Swinging for the fences to create this year’s Royals advertising campaign

Who wouldn’t want the Kansas City Royals as a client? The history. The passion. The rabidly loyal fan base. When it comes to being the steward of such an amazing brand, the opportunity can border on dumbfounding. Like the sport itself, every season brings new hope and new opportunities. And with that in mind, the Royals team at Walz Tetrick set out to knock another branding campaign out of the park (yes, sports analogies will abound in this post).

The Windup

Every year in Royals Marketingland starts with a theme forged from truth and brought to life in the hearts of the fans. Walz Tetrick began with “Come to Play” and the Royals responded by delivering on that promise. Along the way, the players and fans remembered what it felt like to “Be Royal,” so our next theme reflected that. And when Salvy pulled that ball past the A’s third baseman, we all became “Forever Royal.” That brings us to this season.

In the beginning, every approach is on the table. Do we go with “Forever Royal” a record-setting three years in a row? Fans love it. Are we changing for the sake of change? What level of scrutiny will come with a new theme?

The Royals aren’t like any other brand in the sense that the theme gets scrutinized at such a high level. Segments of sports talk radio will be spent analyzing and dissecting the theme. This reaction is what happens when you have a passionate fan base. And the wrong phrase can end up provoking the ire of the very people you want to inspire.
The stakes are high, but that’s what makes marketing the Royals so much fun.

The Pitch

We brainstormed with our clients. We brainstormed without our clients. Ideas were jotted down on napkins, sketched on stacks of paper and typed out in Word docs. Many of us rolled over in the middle of the night and spewed ideas into our phone’s voice recorder in moments of supposed insomnia-induced genius; only to listen over the breakfast table the next morning to hear nothing but sleepy gibberish.

We generated (literally) dozens of ideas and passed no judgment on any of them at first. You just have to have an old-fashioned brain dump. Hemmingway may or may not have said, “Write drunk. Edit sober.” But that’s exactly how coming up with a killer idea should work. So we wallpapered a room with phrases and then started taking them down one by one until only a precious few remained.

We kept our client involved at every step. They know the brand and are no stranger to idea generation. We respect their take on what’s possible and make a point of not being territorial with our process. After all, creative ideas are never the sole possession of the creative department. Does sharing that fact sound like a little bit of kissing up? Yeah, you could see it that way, if our viewpoint wasn’t legit. With the Royals, it is and it works.

After a lot of lost sleep and hand wringing, we landed on our winner. “Raised Royal” was born.

The Swing

Once we chose our theme, we worked on bringing it to life. And the process started all over again. The walls were filled again. The vetting process happened again, and we created something that has already begun to take on a life of its own.

Raised Royal statements: Quick one-liners that help define what it means to be Raised Royal.

We launched the campaign with a rotating outdoor board.

A meme selector allows fans to share their favorite Raised Royal statement. ( Try it for yourself here.)

Season ticket holders will get yard signs.

We were even able to get local sponsors involved with coasters.

The media picked up on the phenomena. And things really started to roll. Murals across the city will make a splash throughout the season, but it’s when fans get involved like this, that you know you’ve struck a nerve.

That’s great copy scrawled on a cowhide. Is it better than anything we wrote? Absolutely. Why? Because we didn’t write it. And that was precisely the point.

Going, going….

Will this campaign be a home run? Yes, probably the last of the sports analogies. Will it generate the buzz of past campaigns? We hope so. We know that, like any brand, it’s really up to our audience. Any seasoned marketer knows that you don’t own your brand, your audience does. The fact that fans have already hacked our meme generator to start making their individual Raised Royal statements is a good sign. For the rest of the season, we’ll just take it one advertising execution at a time. And enjoy helping everyone know that no matter where you were born or when you became a fan, when you discover that you love this team and they love you right back, you’re Raised Royal.

NICK MAIN From Mail Room Clerk to Creative Director, Nick has brought his creative thinking to clients ranging from Pepsi to Xbox to Union Pacific. His work has been recognized by the Clios, the Obies and Communication Arts. He now works with the talented folks at Walz Tetrick while judging the American Advertising Awards and speaking at industry events.