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UU ads to appear in bowl game programs

Advertising campaigns launched at football games, in Tampa Bay area.
By Donald E. Skinner
12.21.07

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Going to a college football bowl game this winter? Unitarian Universalism is going with you. Because of a last-minute, too-good-to-pass-up ad buy, full page ads for Unitarian Universalism will appear in the printed programs handed out at 13 college bowl games between December 22 and January 3.

The Rev. Tracey Robinson-Harris, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s director of Congregational Services, who made the buy, admits that she had to think about it when she was contacted by an advertising salesman who had seen the ads for Unitarian Universalism in Time magazine this fall and winter.

“His pitch was that you often see players kneeling for a prayer when they make a touchdown or praying as a team,” Robinson-Harris said. “He saw a relationship between religion and sports in the lives of players and thought our ad would be a good addition to the printed bowl programs.”

She added, “It’s a venue that I never would have thought of. I am fully aware this is not a place where religion is at the top of most people’s minds. Yet it’s an audience of young adults and their families—college students and college alumni—and who knows what might happen?”

Will a UU message at a football game on Saturday put fans through the turnstiles at church on Sunday? Robinson-Harris noted there are UU congregations in all of the metropolitan areas where the bowl teams are from. “The more I thought about it, it seemed like a unique opportunity to get our message out in one more place,” she said. “It’s another way to say we’re here, we’re part of life, and maybe we can be part of yours.” The ads, with the message, “Find Us and Ye Shall Seek,” originally ran in Time as 1/3-page ads. (See sidebar for links to related resources.)

Robinson-Harris said the four-color ads cost substantially less than full price because the ad company needed to fill out the programs. She said the company would not permit her to divulge the actual cost for publication. “It was a very favorable, deeply discounted, fire-sale price,” said Robinson-Harris. “We ended up paying about 5 percent of full price.” The total audience is estimated at 2.2 million for these 13 games, she said.

The ads will appear in the programs for the FedEx Orange, Tostitos Fiesta, Capital One, Gaylord Hotels Music City, Champs Sports, Chick-Fil-A, Gator, Alamo, Insight, Emerald, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces, Papajohns.com, and Humanitarian bowls. The games will be played in Glendale and Tempe, Ariz.; Miami and Jacksonville, Fla.; San Francisco, Calif.; Atlanta, Ga.; Birmingham, Ala.; Fort Worth and San Antonio, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; and Boise, Idaho. Two of the games will be in Orlando, Fla.


On another ad front, Unitarian Universalist congregations in the Tampa Bay area of Florida have raised approximately $216,000 to date for a local ad campaign they will launch February 9 and continue through April. All funds were raised locally. The campaign anticipates significant TV advertising during shows such as Oprah, Dr. Phil, The Colbert Report, and The Daily Show.

There will also be newspaper inserts in the St. Petersburg Times, Tampa Tribune, Sarasota Herald, and Bradenton Herald. These inserts will reach 200,000 people. In addition, two direct mailings will target 150,000 households.

“There’s not a strong radio station that meets our needs, so we’re doing more TV than radio,” said Valerie Holton, the UUA’s Marketing Outreach director. “We can afford TV because it’s a smaller media market.”

“We’re also doing a lot of niche marketing in community newspapers and alternative newspapers,” said Holton, “including targeting senior citizens and the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.” Billboards will be considered if good locations can be found at a reasonable cost, she said.

UUA President William G. Sinkford will kick off the campaign on February 9 at the St. Petersburg church. Participating congregations are in Bradenton, Clearwater, Odessa, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Tarpon Springs.

Victor Beaumont is chair of the Tampa Bay Regional Marketing Group and a member of the UU Church of St. Petersburg. He said work on the campaign began about six months ago. A workshop was held in November on welcoming and retaining newcomers. “We had more than 90 people from most of the congregations,” he said. “The point was to learn from each other.” Another workshop, on January 5, will address how to be welcoming to people of color and Latina/Latinos.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm,” Beaumont added. “We’re having to change the way we’ve done things in the past, how we record visitors, etc. That’s caused a little anxiety, but we know the results will be worthwhile.”


See sidebar for links to related resources.

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