The state of Minnesota has been in a sports slump for quite some time. So when the Minnesota Fighting Ticks, the state's first professional ice-fishing team, won the international championship in a heated overtime fish-out, the story made headlines.
One minor detail: The team, the championship and the entire ice-fishing league don't really exist.
Created by Hendlin Visual Communications, the so-called Ticks are actually a clever self-promotion tool for the Minneapolis marketing communications agency. The creative team even developed a Web site (www.mnticks.com) and a media kit for the Ticks, which included "tickets" to an upcoming game (meaning a press conference). And, says the company's owner Gary Hendlin, 48, the scam-paign worked.
After scoring regional and national media attention for the creative agency, the Ticks turned into a bit of a revenue stream-Ticks merchandise, including hats and T-shirts, are now available online. Hendlin has also received some tongue-in-cheek requests for franchise information.
The downside of this fish story? One local business reporter wasn't amused. Says Hendlin, "She kept saying, 'I understand it's not real, but how do you get the fish under the ice?' I guess some people just don't get the joke."
Gwen Moran is president of Moran Marketing Associates, a public relations and marketing communications agency in Ocean, New Jersey. She is the creator of BoostYourBiz.com, a marketing information Web site. E-mail her at email@example.com.