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Issues and Crisis Communications 2007 / 2nd Place / „Arēna Rīga” pārdošana
1 Crisis communication – selling of the „Arēna Rīga”Client: SIA „Merks”Agency: „P.R.A.E. Sabiedriskās attiecības”Term: year 2006Description of the situationAt the beginning of 2006 the new multifunctional sports and entertainment hall„Arēna Rīga” was opened – it has been turned special attention to since 2004 whenthe construction company SIA „Merks” took upon itself construction of the hallneeded for the World Ice-Hockey Championships 2006. During those two years a lotof doubts and distrust were overcome with the help of PR – at the beginning ofconstruction people were quite skeptical that the hall would be built in time and thehockey championships will not be organized here because of that. They also haddoubts if the management of the hall would be able to ensure relevant number ofevents apart from the championships mentioned before and that those events couldassemble up to 10 thousand or even more visitors regularly; in addition to this – ifthey fail to do so the hall could be torn down, etc.At the moment the arena was opened their event schedule was full for half a yearfrom then, however, another issue became important – possible selling of the arena,because the construction company “Merks” has stated that it won’t operate the eventbusiness in long-term perspective but rather sell it to somebody who wanted tomake it his/her primary business. At the second half of the year the agreement wasmade between SIA “Merks” and the businessman Igors Ivanovs.The goals of the campaign 1) Positioning the selling of the arena as a deal directly beneficial to the whole society because the range and quality of the events taking place in Riga would become better and better; 2) Removing possible suspicions about the deal which could take place on the basis of the buyers contradictory personality and previous businesses; 3) Ensuring that the selling of the arena doesn’t make any harm to the seller’s, SIA „Merks” reputation but, on the contrary, serves the improvement of its reputation because the company has built the arena in good quality, on time and they’ve taken into account requirements different events could have. Moreover, the arena has passed its first year of operations as a subsidiary to „Merks” and this year has been even more successful than anticipated.Research 1. Gathering information on the buyer of the arena Igors Ivanovs and the possible risk factors which could be important during the communication of the deal;
2 2. Gathering data and facts about the previous operation of the arena as a subsidiary to „Merks”; 3. Investigation of the possible reactions to the selling deal and its monetary value from the media and society’s side.Target groups 1. General content news and business media; 2. Opinion leaders and event organizers – sports federations, event and concert agencies, etc.; 3. Society in general.Implementation of the campaignAs the idea to sell the arena was already known at the moment of the openingceremony, during the first year of operations the most important factor was toemphasize the diversity of the events and public’s interest which made it possible toassemble the maximal number of the visitors quite regularly even before the WorldIce-Hockey Championships. At the same time it was important to stress that thebuilding is well constructed and satisfying the highest standards. Thus the arena waspositioned as a successful and profitable project which offers diverse opportunities.In autumn, 2006 when it was known that the arena will be sold quite soon, theinformation about the deal was prepared and the possible risk factors collectedproactively – in order to remove admonitions and suspicions about the partner of thedeal in case there appear some. The communications guidelines were elaborated forthe management of SIA “Merks” and “Arēna Rīga” so that they knew how to react ifthe interest about the deal arises before it’s actually signed.Before selling which took place in December, 2006 the information was distributed tothe media about the arena’s successful operations and the number of events thathad taken place there since opening (the number actually was larger than calculatedbefore), as well as arena was registered for the contest organized by the society ofdisabled people “Apeirons” in order to evaluate the accessibility of the publicbuildings. “Arēna Rīga” got the first prize in this contest within the respectivecategory – it served as an additional argument that the building satisfies the higheststandards possible.At the beginning of December, when the agreement between the partners wassigned, the press conference with the representatives from “Merks”, “Arēna Rīga”and its new owners took place. Within this conference “Merks” expressed desire tocontinue its main business – construction, and this is the main argument for sellingthe arena because event organization is completely different business. However,“Merks” still is the company which has built the arena on time and the necessaryquality as well as ensured its successful operations during the first year afteropening.After the press conference individual communication with media was maintained thuscreating maximally transparent impression about the deal and further plans on bothsides.
3Results - Thanks to the thorough and detailed preparation there were no untimely rumours or misleading judgments in media or society about further destiny of the arena. - After the agreement was signed SIA “Merks” didn’t get any admonitions on giving the arena to somebody else, and the deal actually was favourable to the overall reputation of the company. - Media also didn’t turn too through and long-term attention to the buyer’s contradictory personality which, probably, could have cast a shadow on the deal. - A stable impression was created that there won’t be any significant changes in the operations of the arena after selling it and the range of events in Riga would become even more diverse and better.Some insight into the campaign