Monday, January 31, 2011

Super Bowl + French Impressionism = publicity

If you're looking to earn publicity, always be on the alert for ways to tie your client to a topic in the news.

That doesn't mean you have to watch for stories that are closely related to your client's business. In fact, the less obvious the tie to your client's usual image, the stronger your story idea may be: if you can provide an unexpected twist on a story everyone's talking about anyway, you're gold.

No sports story is bigger than the Super Bowl

In the U.S. and Canada, the Super Bowl is a ratings bonanza and an advertiser's dream: even people who aren't that big into football pay attention to it (even if just for the nachos and beer). And because the Super Bowl is such a big story, the mainstream media welcome different angles from which to cover it. 

Publicity 101: provide an unexpected angle on a major story

Is it possible to use the Super Bowl to boost attention to and attendance at art museums? You bet.

The directors of the Milwaukee Art Museum (Green Bay doesn't have its own) and Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Art have reportedly made a friendly wager on the outcome of next weekend's Super Bowl game, which will feature their respective "home" teams. The temporary loan of multi-million dollar French Impressionist paintings (one Renoir, one Caillebotte) is on the line. 

The directors even threw in some good-natured trash talk, to give the story a little more meat:
"Milwaukee Museum of Art director Daniel Keegan said in a statement to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he is already preparing a space for the Renoir.
“I'm confident we will be enjoying the Renoir from the Carnegie Museum of Art very soon,” the Green Bay native told the paper. “I look forward to displaying it where the public can enjoy it and be reminded of the superiority of the Green Bay Packers.”
Lynn Zelevansky, the director at Carnegie, had a retort for her Cheesehead counterpart.
“In Pittsburgh, we believe trash talk is bad form,” Zelevansky said in a statement. “We let the excellence of our football team, and our collection, speak for itself. It will be my great pleasure to see the Caillebotte from the Milwaukee Museum of Art hang in our galleries.” (Source: CNN "This Just In" blog)
When it comes to publicity, quick thinking can trump deep pockets
I heard about this story on CNN's morning news broadcast late last week; if you search Google News, you'll find the story covered by a variety of mainstream media, as well as betting sites, sports sites, art sites, and a range of blogs (including, now, this one!).
While this isn't a completely original idea (a similar wager was reportedly made over last year's Super Bowl game, instigated by an art critic), it still does the trick. Because it's a novel twist on a big story, the media (and their audiences) love it.  
It won't be novel forever, mind you... the more often it's done, the less attention it will naturally get. But for this year, it's bringing great mainstream attention to both art museums -- and, their directors hope, will bring visitors to see the spoils of the victorious team's win in the local art museum.
For we students of PR, this is a great example of how finding ways to connect our stories with current topics in the public eye can lead to great coverage, with very little investment.

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