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Using the Women’s World Cup to Generate a Low-Cost PR Campaign Worth Millions

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This case study will be useful for those looking to bring a SaaS product to market, or grow a new product from the ground up.
In this case study, you’ll discover how I used an international sporting event to raise awareness and establish credibility during a pivot toward an SaaS business model.
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Global PR worth millions of dollars in advertising
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A formula for future ads and use cases
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A new understanding of the opportunities associated with real-time pricing changes

Thuzio, a Talent Database, Needed to Promote Their New Product During a Business Pivot

My employer for this project, Thuzio (now known as Julius - began as a platform for booking experiences with talented athletes. In 2014, after the Superbowl, the company shifted toward becoming a SaaS resource for finding talent.

Thuzio had decided to adapt to the needs of the customers they were attracting, who ultimately turned out to be, not superfans but large corporations looking to book celebrities for speaking engagements and similar events. Instead of selling celebrities directly, Thuzio built a database of over 20,000 pages for athletes, celebrities, movie stars, and business executives. If you want to book an athlete, a celebrity, or an influencer, they have all of the information you need to do that, including estimated pricing, and agent details.

Their challenge at this time was to figure out how to sell their software because Thuzio was straddling a fine line between being a software company and acting as an agent. I was already working for Thuzio full-time, but this was when my role changed; it was now my job to find a way to sell a SaaS solution to businesses and agencies.

Fortunately, with the Women’s World Cup on the horizon in 2015, a fantastic new opportunity to promote the platform suddenly presented itself. I was the only member of our team with PR experience at the time, so I was the first person to recognize what a great story we could generate with this major event, months before everyone else got on board with the idea. With my background, having majored in Journalism in college, I knew we had a story worth telling.


Networking with the Press During a Major Sporting Event to Generate Free Publicity

Identifying the Opportunity

First, we identified the opportunity to use the Women’s World Cup to carve out our niche. This meant getting all of the US players onto our platform, as we only had about a third of the roster on there at the time.

In 2015, the Women's World Cup was in Canada, so it was in a US-favorable time zone. The US had also done very well in the previous Women’s World Cup, finishing as a runner-up, so we knew it would be a big event that would generate momentum over what traditionally is a pretty dull time on the sports calendar (summer).

There were other platforms out there that had some social media data about the players, and places where you could go to look up their agents, but there weren't many that factored in the key bread and butter of our solution -- which was the estimated pricing. To stay competitive, we established pricing for the 23 players on the US team, using the methodologies we had established behind closed doors.

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Researching and Creating Content

Next, we conducted research and created some content.

First, we researched and developed our player pages, then, once we had all 23 US players up on our site, we started researching the reporters who were covering the tournament, the ones we knew had an interest in the event.

The aim was to give our player information out to important journalists when the tournament began, offering them secondary statistics that could supplement the bigger story of the World Cup’s impact in North America.

This stage involved a lot of research and content building, and our team created a lot of press releases, blog posts, and emails to get the word out. We gathered all of the data behind our software solution and gave reporters access to it. Building relationships was crucial at this stage, and we made sure the right people had access to our data.

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Liaising with the Press

Next, we started contacting and relationship-building with the press. We needed to understand who was going to cover the tournament so that when the time came, we were ready to make connections on the fly. We also knew that some reporters would only start to care about the Women's World Cup once the tournament was well underway, so identifying and reaching out to those individuals quickly became a critical part of the strategy.

The positive media outreach eventually served as a work-around between Thuzio and the B2B audience we were trying to reach. Most of our sales leads were already reading Bloomberg, ESPN and the Wall Street Journal on a daily basis. Now they would be reading about Thuzio in those publications and how our platform worked. We were leveraging the media coverage to sell our product without having to hire a bevy of salespeople, or create tons of additional sales materials.

For the journalists, our data was proving to be valuable, especially in being able to show growth throughout the four-week tournament. No one else was talking about who did really well in any given game, while also providing key insights such as individual players’ brand value and the worth of their marketing capabilities. Valuable information like this is currency for journalists.

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Providing Real-Time Stats

During the four-week tournament itself, we had to adapt to ever-changing circumstances. At any point, the US team could have been knocked out or they could have done very well, so we had to deal with that.

For example, at one point in the tournament, Carli Lloyd was scoring goals in every single game. Her press adjusted as the tournament went on, and we had to tinker with her pricing to create real-time numbers, kind of like a virtual stock market for celebrities. When Carli's price went up, we notified journalists that it had risen. When she scored three goals in the final and the US won, we took her pricing from $25,000 to $50,000.

Because we had been proactive in terms of establishing ourselves as providers of specialist knowledge, we started receiving emails directly from journalists. For example, during the final, a big-name ESPN sports business reporter emailed me for information. To be honest, I spent the second half of the game, with the U.S. comfortably ahead, in BC Place Stadium talking and texting with media on my cell phone.

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After the tournament came the follow-up.

We had taken a gamble on this campaign, but a week after the tournament — we were everywhere. We were on Good Morning America and ESPN's SportsCenter after just two months of work. It was free PR that you really couldn't get anywhere else.

On the sales side, we needed to take advantage of our good publicity. We began following up our leads because lots of people were sending SportsCenter clips and ESPN articles to anyone who was remotely interested in our business.

Now that reporters trusted our data, we had to prepare for the next big sporting event, which was the 2016 Olympics. When it began we had all the numbers and mechanisms in place for people like Katie Ledecky or Michael Phelps. By this point we had already become a trusted research source, so we didn't have to spend six weeks introducing ourselves.

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Millions of Dollars’ Worth of Advertising and a Successful Website Scale

Overall, the campaign was a huge success and we were really able to enjoy the fruits of our labor. In the beginning, I couldn’t have promised we’d get a huge amount of international media coverage, but that was the result. I knew that this project had great potential and I was sure that if I did all the backend research to provide the right infrastructure we would be successful.

The global PR we got was ultimately worth millions of dollars in advertising, but this project also allowed us to put a formula in place that could be used for future ads or use cases.

Thuzio now has a good understanding of the various risks and opportunities associated with the real-time pricing changes we had to grapple with. After I left the company, they were able to scale their talent from 2,500 celebrities, to 25,000 in under two years.

There's always the temptation to back out of things quickly when they don’t go well right off the bat. We didn't have immediate success here, and it took a couple of weeks to get going. It looked like a failure at first, but the last six weeks were a massive success. By sticking to our processes and executing all the steps, we were able to succeed.

Jake is a results driven marketer, always looking for ways to expand a company's sales objectives, brand footprint and PR presence.