[Eye On Marketing] Termite Control: Just Do It!

Features - PCT News

An innovative sports marketing initiative attempts to grow the market for professional termite control services.

October 7, 2003

BASF Professional Pest Control recently announced the continuation of its partnership with leading collegiate athletic programs for the 2003-04 season. BASF will maintain existing athletics sponsorships with four universities, while adding two additional schools for the upcoming year — all part of the company’s consumer marketing efforts designed to grow the market for professional termite control services.

BASF is continuing its athletic partnerships with the University of Georgia, North Carolina State University, Texas A&M University and The Ohio State University, and establishing new partnerships with Louisiana State University and Florida State University. Sponsorships include radio, television and event advertising for football and men’s basketball programs at each school.

"In selecting strategic sponsorship opportunities at leading state and land-grant universities, we’ve positioned the Termidor® brand in a manner that allows us to maximize existing research relationships, at the same time reaching a number of target markets for termite damage," said Karl Kisner, senior marketing manager, BASF Professional Pest Control, Research Triangle Park, N.C. "It is the access to potential Termidor customers, coupled with the support we’ll be providing our university research partners, that makes these sponsorship opportunities so appealing.

"By sponsoring collegiate athletics within these target markets, we’ve been able to build local homeowner awareness and interest in Termidor — and in some instances reached a significantly larger audience through nationally televised athletic coverage," he added.

A MULTI-FACETED EFFORT. The athletic sponsorships commenced with the start of the 2003 collegiate football season, and will continue through March 2004 with men’s collegiate basketball. The effort is part of a larger consumer marketing initiative that also featured "Termite Awareness Week" in various cities around the country earlier this year.

The high-profile campaign targeted seven leading termite markets throughout the South, including Orlando, Jacksonville, and Tampa, Fla.; Austin, Texas; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; New Orleans, La.; and Atlanta, Ga.

"The goal of the program is to raise the public’s awareness about termite control and generate interest in the Termidor brand," Kisner said. The consumer awareness campaign, designed to coincide with termite swarm seasons in each market, featured a variety of customized public relations components including mayoral proclamations, participation in home shows, sporting event sponsorships, television and print advertising, and "pro bono" termite treatments performed by local pest management professionals who nominate worthy organizations for a free termite service.

TERMITE AWARENESS WEEK. One stop in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., was typical of the campaign. The program kicked off with a proclamation from Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker and Durham Mayor William Bell recognizing Termite Awareness Week. The Mayoral Proclamation was followed by a "pro bono" treatment of the Walltown Children’s Theatre by Surety Pest Control and BASF. The theatre, a former church building that serves as an art center for 100 underprivileged children in the Raleigh-Durham area, had experienced structural damage as a result of a severe subterranean termite infestation.

"The intention of the donation is for Termidor to partner with a local PCO to make a significant contribution to the efforts of preservation, education or community service," according to Bill Baxter, business manager for the BASF Professional Pest Control group. In the case of the Walltown Children’s Theatre, the local pest management professional was Jimmy Lynn, owner of Surety Pest Control, Raleigh, N.C.

"I became aware of Walltown’s termite problem through my association with Duke University, which is right next door," he said. "I knew they did good work in the community and they didn’t have the financial resources to purchase a termite treatment, so I was glad to donate Surety’s services. I’ve done a lot of free work through the years. The Raleigh-Durham community is like a family. When someone is in need, you respond."

Debra Logue, a sales representative for BASF, agreed. "A lot of groups give money, but the pest management professionals I deal with on a daily basis give their time and their heart," she said. "Jimmy’s so enthusiastic about everything he does, I couldn’t say no when he came to me with an opportunity to treat the theatre."

"It was a wonderful team effort," added Joseph Henderson, associate director of Walltown Children’s Theatre.

In other Termite Awareness Week activities, BASF sponsored a booth at the Raleigh Ideal Home Show on the grounds of the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. The three-day event drew 25,000 termite control prospects who had an opportunity to interact with company sales representatives, pick up product literature, and meet Timmy The Termite, the national "spokes-bug" for Termidor Termite Control.

On the following day, termite control was a "hot topic" at the Durham Bulls International League baseball game. Before the game, company representatives and Timmy The Termite were escorted onto the field and recognized for their support by Durham Bulls management. In addition, every fan entering the ballpark received a "scratch-to-win card" featuring a Durham Bulls International League Champs logo on the front and the Termidor brand on the back. Winning fans – 2,500 in all – redeemed the cards at a designated area in the stadium where they were presented a Termidor T-shirt.

In addition, throughout the game, Timmy The Termite cheered the team on, stopping periodically to shake hands with adults or hug children who approached him for an autograph.

"The people who come to baseball games are the people who purchase termite services," Kisner observed. "They’re men and women who are homeowners. It’s the perfect demographic audience. That’s why we sponsor various types of sporting events."

"We’re obviously interested in selling Termidor to PMPs," Baxter said, "but our ultimate goal is to help grow the marketplace for professional termite control services and make the phones ring for our BASF Partners. Termite Awareness Week does that, so we plan to continue investing in customized PR and advertising campaigns throughout the country."

What's Ahead For BASF?

With the Federal Trade Commission’s "Hold Separate Order" behind them and the purchase of Termidor complete, Karl Kisner, senior marketing manager of BASF Professional Pest Control, recently discussed the company’s plans for the future in an exclusive interview with PCT magazine.

"The main thing I learned from serving as Hold Separate Manager for Fipronil ES during the transition from Bayer to BASF is to never accept such a position again," Kisner says with a laugh. "While the FTC believes the process benefits the industry, it was extremely difficult for employees of both organizations because it kept them in turmoil about the status of their jobs for nine months."

However, with the uncertainty now behind them, Kisner says BASF is prepared to move forward aggressively with its plans for 2004. And what’s his message to the marketplace? "BASF is not going to make any radical changes to our Termidor franchise," he said. "We’re going to build upon the momentum of the product."

But he’s quick to point out that BASF is a full-service product supplier. "While we plan to fully support and commit ourselves to Termidor in 2004, as an industry leader we’re also committed to our entire product line," he said, including Phantom and TopPro products.

In conducting an analysis of BASF’s product line, Kisner said the "marketplace’s message to us was very clear" with regard to Phantom. "They consider it to be most valuable as an ant and roach control product indoors, so that’s how we’re going to position the product in the coming year. You’re only going to see Phantom for termite control in the state of New York. For the rest of the country it’s going to be positioned as a non-repellent ant and roach product indoors."

Kisner added that the company has applied for a food-handling label for Phantom. "While I can’t speculate when that’s going to happen, we’re optimistic we’ll have a food-handling label some time in 2004." The company also has changed its Phantom packaging. The product is now available in both 21- and 75-ounce bottles, four per case, the same packaging as Termidor. "That’s been one of the benefits of the acquisition," he said. "We’ve been able to standardize some of our packaging."

Despite rumors to the contrary, Kisner said BASF will continue to offer Subterfuge bait to pest management professionals. "Some structures lend themselves better to bait treatments, so we’ll continue to offer Subterfuge, as well as explore any ongoing strategic partnerships with this product."

Finally, the company also plans to promote its TopPro product line, which includes Bifenthrin Pro Multi-Insecticide, Permethrin Pro Termiticide-Insecticide and Amdro Pro Fire Ant Bait, providing generic alternatives for pest management professionals. "The line allows us to continue to have product offerings for the entire pest control marketplace, not just termite control," Kisner said.

"BASF has shown a very strong commitment to the marketplace with all the acquisitions we’ve made in recent years," he said. "The bulk of any future decisions we make will be based upon feedback from our customers. Our commitment, first and foremost, is to work with our customers in 2004 and beyond. We have lots of bodies out in the field, including 16 sales representatives and a five-person market development team led by Dr. Mark Coffelt. Their job is to understand our customers’ needs. That’s what we plan to do going forward."