Agency: Smith Brothers
9Lives was suffering from brand maturity and heavy competition and needed invigoration. While researching the brand’s marketing history, Smith Brothers learned that Morris, the famous star of 9Lives’ television ads for many years, had been rescued from a Hinsdale, Illinois shelter just minutes away from being euthanized. It was then they conceived a campaign centered around saving the lives of Morris’ orphaned brethren.
Called the Million Cat Rescue, the program’s goal was to find loving homes for 1 million shelter cats. An adoption center tour bus and two satellite vans visited 460 shelters, retailers and other venues in 34 markets, including the shelter from which Morris was saved. In addition, 9Lives partnered with 3,600 shelters, which distributed more than 1 million Morris’ Million Cat Rescue Welcome Home Kits to new adoptive pet parents.
Morris, who rode on the tour bus, adopted the first cat — a younger version of himself — and named him Lil’ Mo, who served as co-spokesperson for the campaign. American Idol judge Randy Jackson, the official spokesperson, adopted a cat at the New York City kick-off event. 9Lives worked with a local shelter in each market to bring adoptable cats to the bus, help distribute 9Lives coupons and samples and answer questions. A kiosk printed out personalized adoption certificates and photos of consumers in several scenes with Morris, such as on 9Lives packaging or driving the bus, while an interactive control center let parents and kids follow the bus tour via cameras, TV monitors and a map. In addition, an inflatable obstacle course encouraged potential pet lovers to act like cats.
Publicity exposure was gained by such events as Morris receiving a key to the city of Hinsdale and a $55,000 donation by Chicago Bulls forward Tyrus Thomas and mascot Benny the Bull, and when E! News’ Giuliana Rancic adopted the 1 millionth cat. In total, 13 million people saw and interacted with the tour; 100,000 samples and coupons were distributed; and more than $300,000, in addition to a percentage of 9Lives sales, were donated to animal rescue shelters. Not only did sales increase 20% as a result of the campaign, but retailers that previously wanted to retire the brand became fully involved in the effort. 9Lives even launched a new product called Growing Years to leverage the exposure the brand received from Lil’ Mo. Best of all: 1.5 million cats were adopted.