Making the Leap with USPA

I did it once, been propositioned to do it many times since then, and yes, I’d do it all again – in a heartbeat – cause it leaves you breathless, wanting more…

Yep, I’m talkin’ Skydiving! (get your heads outta the gutter folks)

It has been our privilege to publicize this heart-racing, nail-biting action sport since 2004, working with America’s skydiving authority – the United States Parachute Association (USPA).

Once a year USPA hosts its big annual National Skydiving Championships, the largest skydiving competition in the U.S.; attracting hundreds of the country’s finest, fastest, most fearless skydivers.

This year as the championships approached and everyone set their sights on host drop zone (DZ) Skydive Spaceland near Houston, we changed up our PR strategy a bit and decided to go grassroots in letting folks coast to coast know about their local Gold medalist skydiving stars in their midst. In the process, we’d give skydiving a boost in visibility and spur first-timers to give skydiving a try themselves. Because truth be told, anyone can do it; you don’t need to be a pro. As a former USPA Executive Director used to say, “We all fall the same.” (love that quote!).

We were on a mission to bring this exciting sport, and the fascinating stories behind each gold medalist, into more living rooms.

As the six competitions wrapped up one by one, we drafted a personalized press release on each of the Gold medal winners. For teams (i.e. four-way formation), that meant five separate press releases to five different parts of the country (the fifth person being the team videographer). Shonda Smith, USPA’s Communications Director, gave us daily updates on the winners’ names and hometowns, along with cool photos and video of them in action.

Then we spooled a targeted media list covering that winner’s hometown – all sports reporters at every newspaper, TV and news/talk radio station. Keep in mind, some “hometowns” were as big as Atlanta, Georgia – doh!

A couple dozen newspapers replied, from big city dailies to community mom and pop papers that sang the praises of their “fly” hometown heroes right on the front page – half-page color photos and all! From Grand Rapids, Michigan to the beaches of South Florida, readers dove right into skydiving and learned more about their local supermen and women.

TV/radio newsrooms also responded with requests for b-roll, phone interviews, in-studio appearances and sweeps pieces with winners when they returned home.

Along the way we also secured Good Morning America, which came out to film a “Weekend Adventure” segment on swooping – scheduled to air in December. It was icing on the cake of an incredibly successful Nationals!

We’re implementing the same grassroots strategy for USPA’s upcoming National Collegiate Parachuting Championships, to give the event some added “lift” like never before. CBS College Sports Network is onboard to film a couple days of competition and add skydiving to their annual “Alt Games” which is all about altitude, amplitude and attitude. How perfect is that – they’re already speaking our language!

Blue skies –  see you in the DZ!

Written by Robert Arends