SBJ/January 21 - 27, 2002/Marketingsponsorship

Edelman need not wait to pitch up-close-and-personal Home Depot stories

Feel-good stories emerging from the Olympics are as old as the discus. Impoverished athletes strike gold; flag-draped goalies search for their fathers in the crowd.

It's rare when a public relations firm can pitch more than two dozen feel-good stories before the Games. For the second Olympics in a row, Edelman Public Relations Worldwide is doing just that.

The New York-based firm is touting 27 Winter Olympic hopefuls from the United States and Canada who are working for Edelman client Home Depot. No Olympic sponsor boasts as many potential athletes toiling in its store as employees.

"After they work in the garden department, they take off their orange apron and train for the Games," said Larry Koffler, vice president of Edelman's Sports and Sponsorship Marketing group. The program is part of the Olympic Job Opportunities Campaign set up by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Speed skater Derek
Parra wears Home
Depot orange with his
red, white and blue.

Edelman has placed more than 400 national and local stories about the athletes so far, principally in daily newspapers such as The Dallas Morning News and the Sacramento Bee. During the 2000 Sydney Games, the firm landed a front-page story in The New York Times business section, a spot on ABC's "World News Tonight" and stories in men's magazines such as GQ and Esquire.

"It's an enviable account to have, because it's different from a corporate program pitching a product," said Mary Griswold, senior vice president of specialty services at Edelman. Since Home Depot will have no on-site presence at the Olympics, it's especially critical that the campaign be effective.

The athletes work 20 hours a week but earn full-time wages and health benefits. As of Jan. 16, 14 of them had qualified for Salt Lake City. Big names include speed skater Derek Parra and bobsledder Garrett Hines, both former Olympians.

BBDO GETS ITS KICKS: For the third year in a row, brokerage firm Charles Schwab will run 90 seconds worth of ads — likely to combine old and new material — just before the Super Bowl kickoff. All spots will have been created by BBDO New York.

Last year, BBDO created a 30-second ad and a 60-second ad, the latter featuring Sarah Ferguson. In 2000, BBDO developed three 30-second ads, one featuring Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. Any non-sports celebrities this year?

"As in the past, you should expect the unexpected," a BBDO spokesman said.

The brokerage firm struck a deal that costs significantly less than the rate of $2 million for 30 seconds offered during the game on Fox, according to sources.

BRING ON THE POPS: The Super Bowl is increasingly becoming more a spectacle than a football game. That means more work for Brener Zwikel & Associates, the Los Angeles-area public relations firm charged with representing the NFL on the entertainment side (pregame show, halftime show, national anthem and coin toss).

This year, the doors to the game are opening earlier than usual (41¼2 hours before kickoff) so fans can get through security. With more time to kill, the NFL is introducing its first-ever pre-pregame show, featuring the Boston Pops.

"I'd say it's the biggest lineup in Super Bowl history," said Steve Brener, president of Brener Zwikel, who first worked with the NFL on the Super Bowl in 1988. "It's certainly changed from the early years."

No doubt about that. A chart from Brener's office shows the coin that was tossed by a game official for the first nine Super Bowls. During Super Bowl XXXIV, 11 former NFL players took part in the ceremony.

David Sweet can be reached at dsweet@bizjournals.com. The advertising/PR firm column will run monthly.

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