Introducing Lockheed Martin and F-16 Block 70 in Bulgaria
The procedure for selection of new fighter jets for the Bulgarian army has been going on for about 10 years. In 2017 a caretaker government appointed by the President Rumen Radev announced as winner in the fighters tender Swedish company Gripen.
Several months later, the appointed regular government denounced the tender result. The decision was taken after a parliamentary committee concluded that there was potential discrimination in the process of inviting offers. Tender with new terms was announced that attracted offers from Gripen, Lockheed Martin and Eurofighter. In late 2018 in the final stage of tender it became clear that the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense was to select between Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Block 70 and Gripen fighters. On the part of President Radev and left-wing opponents were voiced doubts that the procedure is non-transparent and corrupted. In addition, rumors, negative publications and even fake news about the F-16 Block 70 appeared in media.
Gripen was present in Bulgaria for more than 10 years with a serious campaign in support of its fighter. The company offered already manufactured aircraft at a much lower cost while providing a significant program of industrial cooperation. At the same time, Lockheed Martin was not a well-known name in Bulgaria and had no established relations with media. The company was offering the latest Block 70 modification of its popular F-16 fighter, of which it had not yet produced a single aircraft and had not yet communicated details of its industrial cooperation program.
- Overcoming the lack of information regarding Lockheed Martin’s offer
- Building a positive and convincing image of Lockheed Martin in Bulgaria.
- Address negative information and attacks towards Lockheed Martin
- Raise awareness of Lockheed Martin as a global technology leader in aviation
- Demonstrate the technical qualities and advantages of F-16 Block 70 fighter jets
- Pro-actively explain Lockheed Martin’s offer
- Outline the economic and strategic advantages from possible deal for F16 Block 70.
- Media mapping of 30+ outlets and journalists –general and specialized (business, military, technology), national and regional outlets to identify the needs of information
- Background meetings with journalists from 12 media
- Sending of 9 press releases
- 36 interviews of Lockheed Martin top representatives for national and regional media:
– 4 radio reportages, 9 TV interviews
– 5 print and 18 online media
- Distribution of a presentation and video of F-16 Block 70 to national and regional media
- Organisation of four events for national and regional media:
– Informal meeting for 15 key journalists with former Commander of NATO Allied Command Operations in Europe Gen. Phillip Breedlove focused on F-16 interoperability and advantages
– Media event in Plovdiv for regional and national media to present F-16 Block 70. Location selected due to close proximity to Graf Ignatievo military airbase, the future home of the fighters;
– Three-day demonstration event with F-16 Block 70 simulator in Sofia:
* For journalists, stakeholders, including Commander of the Air Force of Bulgaria and cadets from the Military School in Dolna Mitropolia
* Opportunity for test flights and questions to Lockheed Martin’s experienced technical instructors and a high-ranking company representative
* TV and online media provided opportunity to film the flight with the simulator
* Presentation for the cadets by high-ranking representatives of Lockheed Martin
* Inspiring presentation by a female engineer from Lockheed Martin’s STEM program for some 50 high-school students from elite science clubs in the country;
– Press conference for national media in Sofia, following final parliament approval for the purchase of eight F-16 Block 70 fighters:
* Statements of high-ranking representatives of Lockheed Martin
* Exclusive interviews for leading TV outlets
* Attended by journalists from general & specialized media
- Negative information and rumors about Lockheed Martin, its offer and the F-16 Block 70 were addressed
- Detailed information about the good qualities of F-16 Block 70 and the positive aspects of Lockheed Martin’s proposal and the deal for Bulgaria geostrategic position and the national economy was distributed to wider number of national and regional media
- Myths about Lockheed Martin and the F-16 Block 70 fighters were debunked and understanding for the company’s proposal was significantly improved among stakeholders, media and the wider public
- Trust was built in the F-16 Block 70 fighter with the demonstration of the simulator flights
- Regular communication with media was established and opportunity for answering enquiries
- Proactively driven publications – 596, of them 516 in online media, 45 print publications, 31 reportages on TV and radio:
– Prevailing neutral and positive tone of voice in 100% of publications
– Lockheed Martin key messages covered in 81% from publications.