Despite an impressive resume in Tennessee politics, Marsha Blackburn was underestimated as a contender for the Tennessee US Senate seat from the start.
A traditionally red state, Tennessee was brought into play as a battleground state due to the high approval rating of Blackburn’s opponent and former Tennessee governor, Phil Bredesen, among Republicans.
A primarily self-funded candidate, Bredesen had an impressive budget which he put to work early, spending $3.5M on TV before the primary. Early polling numbers showed him ahead and many believed the race was in the bag.
All of this meant Blackburn would have to execute a highly efficient and strategic campaign that would move pro-Bredesen voters into her camp while fighting the media rhetoric that she didn’t have a chance.
With Bredesen having invested heavily in TV early, we knew our ads had to be hard hitting and strategically targeted. Once we went on air, we kept our foot on the gas and thanks to i360’s data and media planning tools, we knew we were reaching the voters that mattered,” said political strategist Ward Baker.
The Blackburn campaign used Bredesen’s premature confidence as motivation to keep their heads down and focus on their strategy. With the primary goal of integrating the highest quality data and technology into every facet of their operation, they knew their relationship with i360 would be critical to their success.
The campaign’s polling identified that there was a segment of voters who generally supported Republicans but who favored Bredesen in this particular race. Interestingly, their approval of the former governor was nearly identical to their approval of President Trump.
i360 and the campaign began by developing a series of custom predictive models that would not only identify these voters but determine what issues might persuade them to transfer their support to Blackburn.
I360 began with a Candidate model aimed at identifying Republican Bredesen supporters. From there, i360 further segmented the universe using the Sanctuary Cities model which identified voters likely to oppose Sanctuary City policies like allowing illegal immigrants to get drivers’ licenses – a policy Bredesen favored while Governor – and the Support for Trump’s SCOTUS nominees model which identified voters likely to cared deeply about electing a GOP senator in order to support conservative judges for the Supreme Court.
Using these precise audiences, the campaign ensured they contacted voters with a message that would resonate, reminding them to set aside their approval of Bredesen on a personal level and consider his policy positions on the issues they cared about most.
i360 imported each universe created using these models into its grassroots and media tools. Without an existing grassroots infrastructure to rely on, the Blackburn campaign needed a suite of voter contact tools that would allow them to make the most of their resources.
The superior technology afforded by i360 Walk meant Blackburn’s volunteers could not only quickly enter voter information when canvassing neighborhoods, but also educate voters about Marsha’s positions by showing them videos right from their iPads.
Digital and TV were also critical elements of Blackburn’s campaign. Using i360’s RABBIT EARS, Blackburn’s media agency, Smart Media Group, built data-driven media plans for TV advertising, enabling them to spend their funds where they would have the biggest impact among target voters.
Blackburn believed in the power of digital from the start. i360 onboarded 140 unique segments against which the campaign delivered millions of impressions across several different platforms including Google and Facebook. By importing these highly segmented audiences, the Blackburn campaign could tailor their messaging to ensure they were talking about the issues that mattered to each voter.
“With Bredesen having invested heavily in TV early, we knew our ads had to be hard hitting and strategically targeted. Once we went on air, we kept our foot on the gas and thanks to i360’s data and media planning tools, we knew we were reaching the voters that mattered,” said political strategist Ward Baker.
Blackburn’s use of all of i360’s products meant they could leverage the closed-loop system to its full advantage – using every piece of data to further refine their strategy.
i360 was an integral part of our campaign from the very beginning. Using their top-tier data and grassroots tools, we executed a highly sophisticated campaign that convinced voters to make the right decision for Tennessee,” said Marsha Blackburn, U.S. Senator-elect.
In the end, Blackburn proved the media’s initial predictions were not only wrong, but REALLY wrong. On November 6, Marsha Blackburn claimed victory as the first female Senator for Tennessee – a result they saw coming ahead of the official announcement thanks to i360’s processing of records in the campaign’s war room. Throughout the night, i360’s experts had counted anywhere from 100,000-300,000 votes before the Secretary of State’s public tabulation.
“i360 was an integral part of our campaign from the very beginning. Using their top-tier data and grassroots tools, we executed a highly sophisticated campaign that convinced voters to make the right decision for Tennessee,” said Marsha Blackburn, U.S. Senator-elect.
Using i360’s technology, Blackburn’s team of activists contacted an impressive number of voters. By election day, their outreach stats totaled:
- 3 Million Calls Made
- 1.5 Million Doors Knocked
- $8,112,997 Spent on TV Ads (according to Advertising Analytics)
- 318,000 Text Messages Sent
Winning in all but 3 counties and by a total of 225,000 votes (nearly 11 percentage points), Blackburn proved that a well thought out strategy backed by superior data and technology are not to be underestimated.