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Perfect season flub was perfect for advertiser

By Jeff Ostrowski
The Business Journal

January 1, 1999

Sprint's Super Bowl marketing campaign features an unlikely hero: A short, bald guy remembered for a flubbed pass 25 years ago.

Spring is using former Miami Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian for its South Florida brand-awareness push. The "Where's Garo?" promo is a play on Yepremian's famous blooper in Super Bowl VII, which capped the Dolphins' undefeated season.

With 2:07 left in the game and the Dolphins leading the Washington Redskins 14-0, Yepremian attempted a 42-yard field goal. The Redskins blocked the kick, and the ball wound up in the kicker's hands.

Instead of falling on the ball, Yepremian tried to salvage the play with a pass. Yepremian's clumsy throw slipped out of his hands.

The ball was intercepted and returned for a touchdown -- the Redskins' only score of the game.

The Dolphins won anyway, so Scott Becher, president of Sports & Sponsorships in Coral Gables, felt comfortable proposing that Sprint use the play for its South Florida marketing campaign this month.

Becher said the "Where's Garo?" campaign was the most creative of the Super Bowl marketing ideas he suggested to his client.

Sprint accepted. Before the Jan. 31 Super Bowl at Pro Player Stadium, Sprint will host contests at each of its eight retail stores in South Florida.

The goal: Hurl the ball in a less-than-graceful tribute to Yepremian. The winner at each store gets a pair of Super Bowl tickets.

The day before Super Sunday, Sprint will host a Where's Garo? Manhunt on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. Other former Dolphins, including Jim Kiick, Paul Warfield and Manny Fernandez, will dole out clues, Becher said.

Searchers who find Garo will have their names entered in a drawing, and another pair of tickets will be given away. When asked whether Yepremian might don Rollerblades and tattoos to fit in on South Beach, Becher was stoic. "Anything's possible," Becher said.

Sprint PCS spokeswoman Julie Rosenthal called Yepremian, now a motivational speaker, a logical choice.

"He's likable, and he's very good with the media," Rosenthal said.

The events will be accompanied by newspaper and radio ads. The ad campaign, designed by Beber Silverstein & Partners, is scheduled to launch Monday.

Rosenthal wouldn't say how much Sprint will spend on its Super Bowl campaign.