Washington Mutual Hosts a Giant Barbeque for Teachers - Event Marketer

Washington Mutual Hosts a Giant Barbeque for Teachers

DB_TeacherPalooza_2004 Ex
Brand: WASHINGTON MUTUAL
Agency: OPTS EVENTS
Awards: EX AWARDS — BEST ACTIVATION OF A CAUSE SPONSORSHIP/COMMUNITY TIE-IN
Year: 2004

WaMu set up the world’s largest barbeque in Chicago to herald the bank’s entry into the Windy City. As has proven successful elsewhere, the company focused on recognizing teachers as one of the anchors of the community. Teachers, after all, have ties to students, who have ties to parents, and so on. The objective? Announce the new bank branches and drive traffic. The concept? Teacherpalooza, a humongous barbeque in Grant Park to celebrate Chicago teachers for all they do.

The free event took place on October 18. In addition to the grillin’ and chillin’, there was an Affordable Housing Fair, a Teacher’s Pavilion offering exclusive benefits, and a headliner concert featuring such A-list celebs as Tim McGraw and Michelle Branch (among others).

Thirty-thousand tickets were given away to teachers—but to get the tickets, they had to go into the branch. (WaMu used color-coded ticket redemption cards to track the teachers through an internal CRM lead funnel.) “Events engage the consumer in a way that also drives our business,” says Cheryl Di Re, the bank’s senior vp-marketing. “We’re proving this works.”

Our favorite part: To add some sizzle to the proceedings, WaMu announced a take on American Idol called the Spotlight on Teachers Singing Contest. Teacher acts auditioned inside financial service centers with local radio stations providing live remotes. The 30 finalist acts moved onto the stage at the big event to win grants for their schools.

At the event, the WaMu brand was ubiquitous without being overbearing. Branded booths in the Product Area showcased products and programs, the Teachers Pavilion boasted teacher-specific loan programs and contests, and the Affordable Housing Fair had 18 local organizations on-site. “We found ways to draw and engage the audience in a way that was about more than a big party,” says OPTS partner Lisa Holland.

Branches were flooded with first-time visitors, many of whom opened accounts. WaMu awareness spiked in Chicago, with more than 4.7 million impressions and 80 percent of targeted households taking notice of the event. Total outreach was 1.5 million.

Oh, we almost forgot the barbeque. More than 13 tons of meat were grilled, charred, roasted, cooked, sliced, diced, served, and enjoyed. Oh, that’s hot.

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