It’s hard to believe that Tom Petty has been gone for five years. I’ll never forget when he released the breakthrough album Damn The Torpedoes and hit the road.
I had a fun idea to celebrate Petty’s Seattle gig and shared it with my staff. ‘This will be our final show of the decade, so let’s make it special. What if we give every ticket holder a commemorative, Tom Petty tuxedo jacket…to keep?’
My team loved it. Now, all we had to do was find 3,000 tuxedo jackets.
I set up a meeting with a local formal wear retailer that dealt in tremendous volume. I explained our plan to their president, who clearly thought I was insane. Then he smiled, “when tuxedos go out of style, they get scrapped. So, I can get your 3,000 tux coats. But they’ll all be different sizes and colors.”
Perfect, it will be funky formal.
On the day of the concert, TV news copters buzzed overhead, filming Tom Petty fans as they filed into the Paramount Theater. Inside, huge piles of tuxedo jackets filled the lobby, stacked by size. As fans entered the theater, they called out their size and our staff tossed them a tux jacket.
With that going well, I headed backstage with a box of special jackets for Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers. Their road manager led me into the dressing room and I presented each guy with a blue, crushed velvet smoking jacket. I said, “Tonight is our last concert of the decade and we wanted fans to look their best. So, my radio station put your logo on 3,000 tuxedo jackets and gave one to everybody in the audience.”
Petty looked startled. “Are you shitting me? Everyone in the crowd is wearing one of these? How cool!”
As the Heartbreakers preened in their coats, I said my goodbyes and threw the Hail Mary pass: “Tom, we’d love for you to wear your coats onstage tonight.”
Moments later, the house lights dimmed as Petty took the stage. The crowd cheered and stood up, a potpourri of pink, black and aqua jackets. Tom strolled to the microphone, scanned the audience and shook his head in disbelief. “You guys look fuckin’ great!”
While I was disappointed the band wasn’t wearing their tux coats, the Heartbreakers rocked for two hours. Fans danced in the aisles, never taking off their jackets. When the set ended, Tom Petty left the stage.
Moments later, the band came back out…wearing their tuxedo jackets. And the place went wild.
In the end, KISW scored 3,000 jackets, paid zero dollars and made a powerful branding statement.