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October 23, 2009

Waterford's New Year's ball gets an upgrade and an ad campaign

Posted on Fri Oct 23 2009

Ball

It's no mean feat for a brand to get noticed in the middle of New York City. Every so often, though, a company lucks out by harnessing a true icon—which is what happened to Waterford back in 1999. The famed Times Square illuminated ball that drops at midnight each New Year's Eve—a tradition dating back to 1907—was looking, well, so 20th century. Engineers had gussied up the six-foot-diameter aluminum ball with strobe lights, but still. Enter Waterford Crystal, which put artisans at its factory in Ireland to work handcrafting a new ball. The resultant geodesic sphere was double the size and boasted 504 lead-crystal triangles. Even by Times Square's megawatt standards, the "Waterford Crystal Ball" (this is branding, remember) was a blinding success at its millennial debut. But given custodianship of such a legendary fixture, you wouldn't expect the marketers at Waterford to just hang around the pole, now, would you? Today, the brand is readying a $2.5 million campaign in which the famous ball, recently upgraded to a model of even greater luminosity, will appear in national magazine ads along with the tagline, "The sparkle of a new beginning." Waterford will expand its sponsorship of the New Year's festivities, too, just to remind folks who paid for the ball up there. Weighing in at just under six tons, the latest ball boasts 2,268 Waterford crystals, backlit by 32,256 LEDs supplied by Philips. It is capable of producing 16 million colors—perfect for creating that party mood. This is heady stuff, considering the original New Year's ball was made of wood and boasted 100 light bulbs (25 watts each). Then again, maybe technology's not quite the point. The ball-drop is seen by 1 billion people on TV each year. Even if only a fraction of them catch the brand name Waterford, that's one jaw-dropping bit of marketing going on up there.

—Posted by Robert Klara

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