On Aug. 15, 1973, the city of Cincinnati purchased a private transit company and created the city’s first public transit system. Metro and Vehr Communications planned and executed a multipronged marketing strategy to celebrate this important milestone with the community; elevate the brand of Metro and its governing body the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) with key stakeholders and the region at large; and showcase not just Metro’s past but its future.
The Vehr and Metro teams began brainstorming and planning initiatives in Q4 2022 and rolling them out throughout 2023, emphasizing a thoughtful cadence of engagements building up to a blowout event on Fountain Square on the anniversary date. To kick things off, Vehr designed an anniversary logo to be used throughout the year, along with branded support materials such as presentation templates. For the entirety of the engagement, Vehr oversaw biweekly planning meetings with the teams and third-party vendors, and we provided event planning, creative services, media relations and executive communications. The strategy was centered around six key components.
A Dose of History: We forged partnerships with the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library and the Cincinnati Transit Historical Association (CTHA) to help tell Metro’s story. This included working with researchers and planners at both organizations to create several public displays at the library, featuring historical items, timelines and stories. CTHA also brought a vintage bus to the Aug. 15 community party for tours.
Daily Cup of Joe: Vehr built partnerships with six coffee shops throughout the county and designed custom Metro anniversary coffee sleeves and to-go-bag stickers, which the shops used to help spread the word among a large and diverse customer base.
Let’s Roll: We worked with 3CDC to secure Metro as a season sponsor of its popular public roller rink, which debuted on Fountain Square in April and anchored on Court Street Plaza through the fall. This included custom signage, robust promotion from Metro and 3CDC and multiple on-site engagements by Metro. We also coordinated a three-day skating event during the huge Cincinnati Music Festival, with Metro-branded promotions, fun themes, DJs and more.
A T-Shirt to Remember: Vehr managed a partnership with BlaCk OWned Outerwear and BlaCk Coffee that included several components, including a Metro employee discount day and promotion of Metro using the custom coffee sleeves. Most showstopping was the creation of a custom Metro anniversary T-shirt, featuring caricatures of a dozen local influencers, plus related influencer promotion. Vehr handled event planning and media relations for a T-shirt unveiling party, designed invitations and fact sheets, and supported Metro and BlaCk OWned on executive communications.
Amplified Media Relations: Metro maintains consistent media outreach, but for its anniversary, it wanted to amp things up and secure marquee coverage. Vehr helped manage media relations and land key interviews, and Metro garnered an in-depth feature story in Cincinnati Magazine, a cover profile story in the Business Courier, a profile in Realm magazine, appearances on TV public affairs shows, a profile in the industry-leading national trade magazine Mass Transit, appearances on high-profile podcasts and the city’s TV program, an Editorial Board appearance with the Enquirer, and more.
The Big Bash: Vehr managed a high-profile, high-fun communitywide event on Fountain Square during a busy workday Downtown. This included hiring, budgeting and overseeing vendors, including: an eight-piece band, strolling circus performers, food trucks and treat vendors, and a dozen community partners who staffed information tents. We coordinated speaking appearances and supported executive communications from high-profile stakeholders, including Ohio Sen. Catherine Ingram, Hamilton County Commission President Alicia Reece, Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval, and other community and Metro decision-makers. We managed media relations, including on-site interviews and coordination. And we oversaw the relationship with site manager 3CDC, including coordination of all details — site layout and equipment/furniture, staffing, A/V and technical teams, and more.
Throughout the year, Metro and Vehr were able to shine a light on the organization’s milestone anniversary, its critical role in building a thriving community, and its ongoing transformation of public transit and infrastructure in the region. The campaign was a smash — from family roller skating jams to historic exhibits at the library, from custom coffee sleeves to influencer-beloved T-shirts, and from a steady stream of great media coverage to a high-voltage community bash on Fountain Square.