The story behind Boris and the horse

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you will no doubt have seen the photos of Boris Johnson mounting a horse to launch the London leg of the Global Champions Tour. The photo appeared in the Evening Standard, Daily Telegraph and The Times, plus an array of onlines with Metro, Guardian, Daily Express, MSN and BBC Online to name a few. The launch also featured on BBC London TV (twice) and LBC.

Global Champions Tour (GCT), a new Synergy client, is coming to the capital for the first time thanks to Peter Phillips. Taking place adjacent to the Olympic Park in early June, the horse-jumping event aims to bring back the atmosphere and festive spirit we saw at Greenwich last summer.

Synergy's role was to launch the event. We had the event venue confirmed at the Olympic Park (but not yet built) and support from the Mayor’s office, which meant around 10 minutes with Boris.

Ah ha, you may say, but surely getting Boris is guaranteed coverage? Not on a day when he already had two photo calls and around ten the previous week - he’s no stranger to the publicity trail. However, the GCT team at Synergy had a firm strategy in place to ensure that the launch event would guarantee coverage.

1.       It’s all in the timing

You can never guarantee a news-free day, or always ensure your event isn’t clashing with another big launch, but you can be smart with the timing. We chose a Tuesday post Bank Holiday, with PR offices shut down over the weekend, events and launches would be few and far between. Being a month out from our event and conversation turning towards the Olympic Park re-opening in the summer also gave us a fighting chance.

2.       Location, location, location

Let me tell you, dear reader, getting access to what is essentially a building site is not easy. But we knew that being on the site where the event will take place and having the Olympic Stadium as the backdrop was key to putting our story and London into context. So, after some serious Health & Safety documentation, we secured our ideal location for the shoot.

3.       Having a Plan B

Never put all your eggs in one basket. Probably the best PR advice out there. Alongside Boris (and, of course, the horse), we ensured we had a variety of spokespeople at hand to support the launch and provide sound bites, including Peter Phillips himself and Team GB Olympic Gold medal winner Nick Skelton. Pre-arranged interviews ensured guaranteed coverage was lined-up before the event itself.

4.       Doing what PR’s do best – jumping on an opportunity (or a horse)

Finally, a PR's best tools are common sense, fearlessness and the power of persuasion, all of which came to play at our photo call. With a firm plan in place, we knew we’d have a successful launch: however, not ones to rest on our laurels, the team jumped on every opportunity on the day. Boris didn’t end up on the horse by accident: the team worked hard to orchestrate the moment we knew would be photo gold. Being bold and spotting the right opportunity for our request (the cycle helmet acted as our prop of choice), we managed to get Boris on the horse less than a minute before he was whisked away by ‘his people’.

Disclaimer: No horses were harmed in the making of this photo. Same can’t be said for Boris.

 Nick Skelton, Boris Johnson

The Masters has apparently abandoned social media: right or wrong decision?

The social media revolution has transformed the sports marketing toolkit and landscape. A sign of how powerful this change has been is that almost all of sport’s major rights holders have very quickly embraced social media, including some surprising names.Take Augusta National Golf Club, the owner and organiser of The Masters. Given their world-famous adherence to tradition, you might not have expected Augusta's rulers to have been social media early adopters. But they were - in fact, if you’ve ever had any dealings with them, you’ll know that ‘The Men Of The Masters’ may be traditionalists, but that doesn’t mean they’re not innovators: quite the reverse - especially when it comes to media.

In 2009 – well ahead of the mass adoption curve – The Masters went onto Twitter and Facebook. During the 2009 tournament, they provided regular Twitter and Facebook updates, and rapidly gained tens of thousands of followers. Best practice at the time? Absolutely.

Masters golf on Facebook

So it was all the more surprising that a year later, during the 2010 tournament, The Masters posted only one tweet and no Facebook updates.

When I raised the subject on Twitter last night I had a reply from none other than golf’s leading Tweeter (1.2m followers and rising) Stewart Cink, who had obviously noticed the lack of engagement:

Stuart Cink Twitter Tim Crow