Meet the Industry Mascot
Putting a Human & Safety Touch on the Trucking Industry
For many years, the trucking industry has suffered a tarnished and dated image, and often has been portrayed as unsafe. As a brand-image movement, Trucking Moves America Forward (TMAF) created the following objectives to aim to change that perception:
- Demonstrate the industry’s commitment to safety and highlight the 3.5 million professional drivers who demonstrate this commitment everyday while traveling some 274 billion miles a year. The trucking industry invests at least $9.5 billion in safety annually and drivers strive to achieve records in safety per mile.
- Ensure more members of the motoring public understand the importance of the industry by developing a TMAF brand that showcases trucking’s widespread impact; trucking reaches 80% of America’s communities and contributes $$739 billion in revenue to the US economy.
- Underscore why truckers are (and should be!) proud of their industry and how they are paving the way for future generations of truckers.
- Build the grassroots support to strengthen and grow the industry – comprised of more than 7 million professionals – and address the driver shortage that threatens the industry’s future.
After three years, TMAF made significant strides in building a movement and shifting perception of the trucking industry. Yet, TMAF believed they needed a game-changing move to more broadly and creatively tell its story of safety and responsibility, and have their message reach an even wider audience. Therefore, a main objective was launching a bold and unexpected move.
In addition to promoting a safe industry, the other strategy for the campaign was to evoke a sense of pride, create excitement within the industry and solicit industry involvement and participation in the movement. Thus, to achieve both goals, the concept of an industry mascot and brand ambassador was born.
After agreement and collaboration among TMAF leaders, the creation process of soliciting a mascot maker began to ensure the physical attributes were realistic and approachable. A “truck” costume complete with wheels, a windshield, flashing headlights, an “I heart trucking” license plate, a TMAF-branded cap, and large captivating eyes, was created.
The Safety Sammy mascot proved to be a symbol of industry education and safety information in a new, exciting and accessible manner. It served as a mascot that the trucking industry could rally behind, fostering community while educating those it came across on the industry’s essentiality to the economy.
To create a groundswell of excitement and participation throughout the industry — drivers, trucking companies, trucking associations, partners and vendors and more — TMAF devised a plan to launch stages of the mascot in a series of events.
Elements of a Campaign
Success arose from a tiered approach and creative implementation. The creation of the mascot was a three-part event over several months in which we:
- Teased the concept of a new industry member under the theme: “Something big is coming” through partial images of the eyes and massive shoes at our annual press conference at the Mid-America Trucking Show;
- Introduced the mascot concept in a truck stop press conference;
- Called on the industry to join the effort by submitting their name recommendations through a digital campaign; through social media and email;
- Leveraged the widely attended Great American Trucking Show (GATS) with the lead media partner to reveal the name.
Throughout the mascot campaign, we utilized:
- Social media, local television, trade publications, trade shows and conferences, and more to generate significant excitement and engagement about the addition to the trucking family.
- A strong and highly regarded media partner, Red Eye Radio to announce the winning name on the airwaves.
- Creative marketing and educational materials, including hand-held fans during the hot summer months of outdoor trade shows and conferences, stickers of the mascot character and a “step and repeat” banner.
Executing the Campaign
Story Partners managed the launch of the mascot with TMAF sponsor, Pilot Flying J, in Knoxville with the truck stop as backdrop to a press conference. TMAF leaders unveiled the mascot, explaining how the newest industry member would symbolize safety and illustrate a more human and approachable side to an industry. Leaders then called on the industry to help name the mascot by providing submissions online. Local television, trade publications and the Greater Knoxville Business Journal participated in the news conference. The business journal produced a front-page feature story on the mascot news, including an online version with photographs and video.
The second phase was at the Annual Walcott Truckers Jamboree in Walcott, Iowa, in July, which attracted more than 44,000 attendees. Safety Sammy mingled with attendees and distributed handheld fans with industry facts and ways to participate in TMAF. The mascot also encouraged attendees to vote on a name and its handlers wore t-shirts that said Vote for the Mascot! After receiving over 600 creative name submissions, TMAF provided an online voting tool where attendees could choose from five finalists.
The final phase came in August at the Great American Truck Show (GATS) in Dallas, Texas, with 50,000 visitors. TMAF revealed the name of the industry mascot, in conjunction with partner, Red Eye Radio and host Eric Harley on their stage during peak attendance. TMAF offered a booth and signage at GATS where attendees registered to meet Safety Sammy and receive mascot stickers and the handheld fans.
Throughout the campaign, Safety Sammy was also integrated into digital marketing through TMAF’s social media with interactive content beyond the voting such as “Where is Safety Sammy” pop quizzes.
Sammy was featured in TMAF’s 2017 holiday ornament with a first-person narrated holiday letter, like an American Girl doll.
A trucking mascot was unexpected, but the campaign to launch and market a mascot exceeded expectations. Some of the results included:
- Community engagement: Safety Sammy was showcased in many industry events throughout the year and was in front of an audience of approximately 200,000 people between trade shows, the state and national truck driving competitions, driving schools and more.
- Industry requests: TMAF received an increase in requests to showcase the mascot.
- Positive press: We secured a front-page feature on the Greater Knoxville Business Journal.
- Industry press praised the move to build a mascot and industry members quickly became fans of Sammy.
Safety Sammy also visited Today Show fans in New York where he shared the message of truck driver safety and appreciation to a broad consumer audience. The crew was even spotted on the Today Show Plaza alongside show host Hoda Kotb when she joined the team for a group photo.