The Chargers


More often, the PR professional is called upon to help move a project from concept to reality. Take, for example, the San Diego Chargers. TIME Magazine had just labeled San Diego “bust town” in an article on the area’s fading aircraft and military industries. During this economic downturn, new-home construction and sales came to a near halt. Home builder Bollenbacher & Kelton (B&K), a client of San Diego advertising and PR agency Phillips Ramsey, was among those impacted. In a seemingly-unrelated matter, renowned hotelier Barron Hilton was awarded a team in the newly-formed American Football League. Late in 1960, disappointing first-season home attendance in Los Angeles led to talk of relocating the team.

The prospect of the team’s move excited popular San Diego Union sports columnist Jack Murphy, who launched a campaign, via his column, seeking season-ticket pledges from readers to show Hilton the magnitude of local fan interest.
Phillips-Ramsey’s PR director, Bill Seaton, also saw San Diego’s potential as a major sports town and proposed to B&K that it make a large financial pledge as good community relations and offer season tickets as a sales incentive for home purchases. Should San Diego become a “big league” town, other sports franchises might follow attracting more national focus, publicity, and resultant population growth – with the need for new homes.

Murphy regularly touted a Charger move to San Diego in his column and praised the $10, $20, and $100 dollar pledges that poured in. Phillips-Ramsey presented Murphy with a $7,500 B&K check, easily the largest pledge of the campaign. Murphy reportedly shed a tear when seeing the unexpected amount.

Swayed by the response, Hilton accepted San Diego’s invitation to hear an informal proposal. At a small, private luncheon to discuss the possibility, Hilton listened to Seaton from Phillips Ramsey, Mayor Frank Curran, Murphy, and SD Sports Association members who made a commitment to improve facilities and seating capacity at old Balboa Stadium.

On Feb. 10, 1961, the AFL gave Hilton approval to relocate his team to San Diego. Phillips-Ramsey prepared ads and news stories promoting the Charger season-ticket incentive. Phillips-Ramsey was given the opportunity to introduce Charger players to town and had over a dozen players bussed, with police escort, to B&K sales sites where they signed autographs and posed for pictures. B&K’s residential sales picked up and its housing projects sold out.

The Chargers gained fame in 1963 by winning the AFL championship, and a move was begun to build a new stadium in Mission Valley (later named Jack Murphy Stadium).

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