HOME DEPOT REHABS OLYMPIC PLANS

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ATLANTA-Home Depot has halved sales goals for its Olympic Brick fund-raising program, and plans a more aggressive national marketing thrust.

The program was designed to help the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games raise $15 million for the Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta. For $35, consumers can receive a certificate and have their name engraved on a brick in the park.

The program was launched Nov. 4 with two 30-second TV spots shown mainly in Atlanta featuring gold medalist Mary Lou Retton and baseball great Hank Aaron. Sixty-second radio spots also ran in Southeastern markets. The Richards Group, Dallas, created the campaign, timed for the holiday gift-giving season.

The goal was to sell 2 million bricks, with a large portion expected to be sold during the holiday season. When fewer than 100,000 were sold by Christmas, the program was re-evaluated.

So last month, national ads ran in USA Today and during the NFL playoffs on NBC.

And Home Depot is adding direct mail to its marketing tools, and pushing into a greatly expanded national effort.

The retailer now hopes to sell 800,000 to 1 million bricks.

A national business-to-business and institutional direct mail effort will start within 30 days. Public schools will also be targeted to get students interested in the effort, and public relations work will be stepped up once groundbreaking takes place this spring. Cohn & Wolfe handles public relations for Home Depot, and the Atlanta committee will be relying on a group of PR shops.

"We will be constantly evaluating our marketing and advertising plans as we go and will continue to run the advertising at opportune times if necessary," said Dick Hammill, Home Depot senior VP-marketing.

The Atlanta Olympic committee has taken a more active role in the project by assigning Senior Policy Adviser Dick Yarbrough and Managing Director of Games Services Scott Anderson to work directly with Home Depot.

"New ads, which will be created by a group effort among a number of agencies including the Richards Group, will speak to the heart and be more emotional rather than celebrity focused," Mr. Anderson said.

Plans for those ads are still being developed.

Mr. Hammill said he believes sales have been slow so far because the 1996 Summer Games are too far away.

"Once bricks start to be lain and we get closer to the Olympics," he said, "it is a natural impetus for sales as well as for our public relations department to have fun with stories and photos of celebrities taking part in the program."

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