(Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of stories featuring players, tournament officials, sponsors, volunteers and others involved with this year’s Winston-Salem Open.)
By John Delong
Steve Bumgarner and Scott Carpenter have promoted everything from doughnuts to garage doors during their vast careers in public relations and marketing.
They have marketed musicals for the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, spearheaded promotional campaigns for the Winston-Salem Dash, worked on projects for Old Salem Museums and Gardens and the Chamber of Commerce, and count Wake Forest University’s athletic department and Amarr Garage Doors among their clients.
They have even done marketing for a Winston-Salem funeral home.
It’s that kind of experience and versatility that make Bumgarner and Carpenter – partners at Capture Public Relations & Marketing – tops in their field in the Triad, respected and connected nationally.
Little wonder, then, that Winston-Salem Open tournament director Bill Oakes was so quick to bring Capture aboard when he started putting together a staff for last year’s inaugural tournament.
Oakes knew it was essential to develop relationships and make a major marketing impact in a short amount of time last year, and he relied heavily on Capture.
"We came into this marketplace not really having a lot of embedded relationships with the media and public relations and advertisers," said Oakes, who was tournament director of Atlanta’s ATP event before coming to Winston-Salem.
"Our success is driven by the relationships we have and we’ve built since we’ve been here. As part of that, one of the relationships that has really contributed to our success has been Capture. They’ve been extremely important in helping us navigate in really short order last year the best way to get our message out, and communicate, whether it’s with the media or the public at large.
"I couldn’t be more pleased with how Capture has helped us in that respect. One of the things that makes great companies is great relationships, and Steve and Scott have great relationships because they’re trusted in the community. We’ve been able to piggy-back on that, and it’s helped us a lot."
Capture offered up the tournament’s slogan, "Big Time Tennis, Served Southern Style," during a brainstorming session with Oakes early in the process last year.
A 1995 graduate of Wake Forest, Bumgarner was the Director of Marketing for Krispy Kreme before deciding to form Capture with Carpenter in 2005. He looks back at those 10 years fondly, as the company went public and entered markets around the world.
"There was a lot of excitement in the late 90s," Bumgarner said. "One month, we opened in Fort Wayne, Ind., and two months later we opened in New York City and we did the same things we did in Fort Wayne, except it was with the Today Show and the New York Times we were pitching things to and taking doughnuts to. And it kinda took off from there. San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, London – those were all things I got to experience first-hand and it was a lot of fun. It was a great group of people I worked with. It was like the Dream Team of marketing."
Carpenter, a 1985 graduate of Wake Forest, complements Bumgarner’s marketing skills by spearheading Capture’s public relations. He writes the press releases, deals with local media, and works with Capture’s staff to carry out the marketing strategies.
One day recently, for example, he was visiting Winston-Salem and Forsyth County schools with flyers promoting the Winston-Salem Open’s Sprint cell phone recycling program.
"I don’t think a lot of PR firms would do those types of things on the grassroots level," Carpenter said. "But we feel that’s an important component of an overall public relations and marketing strategy. We’re in the relationship business and it’s a lot more impactful when you get out and develop good relationships."
Carpenter got his start in the business working for Ralph Simpson and Associates and focused much of his work there on corporate entities, philanthropic foundations and retail stores. The company started working with Krispy Kreme in 1993, and Carpenter’s friendship with Bumgarner flourished in the years that followed.
The decision to break away and start Capture came in May of 2005, so the company recently celebrated its seventh anniversary.
"We’re one of the few PR agencies in the area that can do A to Z for our clients," Carpenter said. "At any given time, we will have about 25 different clients. That’s what makes the job so interesting. Literally, one hour we can be working on Krispy Kreme’s 75th Anniversary, and the next hour we can be working on the tennis tournament. Of course it gets a little hectic, but it makes it very interesting."
For sure, it is interesting working with Oakes, associate tournament director Amy Schultz, tournament coordinator Teresa Braeckel and the rest of the WSO crew. There’s a positive vibe in the air throughout the tournament, with everyone geared to making tournament week the very best fan experience possible.
"We love to work with Bill and Amy and Teresa and everyone they hire," Bumgarner said. "They’re a lot of fun. They’re good at what they do and they’re fun. That’s the best client, someone who’s competent and is also a lot of fun. I don’t mind spending a day driving down to Raleigh visiting media with Bill because we’re going to laugh half the time. I think one of the keys has been that we like to surround ourselves with people we enjoy being with. We’ve had some client relationships that we sensed weren’t good for us and, you know, those types don’t work out."
The key to the future for the tournament, Bumgarner said, is to continue to grow the Winston-Salem Open brand.
The challenge last year was to get the word out and establish credibility quickly, and deal with the thousand bits of minutia that is part of putting on a tournament. One day last year the two found themselves renting an airplane to get overhead shots of the Wake Forest Tennis Center complex for CBS, so all kinds of bizarre requests came their way.
The challenge now is to keep the tournament fresh, to where the community will want to support it on an annual basis.
"I think our challenge is, how do you make it fresh and new each year?" Bumgarner said. "The first year, the media is so interested, so in some ways it should be easier to understand the magnitude of the tournament. I don’t think everyone understood the magnitude of the tournament last year. But on the flip side, the media’s going to say, ‘Been there, done that’ now, so how do you get them more interested and more engaged in the tournament?
"I don’t necessarily have all the answers to that yet but that’s our opportunity, how to make it bigger and better and promote it, to do a better job of communicating it so people will understand it and come out all week long and enjoy the tournament."