Winner: Hill+Knowlton Strategies - #NotYourMascot: Bringing a Human Rights Issue to Center Field
The discriminatory name and logo of the Cleveland Major League Baseball team has long been protested by indigenous peoples of North America, but the conversation had failed to reach mainstream media. It was therefore time to start a public debate and bring awareness to First Nations' rights in both the U.S. and Canada. In a stand against the offensive imagery, prominent Canadian architect and indigenous activist Douglas Cardinal requested an injunction with the Ontario Superior Court to ban the use and broadcast of the Cleveland Team’s name and Chief Wahoo logo in Canada during the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays. Within a short timeframe, the Hill+Knowlton PR team informed general news, sports and legal reporters of the complaint against the Cleveland Team, secured a media presence in the Toronto courtroom during the hearing and increased the visibility of spokespeople with the help of third-party influencers to encourage sharing of the news.
A press release announcing the injunction effectively communicated the urgency of the situation and ensured media would be receptive to future information. In the days leading up to the hearing, the PR team worked with the client's legal team to prepare hard-hitting talking points and prepare spokespeople to conduct persistent and widespread media outreach in the U.S. and Canada. The media outreach on the day of the hearing was so successful that an update had to be sent out because the courtroom location and time had been changed to accommodate a larger audience. Initially, Canadian media like CBC and Global News picked up the story, but it soon grew outside Canada with coverage in outlets like the Associated Press, The Washington Post and BBC. In one week, at least 65 original articles were published, reaching an audience of over one billion people.