Lights, to play games at night. Real dugouts. Soccer nets to score World Cup-worthy goals. And lots of unicorns. 

When asked, kids have a lot of ideas about what their dream playing fields look like. At Gatesman Agency, our Public Relations and Creative teams can be the same way — our dream campaign scenarios include plenty of lead time, room for revision, and the right circumstances to create our best work. We are kids at heart, with perfectionist tendencies. 

There is an analogy we’ve all heard, that being under pressure, like a diamond, is one of the best ways to mold and create great work. It certainly isn’t always the case, but real-world opportunities for our clients don’t always (or often!) come with perfect timelines. When our client, the CNX Foundation, had the opportunity to serve as the presenting sponsor for DICK’S Sporting Goods PONY League World Series, and wanted to meet the sponsorship deliverables, we knew we had, to quote our VP, Senior Creative Director, Mark DiPietro, “Move at Rickey Henderson speed.” 

The Challenge: The CNX Foundation is the philanthropic arm of CNX Resources, created to invest $30 million over six years with a focus on urban and rural communities within Appalachia that face socio-economic challenges. It’s a fairly young organization, and raising its brand awareness as well as promoting its mission are ongoing goals. The Dream Fields grant program, a foundation initiative designed to rehabilitate and revitalize playing surfaces throughout Appalachia, is even younger, and only recently began accepting applications for grants. The sponsorship is a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness for the Dream Fields program, the CNX Foundation, and CNX Resource’s Appalachia-First vision. 

We wanted to achieve several goals with the sponsorship opportunity, including: 

  • Brand promotion and brand distinction for CNX 
  • Introduce the Dream Fields Grant Program 
  • Drive Dream Fields grant program applications 

The biggest challenge, however, was the timeframe: we had just six weeks from initial project kick-off to deliver a :30 and :15 commercial that could air on the PONY League World Series Jumbotron and on national and international television . And while that was the most daunting goal, a variety of other deadlines fell before that, including concepting and executing banners, print ads, a press release, and creative pieces for on-site activation. In addition, several critical deadlines fell over the week of the Fourth of July holiday.

The Solution: Our Creative and Public Relations teams had to be in lockstep with our client every step of the way. We ensured the client was aligned with extremely tight deadlines — sometimes even asking for 24-hour turnarounds on critical decisions. We identified three key creative deliverables: 

1. One :30 commercial and one :15 commercial, advertising the Dream Fields grant program while finding a way to incorporate CNX’s Appalachia First vision;

2. One program ad that supported the commercial’s messaging; 

3. Blank baseball cards that kids could draw their ‘dream field’ on while promoting the grant program on the other side - these were handed out from the CNX tent over the course of the series.

Each component supported the others, and all of them drove the audience to the Dream Fields grant application website for more information. 

“We were really pleased with the performance of the Dream Fields campaign. From the commercials to the print ads, Gatesman hit it 'out of the park' for CNX Foundation,” said Audric Dodds, Director of Community Relations and Strategic Relationships at CNX.

The Results: Over the course of the series (August 11 - 26) and in the days following, the Dream Fields grant applications increased ten-fold. In addition, audiences across Facebook and Instagram grew by 425 percent and related social media posts performed over 1,000 percent higher than traditional content. Throughout the week, 26,000 people received the program ads and the television spot reached more than 13 million viewers, a number that continues to grow as the ad is aired over the winter of 2023/2024. Equally significant, we established an even stronger rapport and trust with our client. We were able to demonstrate we could effectively promote CNX’s Appalachia First vision with other initiative messaging, elevating both ideas in the same campaign. And, internally, we practiced not only relying on our own artistic instincts but on the judgment calls of our colleagues, working as a team to produce work that felt as good as hitting a home run in the bottom of the ninth.