New Castle News

August 16, 2012

That’s the ticket: Shenango grad reveling in Bucs’ success

Joe Simon
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — September usually is a tough time for Kiley Cauvel.

The 1994 Shenango High graduate has been with the Pittsburgh Pirates for seven seasons, most recently as director of advertising and creative services. In the past, as the team fell further out of contention and another year of futility became apparent, devising marketing ploys to attract fans to the stadium at the end of the season became a difficult task.

“Typically, September is weak for us,” said Cauvel, referring to attendance at PNC Park. “This year that will be different, and that’s something we have to keep in mind now that the nature of the team has changed.

“As we get into late August and September, with the team falling behind, fans would lose interest, but this year’s different.”

The surprising season has created all kinds of changes for the Pirates, including new challenges for the former Kiley Perdue.

Cauvel, who recently was inducted into the alumni hall of fame at Shenango, began working with the Pirates in 2005 and like most others following the team, isn’t used to a pennant race. In one regard, it’s made her job easier, as ticket sales have drastically increased, but similar to the Pirates on the field, who are in contention for a playoff berth and their first winning season in 19 years, the success also brought on another hurdle.

“It’s definitely added expectations and raised our goals,” said Cauvel, who leads the marketing department in designing ad campaigns with star players and stadium promotions that will appeal to the fan base. “I wouldn’t say it’s made my job any more difficult or easier. It’s a double-edged sword. In the past, our marketing has been focused on weekends, but we’re promoting weekdays and big matchups because weekend games are selling out in advance. I’ve never had to promote a series with the Reds that can decide the division before, so that’s different.”

The winning season added another wrinkle in what has been an evolving career for Cauvel.

The 36-year-old English major never envisioned herself as a marketing expert when she was attending classes at Grove City College in the late 1990s. She tried to follow her initial goal of working behind the scenes in New York City after graduation in 1998, even landing a job as a paid intern (known as a fellowship) at the “Judge Judy” show, but after a few months, she realized the big city wasn’t for her.

“I thought more arts management (when I was in college),” she said. “I was a singer in plays and I liked that kind of stuff, but I was too Type A to move to New York and make it. I always thought that being in the background was where I would make it.”

Cauvel moved back to the area not long after her fellowship in New York and earned a job in ticket sales at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh. She was skeptical of working in sales at first, but she said it was gratifying to see people enjoy the entertainment she was selling and quickly began to settle in at her new position. After three years, she became the marketing manager and eventually the director of marketing at the Civic Arena and held that post until 2005. That’s when the Pirates came calling. Again, Cauvel questioned whether it was the right move.

“When I started with the Pirates, I was a little worried I would get bored with the same product all the time, but that’s really not the case,” she said. “We do a lot of ad campaigns within our overall brand — speaking with college kids, moms and dads and those that want to talk about values and family fun. We talk to a lot of little kids, and being able to speak to all the different targets puts a lot of variety in the day.”

Staying in marketing and communications has been a great move for Cauvel — and the Pirates.

The team was using an outside ad agency prior to Cauvel’s arrival. She said larger agencies have certain resources the Pirates don’t, but she helped the team build its assets, and the overall improvement allowed the Pirates to rid itself of other advertisement organizations.

“We’re really proud of having built up what we have,” she said.

A longtime Pirates fan (she even had presale tickets to the World Series in 1992, but “that didn’t work out”), Cauvel’s enjoying the Pirates’ recent surge as much as anyone — except for maybe her 3-year-old daughter, Juliet, who may have helped inspire a trend that’s been with the Pirates for most of the season.

“Even my 3-year-old makes a Z with her hands,” laughed Cauvel, referring to the “Z” that Pirates’ players and fans often make after a big hit, a sign that pertains to Zoltan from the movie “Dude, Where’s My Car?.” “It’s something small that has really turned out to be a lot of fun for the city, so we’re running with it.

“We evolve (with our campaigns). At this point of the season, everything has kind of blown up.”

The Pirates (64-53), who are mired in a mini-slump at the moment, still are selling out games on a regular basis. The buzz of baseball has returned to a city that’s been craving meaningful games in September for two decades. Cauvel, who lives in the Pittsburgh area but comes back to New Castle on a regular basis to visit her parents, said she couldn’t be happier to be a part of the resurgence — both personally and professionally.

“For the first time since I’ve been here, we’re working on a postseason campaign,” she said. “It’s really exciting. I’ve been there for seven years, but there are people who have been here for 20 and never experienced this, and it’s a whole different atmosphere in the office. I can only imagine how anxious they have been for the Pirates to be in this position.”

It’s been a long time coming for everyone in Pittsburgh.