Inspired by the hit film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Philadelphia-based Power Home Remodeling paid for three billboards on a major highway near Cleveland in an attempt to lure Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James to its hometown.
The PR strategy drummed up a slew of media coverage.
A Philadelphia-based company put up three billboards on highway to downtown Cleveland this morning saying that city wanted LeBron. Here they are in order. pic.twitter.com/vntsa8h3mE
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 26, 2018
In February 2018, Asher Raphael, co-CEO of Power Home Remodeling, was at dinner with colleagues, discussing how landing James in the off-season would increase the chances of the Philadelphia 76ers winning an NBA championship. Inspired by the movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Raphael decided billboards could be a way to get James’ attention.
The goal was to create a campaign that showed pride for Philadelphia, as well as change conversation around James’ upcoming free agency to reflect Philadelphia as a possible landing place.
Power Home Remodeling aimed to engage its 2,400 staffers across 14 states to help spread the story and share on social. Allen & Gerritsen, Power Home Remodeling’s PR partner, helped drive media outreach efforts and social engagement.
Show Philly’s pride
“We really wanted to focus on sports reporters and outlets for this campaign,” explained Michelle Bauer, VP of PR at Power Home Remodeling. “It’s where our employees would see it, it’s where the dialogue around [James’] free agency was taking place, and it’s where Philadelphia could show its pride.”
The three billboards were installed on February 26 on I-480 outside Cleveland, just in time for the Philadelphia 76ers March 1 away game against the Cavaliers. The first two billboards included the text “#PhillyWantsLeBron” and “Complete the Process,” while the third showed jersey numbers of current Philadelphia 76ers’ players on a half-court with a Number 23 for James with a crown.
To help introduce the campaign to media that same day, the campaign team pitched reporter Darren Rovell at ESPN.com by sending him an exclusive first look at the billboards going up. Rovell quickly tweeted out photos to his 2 million Twitter followers and also crafted a story on the activation, which appeared on ESPN.com.
To further the media buzz, Raphael was made available in pitches to dozens of outlets for follow-up interviews over the course of the next week.
“Including the hashtag #PhillyWantsLeBron on one of the billboards definitely helped to drive social conversation,” said Bauer. “That hashtag had never been used before the campaign launch and, by the end of the first day, there were more than 5,000 tweets using it.”
To help engage employees, the company also gave out free T-shirts made from the billboard content. After receiving massive interest, Power Home Remodeling provided the creative content to a sports retailer from Philadelphia to sell the shirts.
The billboards are purchased through the end of May 2018, but the PR portion of the campaign is complete.
The #PhillyWantsLeBron billboards resulted in more than 300 media placements across print, broadcast, and online. Although the campaign team focused on sports outlets, the story got coverage in mainstream outlets such as USA Today, Good Morning America, NBC’s Nightly News, and CNBC.
Social traffic includes more than 15,000 tweets referencing the billboards to date.
Whether or not James decides to play in Philly – the final decision is still months away – there’s no doubt that the billboards stunt and subsequent media outreach generated a lot of heat.