Front door exposure and C-level support culminate in One of US campaign

Julie Bhusal Sharma

Modernization of Port Columbus International Airport certainly includes the bright light and clean lines you expect to result from an upgrade effort. But Elaine Roberts, president and CEO of Columbus Regional Airport Authority, makes clear that the terminal is not stark.

One of US, a newly launched ad campaign present throughout the airport in overhead banners, on digital screens and the terminal's walls, is partially responsible for that.

The campaign led by Columbus 2020 features Columbus companies that are headquartered or have a large presence in Ohio's capital city, all under the "One of US" tagline. The intent is to showcase Columbus' important and lively corporate scene. A coordinating web page, columbusregion.com/oneofus, complements the campaign's physical presence and serves as an outlet for airport visitors to turn to when seeking more information-including job openings-on the campaign's partnering companies.

Such exposure is not redundant, according to Kenny McDonald, president and chief economic officer of Columbus 2020.

"Too few people know the great companies that we actually have in this region. And while it's great to work inside the community and do a lot of things that we do here, it's also fantastic to promote their companies and what they do for the community outside the region so the world knows that they're located here and that we have the talent to host them," McDonald says.

The campaign promotes eight companies in the airport: Nationwide, AEP Ohio, Battelle, JPMorgan Chase, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Express, Huntington and M/I Homes. They all have one thing in common: They each have a C-suite member in the Columbus Partnership. But that's no coincidence.

Four years ago, the Columbus Regional Airport Authority began to think about terminal modernization. It would take another two years for a meeting to garner the thoughts of Columbus leaders on how the modernization could incorporate "the Essence of Columbus." And at that meeting, representatives from the Columbus Partnership, Experience Columbus and the Columbus Foundation gathered.

The meeting was the origin of various identity-infusing installments in the airport-like a large medallion of the world with Columbus highlighted that cannot be missed on the ticket lobby floor. In addition, the meeting was an impetus for positioning the One of US campaign that was in development by Columbus 2020 with support by the Columbus Partnership at Port Columbus-what Roberts calls "the front door to the city."

Fast forward from the Essence of Columbus meeting and Columbus 2020 and the eight companies with a C-level representative in the Columbus Partnership volunteered or agreed to be the founding partners of the One of US campaign.

One of those companies was Huntington. And Steve Steinour believes the campaign, which features photos of a woman holding a Huntington pen, aligned well with the company's iconic promotional item and its message.

"(Huntington pens are) a synergy of our 'Welcome' brand in which our pens serve as global ambassadors-they can literally be found worldwide-and the welcoming willingness to do business the campaign portrays for our region," Steinour says.

JPMorgan Chase likewise found partnering in the campaign to be an easy decision, thanks to its blend of serving a civic duty in making Columbus more well-known while also meeting each company's economic interests.

"JPMorgan Chase is a big part of this community. We contribute to the Columbus community not only as an employer, but also as a thought leader and, of course, a volunteer and philanthropic support for charity," Chase Chief Control Officer of Consumer and Community Banking Corrine Burger says.

Although Columbus 2020 is the executional arm of the campaign, taking care of details such as booking ad photography, Burger senses the Partnership's presence when coordinating with Columbus 2020 directly on One of US.

"The Partnership relationship certainly keeps us engaged in things that are happening or going on in the market," Burger says.

According to Roberts, exhibiting Columbus' major brands and companies in the terminal is not a new idea-a similar concept was pitched by Port Columbus' advertising vendor, Clear Channel Airports. However, Columbus 2020's vision and the Partnership's connections made the idea a reality.

"Clear Channel had approached us a number of years ago when they got a contract here. They thought reaching out to the largest companies that were headquartered here in town that have a major presence would be a great idea, but they were never able to get it to take flight," Roberts says. "So now, with this terminal modernization and Columbus 2020 and the Partnership pushing it, it's really finally been able to succeed."

The possibility of coordinating with eight companies on the ad space necessary for the campaign posed complications for Clear Channel. As a result, JPMorgan Chase offered its marketing expertise, with its team leading all discussions with the advertising company. Collecting thoughts from fellow One of US partners, JPMorgan Chase and Columbus 2020 were able to strike the best deal with Clear Channel.

Burger became a member on Columbus 2020's board of directors this past May. Her major involvement in the campaign was one of several factors leading to her decision to accept a position on the board.

"It certainly gave me an insight into the work that Columbus 2020 was doing, but I was very aware of them previously and it was of interest to me given the mandates they have around the Columbus economic environment," Burger says.

Such insight would not have been possible without the Columbus Partnership members, C-levels of the campaign's eight founding partners, volunteering to join One of US.

"This is just another example of how (the Columbus Partnership has) assisted us in terms of having access to the C-suite of our major employers and companies," McDonald says. "They've really helped us to start at the top and have leaders of the community and leaders of companies understand why we wanted them to be part of this, why we want to promote that they're companies that have significant operations or (are) headquartered here."

Now that the campaign is in place at the airport and online, Columbus 2020 will spread the campaign to new platforms. There aren't any brick and mortar locations in mind for the campaign extension, but McDonald suggests that like other Columbus 2020 campaigns, One of US will expand digitally.

As for the companies that will join the founding eight in the campaign, McDonald hopes to have a diverse lot that is representative of the 11 counties in the Columbus region and includes smaller businesses.

"We'll continue to build (the campaign) out. What I would say is that we're just beginning. The airport is a great way to launch it and there's a certain amount of property there, if you will, to play with," McDonald reveals.

Julie France is staff writer.