a windfall of positive media for our client. Although The Westin had zero affiliation with the White Sox, it was known in many circles as the hotel where most Major League teams stayed when they were in town to play either of the two Chicago baseball teams.
Ingredients for the pep rally included an appearance by former White Sox Rookie of the Year Ron Kittle (in exchange for a weekend stay at the hotel) and the team’s legendary organist, Nancy Faust, who by performing on her organ provided a ballpark atmosphere right on Michigan Avenue.
Knowing that TV cameras would focus in, a giant greeting card wishing the Sox good luck was created with passersby encouraged to sign their well-wishes to the team. It read “Good Luck Sox” on the outside and prominently featured the hotel’s logo on the inside. In addition, there would be complimentary hotdogs, Cracker Jacks, baseball-themes cookies and a two-story tall baseball balloon erected atop the hotel entrance awning that read “Go Sox!”. Employees were also given White Sox baseball caps to wear during the day’s festivities.
Tragedy Nearly Averted--The White Sox Try To Pull The Plug
Two weeks before the actual event, things would briefly take an interesting turn when we received a call from the Chicago White Sox communication department, which had through the grapevine heard of our plans to honor the team with our event. The person on the phone not so politely instructed us to refrain from hosting any type of event since the Westin Michigan Avenue was NOT the team’s official hotel. We were further told not to use any of the team's logos, nor any of its players for the promotion.
LOL: When we inquired what the team's "official hotel" was doing to celebrate, the answer was a bit humorous: "Uh, well, they aren't doing anything, but that's not the point, said the team's communication person."
A Media Home Run for Our Client
Of course, we forged ahead with our promotion and one day before the start of the 2005 Major League Baseball Playoffs, the Westin Michigan Avenue hosted the city’s first (and only) White Sox Playoff Pep Rally. Attending was every major news outlet in Chicago, including TV affiliates from CBS, NBC, ABC, WGN, and FOX…as well as reporters and photographers from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times.
Official After All
Our pep rally was the lead story on that evening’s WLS-TV (ABC) newscast: “The city’s first official White Sox Pep Rally kicked off today on Michigan Avenue”… although we knew there was nothing official about it…except that The Westin Michigan Avenue was able to tie in to the White Sox phenomenon during a season that resulted in a World Series Championship.