It was late June 2013. The Miami Heat had just repeated as NBA Champions. The Dallas Mavericks had missed the postseason for the first time since 2000, and a free agent free-for-all was about to break loose. The Mavericks needed a superstar and were gunning for the biggest prize of them all: All-NBA center Dwight Howard.
Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers and Champion recognized the opportunity and took immediate advantage by deploying a three-pronged strategy of public relations, social media and limited outdoor advertising. The resulting campaign tied the restaurant brand to one of the biggest sports stories of the year…and it hardly cost a penny.
The idea was as simple as it was brilliant. Raising Cane’s DFW-area restaurants would promise Dwight Howard free chicken fingers for life if the superstar signed with Dallas. As the first day of the free-agent signing period loomed, Cane’s converted six of its electronic billboards around the Metroplex to urge fans to join its campaign to “Bring Dwight to Big D” by tweeting their support with #CANES4DWIGHT.
Champion began its media outreach by leaking its press release to a Dallas Morning News sports reporter on June 28. He agreed to break the story online late Saturday, June 29, and to run it in Sunday’s print edition (the most-read issue of the week). Early Sunday morning, Champion distributed its release, a rendering of the billboard and a link to the DMN’s story to every other news outlet in the area. All four network TV affiliates in DFW ran with it…
Champion then distributed the release nationally to every major media market, the AP, USA Today, CNN, ESPN and others. Within a matter of hours, the news went viral. The “Free Chicken Fingers for Life” story immediately resonated with fans and commentators alike. The #CANES4DWIGHT campaign exploded on Twitter and Facebook. TMZ and ESPN’s Around the Horn came calling. Several major media outlets, including CBS Radio and the New York Daily News, interviewed Cane’s spokespeople.
Even Dwight Howard himself brought up the Cane’s offer during his meetings with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, General Manager Donnie Nelson and superstar Dirk Nowitzki. In the end, the campaign generated more than 2.4 million TV impressions, while millions more heard about Raising Cane’s on the radio or read about the brand in print or online, over the course of just a few days. The total estimated earned media value exceeded $500,000. The campaign has earned Champion several accolades, including a Platinum Hermes Award.