Next week’s television broadcasts by NBC’s “TODAY” show from a Boston wharf and a Maine campground in a Winnebago Navion motorhome is the latest example of how perseverance and partnerships can pay off with national publicity.
Early next week, TODAY hosts Al Roker and Craig Melvin are driving a Winnebago Navion 24G – hand-picked by Roker – from New York City to Boston, where they’ll broadcast live on Monday, and then up the East Coast to Sagadahoc Bay Campground in Georgetown, Maine, where they’ll broadcast live from their ocean-front campsite.
The logistics for the trip came together in less than 10 days – and are still evolving – but it didn’t happen without the effort of a number of people at the RV Industry Association (RVIA) and Winnebago Industries Inc., Kevin Broom, RVIA’s director of media relations, told RVBUSINESS.com.
“We have, in a sense, a standing pitch to do a broadcast using an RV with a lot of different news outlets, and ‘The Today Show’ is certainly one of them,” Broom said, noting that RVIA and its partner agencies, including Diane McNamara of Fire It Up Public Relations and Jim Boyle from Boyle Public Affairs, are in constant dialogue with producers.
“The ‘Let’s do this’ decision came probably about 10 days before they were going to hit the road,” Broom continued. “That means we had to get the RV very quickly. We reached out to our industry partners, and Winnebago stepped in and provided the RV. I sent a text to Chad Reece and Sam Jefson (of Winnebago’s PR department) on a Sunday afternoon, and within 10 minutes they both replied that they wanted to do it. Plus, from the time they said yes to getting it on the road to New York was less than 24 hours. Their turnaround was just amazing.”
For his part, Reece told RVBUSINESS.com that Winnebago was eager to participate, knowing that the exposure for the industry – and, of course, for Winnebago – was certainly worth the time and effort.
“This is the second time that we’ve participated with that show. It was very successful last time, so we’re looking forward to a very enjoyable opportunity again this time. I think it speaks very well to our brand recognition and the quality experience with our product that he’s had before that. So, when it came time for this project, he sought that vehicle out. We’re very pleased. We see this as a great, fun opportunity actually,” Reece said, adding Winnebago is always willing to help cast industry in a good light.
“We look at it as a bigger picture, that there’s opportunity and we certainly want to be able to do our part. We think we benefit and the industry benefits, so we look at it as a win-win. We’re proponents of helping out with these opportunities whenever it’s feasible and reasonable. This certainly looked like one of those industry opportunities that made a lot of sense to us, so we were happy to participate.”
Broom noted that NBC’s original idea was to start the RV trip in Minneapolis, Minn., and travel to Chicago. But the more they learned about what producers wanted the segment to portray, the more it became evident a trip to New England was more appropriate. The producers agreed, so RVIA staff went into action, brokering the campground and the motorhome. They continue to make logistical changes as the need arises, Broom mentioned, and will probably do so right up until the last minute.
“It’s a moving target. TV news is kind of a last-minute business as a necessity. They’re always dealing with breaking news,” Broom said. “Ten days is a short time window to do something like get an RV and to plan a trip during the busiest RVing time of the year, but for the TV news, that’s actually kind of a long window.”
The itinerary is for Roker, Melvin and their TV crew – accompanied by RVIA support staff – to drive the motorhome from New York to Boston on Sunday. The show will do a broadcast from Boston on Monday morning, then drive up the coast — stopping to film along the way — then spend the night at Sagadahoc Bay Campground, where they’ll broadcast live on Tuesday.
“There are some details that, of course, could change as things develop, but that’s the plan at this point anyway. It’ll probably go mostly as planned, but you never know. Al might see something that excites him and he hops out, does a story about it,” Broom noted.
McNamara will be in New York to prep the motorhome for the broadcast and on-site in Boston to stage the RV and set, and then caravan with the crew to Maine. Meanwhile Christy Hamilton of Fire It Up will head to the campground this weekend as the advance team to work with the campground in advance, identify any last-minute needs and stage the campsite, for which L.L. Bean is contributing camping equipment.
“If it looks easy, we’ve done our job well!” McNamara told RVBUSINESS.com. “But honestly, the amount of time, resources and contacts that go into coordinating two days of shooting on a major show like TODAY are extraordinary. There’s one truly amazing producer at TODAY who oversees the project, then about 10 other contacts at NBC we work with to pull it all together.
“It’s an all-hands-on-deck campaign to secure the RV, arrange multiple transport drivers, load in electronics, help create decals and signage, plot out the best travel routes, identify the best campground then work with them to make sure the location is perfect, on-site staging including food, providing industry talking points, making sure there are team members at every stop to help the producers and, of course, making sure Al and Craig know how to drive it,” added McNamara.
The result, Broom and others hope, is terrific exposure for the RV lifestyle that costs nothing more than time and effort and cooperation.
“I’m highly biased, but I think we have a great team,” Broom said. “It’s a small but pretty talented, hardworking team, and this is truly one of those times where it takes a team because it takes all these different people to want to have relationships with the producers and to know how to make things look great for TV. Diane and Christy do such a great job with that, that producers want to be working with us.
“Then it’s also vital that we have industry partners who will provide the vehicles and will get them where they need to be on time and take care of all that sort of backend stuff, like the insurance and the drivers and all of the stuff that they do that takes a team as well. It really is an industry-wide effort and a team effort to make something like this happen, and there’s a lot of logistical pieces that need to get moved around and need to get put in place,” he continued.