Mention the name Vince Lombardi and images of a hard-nosed, demanding and driven football coach with a distinct gap between his front teeth, come to mind. Add to that, the Green Bay Packers, which he made famous worldwide, multiple national football championships and the same name on a trophy that now bears the name, and you’ve got a legend.
October officially debuted the play that boats the legend’s name. “Lombardi,” which is enjoying its run on Broadway’s Circle in the Square theater, stars Emmy Award winning actor, Dan Lauria as the late coach and actress Judith Light as his wife, Marie. They, along with just four other cast members, have entertained sports fans and average theater-goers, Packers fans, NFL broadcasters and other media, historians, entire teams and entertainers, and have inspired talkbacks for dozens of audiences. The play is based on the book “When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi” by David Maraniss.
Among those involved in the production and its publicity is veteran PR pro, Joe Favorito. The results of his work have appeared in publications and blogs, on television and YouTube radio and every medium in between.
“It is very much a collaborative effort and the Broadway PR firm, Boneau Bryan Brown, has done a great job in getting the play positioned well amongst entertainment and theater press as well,” Favorito said. “The NFL PR and marketing staff, including Brian McCarthy have also been very helpful.”
Favorito credits the intense buzz for the play to basic public relations.
“I think that this is really basic PR. It’s very good story-telling with great story lines that people want to hear about, so its not just a sports story,” he said. “You have six amazing actors, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, a Tony nominated director, an Academy Award winning playwright, two producers who are highly accomplished businesspeople, and you have a legendary figure as the centerpiece, so it’s more a question of where to tell the story than how.”
As someone who grew up a Packer fan in Wisconsin, worked with a member of Lombardi’s Green Bay, then later, Washington Redskins teams, and knew Favorito’s work, I was privileged with his invitation to a June event that brought members of the play’s production roster to Green Bay for a meet-and-greet with the who’s-who of the club. There, I heard Lauria (best known for his Emmy Award-winning role as the dad on “The Wonder Years”) share a dialogue from the play that I was told, was very raw. You could have fooled me! It was then I knew I had to see the finished, polished product.
The Broadway production does not disappoint. The play takes observers back to Lombardi’s era when names such as Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Fuzzy Thurston and Jim Taylor were part of Wisconsin’s daily vocabulary. The intensity people saw on their pixilated television screens then, come to life on stage in New York. All of the stories I heard through the years came to life on stage. At some moments during the play, I forgot that I was in New York because the language, dialogue and characters were all Green Bay and Wisconsin.
As Favorito said, you don’t have to be a Packers fan, or even a football fan to enjoy the performance. For those who are, there is lots of media to consume for previews.
“I honestly don’t know what has had the most impact,” Favorito said. “Some have said traffic really spiked when Jimmy Traina posted a review and then a photo in si.com’s Hot Mustard section. Some said traffic and interest rose after Bob Costas mentioned us on Sunday Night Football, while others say it spiked after Judith was on GMA (Good Morning America)…it’s hard to say.
“I love the little things as much as the big ones. The story in the Penn State paper that had Rob Riley linked to Joe Paterno linked to Vince Lombardi…the feature in the Wall Street Journal about our director Tommy Kail and how he’s tied to coaches…the feature on Tony Ponturo in the Bergen Record…. I think all that and the bloggers who we invited to the show in previews all add up and feed from one to the next.”
Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the play. As a publicist, I’m in awe of what Favorito has accomplished. Even with the NFL’s support, getting the word out about this production is a huge accomplishment. The effort is a great example in what a successful publicity campaign looks like.
For me, Lombardi, the Green Bay Packers and Broadway are the perfect team.
Image by acflynn