A Deserving ‘PaulStar’
Saturday, July 9, 2011
This was not unfamiliar territory – not for the Chicago White Sox, not for Paul Konerko.
When it was announced Sunday morning that Konerko was one of the annual five American League finalists for Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game Final Vote, it was the ninth time since 2002 that a White Sox player was on the list and the second consecutive year for Konerko.
There was something different about this year’s campaign though, and that is the fact EVERYONE involved, not just with the White Sox but throughout baseball, felt Konerko deserved to be on this year’s All-Star team just as much as any other player. Being relegated to the Final Man on-line runoff was seen as a slight because Konerko’s 2011 season has been one of his best ever. Halfway through the season, the slugger was hitting .317 and ranked among league leaders in RBI (3rd, 62), home runs (4th, 21), total bases (4th, 170), OPS (4th, .954) and average (5th, .317).
But when the dust settled on the 2011 A.L. Final Man vote, most White Sox fans and 24 White Sox players felt justice had been served as Konerko earned his fifth All-Star appearance, claiming the vote with an amazing 8.4 million votes cast.
When the White Sox immediately launched a “PaulStar” campaign Sunday morning to try and win that final All-Star roster spot for the team captain, the effort had full support from every corner of the White Sox clubhouse.
“Paul is just the ultimate professional,” said White Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy of Konerko. “He’s a Major League Baseball player on all aspects, from dealing with (the media), to issues on and off the field. It’s a nice thing to call somebody like that team captain. It’s nice for young guys like Gordon (Beckham) and Brent (Lillibridge) and (Brent) Morel, to come up and watch a guy who goes about it the right way.”
As soon as voting started on Sunday, July 3rd, current players and the White Sox front office took full advantage of every opportunity to encourage fans to vote for Konerko. From t-shirts to airplanes, the organization made a strong and wide-ranged push for the popular captain.
“Obviously, it starts with a great player on and off the field,” said Scott Reifert, the club’s senior vice president of communications. “Next are great teammates. As an organization, we were able to engage our partners to help with the campaign, and ultimately, it’s the millions of votes by our incredibly plugged in fan base that make this possible.”
“PaulStar” t-shirts were quickly created and distributed as one of the first strategies of the campaign. Fans behind home plate at both Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular Field could be seen in the tees throughout telecasts. Ballpark staff also wore them during Wednesday’s game vs. Kansas City. Chicago TV/radio broadcast media were also presented with t-shirts as incentives to push the campaign via their respective outlets.
The organization successfully worked with media partners like Comcast, WGN-TV and WSCR-AM to provide in-game drop-ins and advertisements of the campaign with broadcasters Hawk Harrelson, Steve Stone, Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson actively promoting the vote.
To further compliment the “PaulStar” push, logos and signs were strategically placed behind home plate starting on Monday and continuing through Wednesday’s home game.
“It certainly was an advantage for the White Sox to be home for three games during voting,” said Reifert. “Our objective was to produce something new, unique and creative for fans attending each game while also generating something different each day content-wise to share with our fans via social media and the web.”
The campaign quickly expanded outside of stadium walls when the White Sox partnered with the Los Angeles Dodgers to encourage White Sox fans to also vote for Andre Ethier in the National League. If successful, both Konerko and Ethier would return to their home state of Arizona for the All-Star Game. Konerko, a Scottsdale resident, and Ethier, a Phoenix resident, recorded videos advocating for one another. Both videos are available on whitesox.com and dodgers.com.
The sports team assistance didn’t stop there. Both the Bulls and Blackhawks joined the “PaulStar” campaign by playing a personalized video message from A.J. Pierzynski and other White Sox players on their respective websites (bulls.com, chicagoblackhawks.com), facebook and twitter encouraging both Chicago fan bases to vote for Konerko.
Social media provided an extra push to the online campaigning. Even Bulls broadcaster and fan favorite, Stacey King, spread the word to over 26,000 followers on the “PaulStar” campaign. The official White Sox English (@WhiteSox) and Spanish (@MediasBlancas) twitter accounts also promoted the campaign and its many incentives, sending an amazing 91 tweets during the campaign’s 97-hour life-cycle.
Fans who voted for Konerko at whitesox.com and mlb.com or by texting “A3” to 89269 received a code for a special ticket offer to four upcoming White Sox home games. Those games are Tuesday, July 26 and Wednesday, July 27 vs. the Detroit Tigers where premium upper box tickets will be available to Konerko voters for $18 (regularly $36), upper box for $16.50 (regularly $33) and upper reserved for $12 (regularly $24). The other two discounted games for Konerko voters are Monday, August 1 and Tuesday, August 2 vs. the New York Yankees where premium upper box tickets will be available for $37 (regularly $47), upper box for $34 (regularly $44) and upper reserved for $26 (regularly $36).
Fans who voted for “Paulie” also were entered into the 2011 Vote Paul Konerko All-Star Game Final Vote Sweepstakes. Ten lucky winners will receive two tickets, an autographed Paul Konerko Jersey and a pre-game on field photo with Paul Konerko on Tuesday, August 30 at U.S. Cellular Field.
One passionate White Sox fan, Phil Prombo, felt so strongly about Paul’s candidacy, he voted for Konerko approximately 22,500 times – more than anyone else. When Konerko caught wind of this enthusiastic fan, he insisted on meeting with him, and did just that following Friday’s batting practice. Konerko presented Prombo with an autographed bat and posed for a few photos, while thanking him for his overwhelming support.
“I don’t know how you did it,” Konerko said. “My wife said she was getting antsy after voting 100 times. I hope your fingers and eyes are ok,” Konerko joked.
The White Sox did not simply count on eager fans like Prombo and truly elevated the campaign to a new level on Wednesday when they took the campaign to the skies. An airplane sporting the message “PaulStar: Vote Konerko” flew over Chicago, around downtown and over the ballpark prior to the game.
While the efforts might have seemed extensive to some, the Chicago White Sox organization was committed to seeing one of its most prized players become a 2011 All-Star.
“If you had a clubhouse full of 25 Paul Konerkos, you have a winning team on and off the field,” said Reifert. “That’s what is important. Our fans see him as one of the greatest White Sox hitters ever.”
“Definitely the MVP on our team, if not the MVP of the whole league,” White Sox reliever Jesse Crain said.