Case Study


Roaming Gnome Makes College Basketball Debut

Client: Travelocity

Tactics: Media Relations

Strategy: Established a creative media pitch involving an opportunity to interview Travelocity’s iconic “Roaming Gnome” mascot

Outcomes: Over a dozen media placements and nearly 1 million impressions

It may sound strange – pitching Travelocity’s de facto mascot the Gnome for TV, radio and newspaper interviews. He can’t even talk, but we made it work! Travelocity, the nationally-known online travel agency, utilized its sponsorship of ESPN GameDay to send the Gnome to locations where the sports network was covering marquee college basketball games. With a program called “The Roaming Gnome,” Travelocity sent its iconic Gnome to Charlottesville for the highly-publicized matchup between the University of Virginia and inter-conference rival Duke. Media relations was used to secure interviews with, and news stories about, the Gnome – heightening awareness of Travelocity and Charlottesville through a fun and interesting technique.

Primary research was gathered through conference calls with Travelocity’s PR team. This helped determine what had worked in other markets when pitching the Gnome, as well as the company’s key messaging to be communicated.

Secondary research was conducted via Internet searches to find out how the Gnome was covered in other markets, studying how other markets positioned the Gnome with the media. We found that the uniqueness and recognizable traits of the Gnome were strong enough assets to secure interviews. We also discovered that the Gnome highlighting the city he was visiting created another focus for the media to cover.

Armed with the goal of using media relations to generate as much publicity and attention for Travelocity as possible, we decided to leverage the strategy of utilizing the uniqueness of the Gnome visiting Charlottesville and University of Virginia’s most iconic landmarks to secure interviews.

The result was the development of a media pitch that focused on eight to ten landmarks, as well as the direct offer for the Gnome to be interviewed. Travelocity provided a template media advisory that we utilized with our custom pitch. We were challenged with making sure reporters understood how an interview with a ceramic gnome would work. The solution was personal phone calls to reporters and assignment desks to explain the program.

We strategically divided up our media pitches by familiarity with reporters. We first emailed our pitch along with the media advisory, following up by phone to explain the opportunity. This resulted in a positive first impression by the media in regards to a national company highlighting their local university town and added the dynamic of a fun and different interview opportunity. We then arranged interviews for the Gnome via his handler, a Travelocity employee.

We saw an immediate reaction from our media outreach, as reporters from around the area posted information about the Gnome’s visit and wrote about how excited they were to have an interview with the iconic figure.

More than 13 placements were generated with almost 1 million impressions. Emails revealed that our activities generated a top number of media placements when compared to other markets. We also evaluated our efforts through emails and phone calls with staff from Travelocity, who were thrilled about the media coverage and results. Travelocity provided a budget, which we were able to stay within during execution.

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