Alien Origin Story Lightens Up, Heightens Attention to Major Construction Milestone

Denver International Airport Construction Midpoint Event

In the case of DEN’s Hotel and Transit Center, reaching the midway point on time provided the perfect opportunity to reinforce progress and highlight DEN’s success leading the mega-project. Given the intensity of the public and media gaze on the project, it was time for an event to foster camaraderie and pride in the work.

CIG’s discussions with internal and external stakeholders helped the team determine goals for a midpoint celebration: highlighting progress, showcasing strong collaboration among program partners, engaging key individuals and organizations to continue supporting the program, and beginning to visualize the finished product.

It also was important to draw on and reference previously successful milestone events at the airport, then take everything to a new height.

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Thinking through potential event concepts, the most DIA-specific theme was the long-standing conspiracy theory that the airport sits on top of the headquarters for a top-secret alien organization. Several media sources have covered this theory, including Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report in 2012. For the midway point celebration, the theme provided ample potential for public and local media engagement.

The event video, although threaded with conspiracy, required considerable real-world time and energy to produce. Playing on the popular AT&T ads, Denver Mayor Hancock talked with focus groups of children who make funny, yet informative remarks when asked about the airport and the HTC, turning the conversation to the alien conspiracy. Hancock’s predecessors also wanted in on the action, setting off a phone-tree conversation – and ample patience and flexibility – as CIG accommodated five former mayors’ schedules.

CIG’s social media plan called for an aggressive two-day push on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, including conspiracy-related content. The defining moment occurred when a DIA Media Relations Manger Tweeted a photo of a “fossilized” plaster alien skull with the comment, “A strange find while building @DENAirport's Hotel and Transit Center.” In minutes, the post reached more than 10,000 Twitter users. The energy spread and generated a flood of positive comments about DIA’s social media persona

Meanwhile, CIG coordinated the filling of a time capsule to include everything from an iPhone to a DIA art booklet to Mayor Hancock’s personal Broncos jersey. Dozens of items picked by internal and external stakeholders went into the capsule before it was ceremoniously dropped into the underbelly of the HTC. And, to the surprise of all in attendance, into the waiting, willing green hands of an alien comrade!

Tripling expectations, CIG tallied a 500-person audience for the main event, part of a collective total 1,000 attendees over the two-day period of celebration. The setting of an active construction site also provided an up-close look at the substantial progress. Social and traditional media efforts achieved additional awareness. The event garnered 6 million total impressions through TV, radio, print and online media, and at the height of promotional efforts, #DIAMidpoint became the top trending hashtag in Denver.

CIG worked with the DIA communications team to execute four events over two days, hosting 1,000 attendees and providing them with food, libations, giveaways and a week’s worth of alien fodder.

At each event, attendees could sign the time capsule, watch the video and peruse information stations providing detail about the project vision and current status. Crews commented that they couldn’t believe the event site had been a construction area the day before. The collaborative time capsule brought all regional partners together and fostered a sense of HTC pride. Airport leaders noted the celebration as “the best event ever at DIA.”