Case Study: The Home Team Campaign


The Issue
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast. The devastation was felt beyond the region as families fled to other parts of the country, including Detroit, while Americans stepped up to give in unprecedented ways. The American Red Cross - Southeastern Michigan Chapter was at the forefront in metro Detroit by collecting financial contributions and sending trained volunteers to support relief efforts in the Gulf Coast, along with giving assistance to displaced residents from Louisiana and Mississippi. As relief efforts continued, it was taking resources away from the many local disasters occurring in metro Detroit (mostly, home fires) and from providing local emergency preparedness training. As the months went by it was clear that the Southeastern Michigan Chapter of the Red Cross had to develop a campaign to tell the story of the local organization's impact. However, the local Red Cross didn't possess the resources to embark on a large-scale advertising campaign to engage the public and even then didn't want to use donated dollars to buy advertising.

Frankly, metro Detroiters were not aware that their local Red Cross chapter was the second busiest in the nation in terms of disaster relief and was typically number one or two in the amount of people and workplaces it trained in CPR, first aid, and emergency preparedness. How can it get this message across to the community was the ultimate question.


The Resolution
Evolve-Engage Strategies' founder Bryan Peckinpaugh, who at the time was the local Red Cross Public Affairs and Marketing Manager, commissioned a meeting in the spring of 2006 among the marketing team, a local PR consultant, Tom Constand of starrconstand, and the Red Cross's Chief Development Officer Jan Shimshock. The premise is that the group of six was going to devise a plan to create a multi-faceted awareness campaign using donated media.

At this point the Detroit Tigers, which hosted fundraisers for Hurricane Katrina relief during its baseball games, offered to provide support for local Red Cross programs as well. Peckinpaugh had also established a marketing relationship with the NBA Detroit Pistons.

The focus became how the Red Cross can create a local awareness campaign using existing relationships with Detroit sports teams. Peckinpaugh's argument was that sports in metro Detroit garners so much attention in the news and general public -- frequently headline stories -- that the local Red Cross needed to align with these engaging, attention-grabbing brands to tell its story.

During this first meeting, Constand coined the phrase "Home Team campaign" signifying the combination of the local Red Cross with hometown sports teams. It stuck, and thus the awareness campaign would be built around that theme.


The Plan
The work began by drafting an overview of the Red Cross Home Team campaign. It was decided that the campaign would do an unprecedented move -- both locally and nationally -- by having all five major pro sports teams in Detroit participate. That meant the teams representing the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL and WNBA. Again an unprecedented task to take on, however, Peckinpaugh and the others had vast ambition, as well as passion for sharing the Red Cross story. They believed this could be done and will be an effective campaign.

The Home Team campaign partnerships with the sports teams would include a player spokesperson being offered to participate in PSAs and each team having a Red Cross-related event during a game. The player spokesperson was asked to be a recognizable figure, or local celebrity, by metro Detroit residents. In return, each team would have the community relations benefit of being a part of this Red Cross campaign, along with the additional brand exposure in having each team logo on every campaign piece, no matter if their team spokesperson was in the public service announcement (PSA) or not.

The Detroit Tigers were on board immediately with the plan, and with the existing relationship with the Pistons they stepped on board fairly quickly. After those two teams’ commitments, the Detroit Lions, Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Shock were approached and within a few weeks they came on board the campaign as well, putting the final pieces in place.

Additionally, the teams voluntarily offered to air the PSAs that included their specific player spokesperson during their events, when space allowed or place in game programs, again when space allowed. The Tigers placed the PSA on the jumbotron outside of Hockeytown Cafe for passersby down Woodward Avenue, fans going into Comerica Park, and customers heading into the restaurant, expanding the reach of this new campaign.

The Home Team campaign would have a theme of "It’s time to help the Home Team," as in the home team Red Cross. The communication elements included TV, radio, print and web. The messages were crafted slightly different for each team spokesperson, focused on a different area of the Red Cross, such as home fire relief for one spot and CPR training for another spot, and fitting the personality of the team and player. The timing of each player spokesperson's participation in the campaign was based on the team's season. Furthermore, the PSAs were recorded at each team’s stadiums/arenas. Each PSA included footage of local Red Cross services along with on-film, on-tape of the player spokesperson.

The Red Cross marketing team hired an outside firm to produce the broadcast versions of the PSAs, A Fine Mess Productions, that contributed greatly to the look-and-feel. The internal Red Cross team, led by Peckinpaugh, managed the relationships with the teams, crafted the scripts, and designed all the print and elements.

Lastly for the plan, it was decided that the Red Cross would commit to 12-months for this campaign.


During the Home Team campaign’s first year, rookie pitcher Detroit Tiger Justin Verlander kicked it off with the theme, "Our Home Team needs your help now more than ever." The intention was for him to introduce the campaign concept and then have player spokespersons from the other teams build on the theme, thus generating more awareness. At the time, little did the Red Cross staff know Verlander would become a popular Tiger that season and contribute to the team going to the World Series. The PSA began airing in August 2006.

The images and videos on this page illustrate the campaign messages, participants, combined branding and concept. Peckinpaugh and the rest of the team were aware that integration of the Home Team campaign theme across all marketing and public relations platforms would make it most effective.

After Verlander kicked-off the campaign, Detroit Lion Eddie Drummond participated in a PSA at Ford Field. Following him was Detroit Red Wing Kirk Maltby who spoke in the PSA standing on the ice of Joe Louis Arena. Detroiter Chris Webber returned to the city playing for the Detroit Pistons and was a natural fit for this campaign. Detroit Shock player Cheryl Ford was the final player spokesperson for the first year. As each PSA was produced, it was delivered to the local media and as such the media now had a catalog, so to speak, of local Red Cross PSAs and b-roll background footage to air and to also use for their own stories.

The Home Team campaign was fully-integrated. Beyond the print and broadcast PSAs, there were web banners, complimentary messaging in fundraising direct mail, tagline integration in annual reports and other Red Cross collateral materials, and adoption by internal staff using the web banners and messaging in emails. The Home Team campaign theme was also integrated into the local Red Cross's annual fundraiser, the Red Cross Hero Awards.

The campaign was such a cost-effective success, that the Red Cross and the teams decided to build on it and continue the Home Team campaign for a second year in 2007-08. The second year would build on the theme while diving deeper into the local Red Cross programs. Verlander participated again and would also participate in a separate PSA for the annual Red Cross Hero Awards (the video is on this page). As for the Detroit Pistons' participation, that was slanted to direct the message to corporate sector for corporate giving. Pistons coach Flip Saunders and a Rock Financial (Quicken Loans) executive were the spokespeople.


The campaign during the first year was judged by awareness data. It was clear that residents in metro Detroit were more aware of the local Red Cross. It positively impacted earned media coverage as they continued to climb and although not the goal in the first year, donations online and through direct mail rose more than 10%.

Not only was the campaign generating more interest for the local Red Cross and significant “buzz” both externally and internally, it received national exposure. The Home Team campaign quickly become a Red Cross national best practice for PSAs. Other Red Cross chapters sought the same model in their local area, including Miami and Philadelphia.

It was an extremely cost effective campaign as the expenses were primarily Red Cross staff time, contract production company that provided a superb rate, and DVD duplication and printing for the spots. The PSA placement was donated by the local media during their federally-required PSA time slots. Additionally, Red Cross corporate supporters including Rock Financial, donated radio advertising time to provide significantly more time slots to air the campaign spots.

The national office of the Red Cross annually produced PSAs provided to the local chapters. The Red Cross chapter in Detroit had used those PSAs in the past. However, it found that the locally-generated Home Team campaign spots were run 10 times more frequently. Donors at events and the news media would comment on seeing or hearing the spots.

Five years later, the campaign model remains relevant and can be effective for other organizations. Talk to us at Evolve-Engage Strategies to see how we can address your challenges with innovation to engage your audience.

Home Team Campaign - Detroit Tiger Justin Verlander
Evolve-Engage Strategies' Bryan Peckinpaugh
co-developed and managed the comprehensive
Home Team campaign for the American Red Cross
in Detroit to build greater identity locally. It was
adopted by other Red Cross chapters and became
a national best practice. During his rookie season,
Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander participated.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander launched the
Red Cross Home Team campaign in this public
service announcement (PSA) recorded at Comerica
Park in Detroit. He helped the team get to the World
Series that year and would participated in the Home
Team campaign again the following season
Detroit Lions' return specialist Eddie Drummond
was the second participant in the Red Cross Home
Team campaign. The PSA he participated in
was filmed at Ford Field in Detroit and
emphasized local disaster relief.
The Detroit Pistons, one of five teams participating in
the Red Cross Home Team campaign, offered Detroiter
Chris Webber, who played for the team during the
2006-07 season, to participate in the campaign. This
was a natural "home team" fit. Like the other player
spokespersons, Webber participated in broadcast,
print and web PSAs.
Detroit Red Wing Kirk Maltby, a long-time Hockeytown
favorite, participated in the Red Cross Home Team
campaign to help generate awareness for local
emergency preparedness programs. His spots
were filmed on the ice at Joe Louis Arena.
The Home Team campaign also involved a corporate
partner, Rock Financial (Quicken Loans), as a medium
to bring more awareness to the corporate sector in
terms of opportunities to support local Red Cross
programs. Besides donated placement in traditional
media, the Red Cross purchased ad space in three
issues of the Crain's Detroit Business publication.
Home Team campaign spokesperson Detroit Tiger Justin
Verlander participated in four PSAs. This one was for the
Red Cross Hero Awards, presented by GM and OnStar.



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