In February of 2014, the Tampa Bay Times brought to light that nearly one-quarter of the military personnel on-base at MacDill were told they could lose their positions. Following the passing of U.S. Representative C.W. Bill Young—a longtime proponent of the base—MacDill had been acknowledged for its importance to the region but had not been a prominent point of discussion. This did not sit well with the local organization, the Tampa Bay Defense Alliance (TBDA). Shortly after the article was published, TBDA President John Schuler connected with HCP, sharing the organization’s concerns and seeking support to promote, advocate, defend, and grow MacDill Air Force Base.
Historical digging into the base’s background revealed that April 16th of 2016 would mark the base’s 75th anniversary. This benchmark helped to provide a solid, positive rationale for the timing of an awareness campaign.
The goals shared by the TBDA were to raise awareness of MacDill’s major economic impact on the region and get the community engaged with the base. Preliminary research revealed the $14 billion in annual economic impact, the fact that the base is one of Hillsborough County’s top employers, and that over 140,000 retired veterans have chosen to make Tampa Bay their home.
These facts helped provide tangible evidence of the base’s impact, but there was also a need to bolster a less tangible positive sentiment within the community. For this, HCP consulted with its associates and together formalized the concept of a community pride campaign—all beginning with the launch of the website www.MyMacDill.com.
The first step was to use the site to showcase the base’s support from local, state, and federal high-profile leaders. Over a three-month period, HCP produced and captured over 30 broadcast-quality video vignettes of these leaders’ personal stories directly related to MacDill Air Force Base. Participating leaders included General Tommy Franks, Governor Rick Scott, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Congresswoman Cathy Castor, Congressman David Jolly, Representative Ed Narain, and many others. Local organizations included The City of Tampa, Hillsborough County, The Tampa Chamber, The Tampa Downtown Partnership, Visit Tampa Bay, Port Tampa Bay, the Tampa/Hillsborough EDC, the Florida Aquarium, the University of South Florida, and numerous others. In addition, all of the Tampa Bay sports teams participated in the video diaries (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays, and Tampa Bay Rowdies). These leaders and organizations challenged the community to take the “My MacDill” oath by visiting the website, liking and/or following the campaign on social media, and submitting photos, videos, stories, and more.
HCP coordinated several media-related tactics in conjunction with the campaign’s website going live. The firm negotiated media placement (combination of pro bono and paid) with the Tampa International Airport, Outfront Media (billboards), HART (transit), iHeartRadio, Beasley Media (radio), various regional and state print publications/newspapers, and local cable/TV PSAs.
Concerning special events, HCP partnered with SUN ‘n FUN Fly-in & Expo in Lakeland to perform Tampa Bay’s first-ever Warbird Fly-over to salute MacDill AFB’s 75 years of service. This precision and custom fly-over included a nine-plane convoy comprised of a B-25 Mitchell, four T-6 Texans, and four Yaks. The warbirds flew from Lakeland with secure airspace approval from the FAA, TIA, and MacDill AFB. The pattern had them leave Lakeland and fly over Downtown Tampa, Bayshore Blvd, MacDill Air Force Base, and Tampa International Airport. Rumor has it that both MacDill AFB and TIA requested additional Fly-bys.
The “My MacDill” campaign has turned into a staple on social media and local/regional news. Every week, there is a special piece covered by beat reporters at the Tampa Tribune and the Tampa Bay Times. Jack Harris at 970 WFLA has embraced the campaign, and it has become a weekly occurrence in some form.
In the summer of 2015, HCP created and released an official My MacDill Mascot into the community; he was affectionately nicknamed “Mac.” Mac continues to carry the My MacDill flag while attending concerts, events, corporate meetings, and chamber functions.
The historical value of the individual stories the website portal is receiving and documenting is invaluable to the people posting to it and to our initial mission of capturing the living history of MacDill AFB. There are simply no words to describe these one-of-a-kind time capsules that contain photos, videos, and stories of familiar strangers. One must visit the site at www.mymacdill.com and get lost in the detailed history of so many courageous and proud people willing to share an important part of their lives.