The Big Easy…Not so Easy

I still remember it as if it was yesterday. Sitting in the end zone in Miami during Super Bowl XLIV watching Tracy Porter jump the route and intercept Peyton Manning, running it back for a game clinching touchdown that gave the Saints their first Super Bowl in franchise history. I, like the thousands in attendance, found myself jumping up and down because this was indeed a Cinderella story that makes our jobs as publicists all the more rewarding.

Everyone has heard all the sayings”¦”This is why you play the game,” ”Anything can happen in a 60 minute game,” ”Games aren’t played on paper.” All true. Sports fans will not forget that February 7 evening for a long time.

DKC is fortunate to work with Warner Home Video, the distributor of NFL licensed DVDs. The Super Bowl is always one of our biggest events of the year since the Champions DVD is among the top-selling sports titles annually.

Everyone seemed to be rooting for the underdog Saints. But did anyone really think they could beat the high-powered Colts? The Colts lost only two games all year and even then, it was on purpose (you’re welcome Jets fans). The DKC DVD team thought we would end up in Indianapolis, again working with the Colts to coordinate numerous PR events in support of the Super Bowl Champions DVD. But there was the sweet hope of a trip to New Orleans.

And there it was. One interception and we’re gearing up for a trip to the Big Easy. Very quickly we had to organize a record number of events. Over the course of three days, we had to secure a venue and players, arrange for the DVD Premiere Screening and handle all the logistics and media for four DVD signings at major retailers. We needed buzz. We needed to tell the Super Bowl story again.

Time was critical. DKC began infiltrating New Orleans media from all angles. We secured a radio partner to promote all five events and in return provided them with tickets for their listeners to attend the private VIP screening with the players. As a result of the overwhelming demand, our promotions actually crashed their system three times due to high volume.

From a TV perspective, we utilized all four networks and secured morning show segments promoting our events for four consecutive days.

We arrived in New Orleans on Sunday, March 7 ready for a whirlwind tour for the next three long days. At the airport, my colleague Matt McNichol and I stopped to pick up a copy of The Times Picayune and both looked at each other in awe as we saw the DVD preview story on A1 of the paper. Welcome to New Orleans! What a way to start the trip.

Monday stared very early, especially for Matt, who went live on the local ABC morning show to explain the events planned for the week. With a 4:30am arrival, they ended up conducting four live shots throughout the 5-7am hour. At the same time, I was at the Fox studios for a segment with Saints hero Porter.

Later that afternoon, we went over to the Prytania Theatre to get everything set for the premiere. Even though it was raining and more than three hours away from the screening, there were hundreds of fans lined up outside the theatre without tickets who just wanted to catch a glimpse of their beloved Saints.

I had seven Super Bowls behind me but I have never seen a city get behind a team like the fans in New Orleans. The contrasts were striking. The city remains in many ways broken, with scars of Katrina visible everywhere. Yet there was a sense of hope and pride, something New Orleans always had but now it was almost physical. You could touch it. It was beautiful to see and a pleasure to experience firsthand…even as a Patriots fan.

The DVD screening was a huge success. Our goal was to secure media to help with sales. But something else had happened. We were not selling DVDs, we were providing a City with a sense of celebration, with an opportunity to applaud its accomplishments. We had to work hard and juggle thousands of moving parts but it was almost like New Orleans was doing the work and we were the beneficiaries. Everyone had a blast, including the press.

As a publicist, Tuesday was as good as it gets. For the second time in three days, we secured A1 of the paper. This time, we had 2/3 of the cover with a headline that read ”From Green Turf to Red Carpet: Hollywood has nothing on the premiere of the Saints’ 2009 Season DVD.” Not bad when you’re the lead story over President Obama’s Health Care speech.

These DVDs tend to be regionalized on the publicity side but we went into this knowing we had a great ”feel good” story. We were able to utilize some out-of-the-box thinking to generate some non-traditional DVD press. I was able to land a feature in USA Today on Tuesday with a photo of the DVD, four different AP stories that were picked up all over the country along with video clips that we were able to secure on Yahoo!, AOL, and, among others.

The trip was a great success. On a personal level, this is the third time I have been to New Orleans post Katrina and it was great to be back. The city continues to amaze me and I was thrilled to jump on the Saints bandwagon for the week. One of the most rewarding experiences was witnessing the sheer joy on the faces of the fans when they saw their heroes in person and relived the Saints’ historic season at the DVD Premiere. Thanks to a football game, New Orleans was back and happier than ever. On a professional level there was a huge sense of accomplishment. All the pieces came together. A note a few days later from Brett Martel at the AP could not have made me feel any better:

You guys at DKC really understand promotions and the needed give-and-take with the media that’s needed to make it work — better than about anyoneI’ve worked with in nearly 14 years for the AP and a couple years at a newspaper before that.”

Posted by: Phil Crimaldi, Vice President