Surprise Squad, an offering from Meredith’s Las Vegas Fox affiliate, has been surprising people with random acts of kindness and good will for 500 episodes over eight years. Viewers are sharing the love, and station executives and program sponsors aim to keep the surprises perpetually coming.
Even cynical, cold, unkind, hard-hearted human beings might get teary-eyed when they watch episodes of KVVU’s Surprise Squad.
The video below, which more than 1.1 million people have viewed on YouTube, epitomizes what Surprise Squad from Meredith’s Las Vegas Fox affiliate is all about.
Lives are about to change and be transformed. So sit back and enjoy.
Surprise Squad started modestly in 2013 with a goal of surprising people with random acts of kindness and good will, like “showing up at a gas station and buying somebody’s fuel, pay for people’s groceries,” says Don Forman, owner of United Nissan, who was at the table when the “fantastic idea” started. He has been a sponsor of Surprise Squad ever since.
“It got bigger from there,” he says.
Since then, the station has produced more than 500 Surprise Squad stories, which have resulted in countless grateful tears and many hugs.
In order to execute an idea, advance it into a successful news, sales and community project, and sustain it for eight years through 500 episodes requires several key elements. And KVVU’s Surprise Squad checks all the boxes.
- Great stories, well-told with high production values — check.
- A deep well of material that resonates with viewers — check.
- A stable team of TV managers and hands-on sponsors who are all passionately behind the project for all the right reasons — check.
Sergio Rodriguez, KVVU’s director of promotions and commercial production, says he was the camera guy “the first week we started this. It has just been an incredible ride for me.”
Rodriguez executive produces the project from scheduling production, editing, connecting with sponsors and marketing.
“We put promos together that will promote it at least a week out,” Rodriguez says. “We create Facebook cover photos, a Facebook post and [we] put together teases.”
“A passive sponsor is not going to work out with something like this,” he says. “We need boots on the ground, people out there moving furniture, people to help renovate houses.”
The sponsors are heavily involved with the Surprise Squad stories. In addition to United Nissan, America First Credit Union has been a sponsor for the past six years, and Albertsons and Vons have been sponsoring Surprise Squad for the past four years.
“We brainstorm with them, we collaborate with them and it’s pretty typical that they will go beyond what we are asking them to do,” Rodriguez says.
Forman estimates he’s given away 20-25 cars to people in need in the episodes.
He says being a sponsor of Surprise Squad “became very fulfilling on a personal level.”
When Surprise Squad started, Forman was looking for good exposure in today’s car advertising clutter from a business standpoint. Then Surprise Squad permeated the entire business.
“Surprise Squad not only affects the community in a very positive fashion, it affects our 200 teammates at United Nissan in the same way,” Forman says. “These people get involved. They are proud of what we do in the community with Surprise Squad. It really is a joy to me.”
Being involved in a project like Surprise Squad generates the kind of brand value you can’t buy through the normal channels of advertising, Forman says.
“This is not just saying it,” he says. “This is action. This is walking the walk. That is the power.”
Michael Korr, KVVU’s GM, has been involved with Surprise Squad from the beginning in 2013 when he was the station’s local sales manager.
He says Surprise Squad has given KVVU a major brand identity in Las Vegas that people notice.
“Doing these stories is better than any kind of promo you could ever run,” Korr says.
“When we run these stories, I can’t tell you the number of e-mails we get thanking us for what we do and for bringing positivity to a newscast as well,” he says.
KVVU’s No. 1 job is to report the news, Korr says. “But our No. 2 is represent and support the community.”
For a project like Surprise Squad to last and grow over eight years, you have to have total station buy-in, Korr says
“We all believe in it,” he says. “So even if I leave tomorrow or Sergio leaves, I don’t see the program stopping.”
WPBF 25 News, the Hearst owned ABC affiliate in the West Palm Beach market, has an immediate opening for a strong, take-charge Producer who knows how to create memorable newscasts. The right candidate will have a track record of being creative, aggressive and be able to make decisions and communicate plans in a clear and concise manner. Candidates must have a proven track record of winning the big story, breaking news, and weather. Click here for more specifics and how to apply.