|Title||SAVE LIONS PROJECT|
|Brand||SEIBU LIONS, INC.|
|Product / Service||PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL TEAM|
|Category||E05. Sponsorship & Brand Partnership|
|Entrant||DENTSU PUBLIC RELATIONS INC. Tokyo, JAPAN|
|Idea Creation||DENTSU INC. Tokyo, JAPAN|
|PR||DENTSU PUBLIC RELATIONS INC. Tokyo, JAPAN|
|Production||HUNGRY INC. Tokyo, JAPAN|
|Kota Izuhara||DENTSU INC.||Creative Director/Copywriter|
|Tomonori Saito||DENTSU INC.||Art Director|
|Miu Tanase||DENTSU INC.||Strategic Planner|
|Tomoya Oka||Dentsu Public Relations Inc.||PR Planner|
|Yuichiro Hagiwara||Dentsu Public Relations Inc.||PR Planner|
|Shinnosuke Imai||Dentsu Public Relations Inc.||PR Planner|
|Koichi Tanaka||Dentsu Public Relations Inc.||PR Planner|
|Mai Nakazawa||Dentsu Public Relations Inc.||PR Planner|
|Masato Ichimura||Dentsu Public Relations Inc.||PR Planner|
|Ayumu Namiki||Dentsu Public Relations Inc.||PR Planner|
|Larissa Bishop||Dentsu Public Relations Inc.||Translator|
|Takashi Shimazu||HUNGRY inc.||Producer|
This wildlife conservation project, conducted for Japanese professional baseball team the Seibu Lions, began with the clever realization that the team name and the phrase “save lions” sound identical in Japanese. Leveraging this memorable hook, the Save Lions campaign transmitted a call for environmental action from players, to media, to fans, generating dialogue and inspiring individuals to support the Seibu Lions’ efforts both materially and emotionally. Meanwhile, the team established a strategic partnership with Oxford University to secure participation from organizations worldwide and involve a global audience. The project is also notable for its commitment to sustaining the initiative long-term.
Lions are a threatened species, with a wild population only 20 percent of what it was a century ago. To respond to this crisis and mark their seventieth anniversary, the Seibu Lions (the Japanese baseball team which produced US major league players Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yusei Kikuchi) launched an initiative to save their mascot animal from extinction. The overarching goal was to ensure that wild lions are alive and well in 2049 when the team reaches its hundredth year. Our agency began by imaginatively restyling the team as the “Save Lions” (playing on the identical pronunciation of “save” and “Seibu” in Japanese), a hook that proved irresistible to fans and media alike and served as a feedback loop to promote the concept of lion conservation every time the Seibu Lions were mentioned. We also sought to maximize impact by securing global partners to expand the project on a worldwide scale.
By restyling the Seibu Lions as the “Save Lions” (both pronounced identically in Japanese), the campaign transformed every mention of the team’s name by players and the media into a call for environmental action that resonated with devoted fans as well as the wider public. Another key creative component was the iconic team logo, originally created by Tezuka Osamu (world-renowned manga artist and creator of “Astro Boy” and other beloved characters). The logo’s familiar mascot character was replaced with a blank lion-shaped silhouette, creating a compelling visual metaphor for the urgent problem of lions’ disappearance from the wild. In addition to these twists on the team identity, a strategic partnership was formed with Oxford University’s WildCRU research unit, which has worked for decades to protect wild lions on the ground in Africa. The university’s global prestige and extensive network provided a basis for establishing an international league of conservation partners.
The primary target was fans, so the project started with the fundamental insight that both fans and media mention the “Seibu Lions” every time they cheer for the team or report about it. By replacing the team name with the catchphrase “Save Lions”—pronounced identically to “Seibu Lions in Japanese, but containing a strong environmental message—the campaign was able to leverage the inherent social power of the team’s brand identity. The message was also communicated through the new Save Lions project logo, which was displayed on uniforms worn by players on the field and used to replace the standard team logo on merchandise sold to fans. During outreach activities to international organizations (conducted together with Oxford University), the project made use of the globally understandable phrase “Save Lions,” while confirmed partners were given permission to freely use the project logo and other resources as part of their conservation activities.
The project launched at the beginning of the 2019 baseball season. For every home run they hit, the Seibu Lions donated 10,000 yen (approximately 100 USD) to WildCRU, their conservation partner at Oxford University. Players and managers appeared at games wearing special uniforms with the Save Lions logo. The team’s enthusiastic efforts secured media attention and inspired increasing numbers of fans to participate by posting as part of a charity campaign on social media and donating to a fund that was established to accept donations from any location worldwide. One of the project’s highlights was a Save Lions Day event organized to mark World Lion Day (August 10). Held on an official game day in cooperation with Oxford University, the event provided an opportunity to communicate about lions’ predicament to the 30,000 fans who attended. Along with these activities, the project team reached out globally to secure international project partners.
Annual donations to WildCRU from external organizations increased fourfold over the previous year. Numerous media outlets, including TV stations, featured the initiative and used it as an opportunity to report on lion depopulation. Twenty million impressions were achieved, equivalent to 2.1 million USD of earned media exposure, while 85 percent of comments on Twitter cast the campaign in a positive light. Additionally, attendance at Seibu Lions games rose by 60,000 year-on-year. As a result of global outreach efforts, the Save Lions project expanded to include a network of 14 official partners, many of which were sports teams, companies, or organizations named after lions. Spanning seven countries on four continents, members of this worldwide Save Lions league initiated their own conservation projects, including charity events and communications campaigns. A post-campaign survey also demonstrated positive outcomes on target audience attitudes, with 74 percent of respondents reporting greater interest in environmental and conservation issues and 79 percent saying they would like to see the project continue in coming years. The effects also extended to respondents’ feelings about the Seibu Lions as a team. Eighty-three percent were more interested in the Seibu Lions as a result of the campaign, and 71 percent felt more motivated to attend games. In this way, the campaign helped to build a greater sense of unity between the team and fans, creating a boost of positive energy that culminated with the Seibu Lions winning the 2019 league championship title.