Consider the audience: average age 30 to 35, mostly young singles and recently married couples, outgoing sales personalities who like to party and have a good time. With these demographics, fun, off-beat Key West, Fla., was the perfect site for Sun Life of Canada's 1996 Group National Leaders' Conference--and a fun, off-beat promotion was just the thing to lead into it.

Sarah Sullivan, senior meetings consultant at the Wellesley Hills, Mass., headquarters of the company's U.S. operations, was at the heart of the "Get FunKey" promotion effort aimed at the company's approximately 75 group managers and sales representatives. "I enjoyed doing it," she says. "For some of our other meetings, we have to be more serious, but the age of the group and the site all lent themselves to that fun spirit."

And her audience agreed. Besides positive feedback from group reps (especially for Pete the Repeat Parrot) and a note praising the promotional materials from the vice president of group, the promotion earned a 1997 Award of Excellence from the Life Communicators Association.

THE PROGRAM Company: Sun Life of Canada, Wellesley Hills, Mass.

Event: 1996 Group National Leaders' Conference

Sites: Marriott's Casa Marina Resort

Dates: April 18-21, 1996, with April 17 added on for top producers

Qualification Period: January 1, 1994 through December 31, 1995

Qualifying Attendees: 55

Total Attendees: 125, including spouses, guests, and home-office staff

Theme: Get FunKey

Design: Outside designer, Tracy Roberts, with Boston-based Design+ created the parrot logo, which was carried through on letterhead and labels, and imprinted on several of the giveaways. All the promotional products were researched and purchased by the Sun Life Conference Services Department.

Promotion Budget: $5,000 (including printing, mailing, and all promotional items over a two-year period)

Savings Ideas: "We're always on the lookout for promotional ideas," says Sarah Sullivan, Sun Life's senior meetings consultant. "We've gone to the gift show in New York City to get good ideas, and then bought items from the exhibitors rather than paying retail prices."

Departments Involved: Conference Services; Public Relations and Creative Services

1 A cool pack, sent out in summer 1994, launched the 18-month campaign and a spirit of fun. The pack included margarita mix, fish- and shell-shaped ice cubes, a destination brochure, and the "Get Ready to Get Funkey"qualification requirements.

2 Sun Life delivered Fruit Cakes for Christmas, sending out this recording by Key West's pop hero Jimmy Buffett in December 1994.

3 At Sun Life's Group Field Seminar, held in February 1995, potential qualifiers found a fish windsock in their guest rooms with a note reminding them "not to blow it. . . . Success will be a breeze."

4 Representative of the colorful street performers that fill Key West's famous Mallory Square--and the performance required of top sales reps--juggling balls (and a guidebook for beginners) went out to potential qualifiers in spring 1995.

5 The ultimate drink holder was the summer 1995 promotional item, gearing up sales reps for the last six months of the qualification period.

6 Pete the Repeat Parrot: When you talk to it, it repeats what you say! Pete was sent to each of Sun Life's 16 U.S. group offices in fall 1995, for a fun, funny, interactive reminder of the upcoming Key West trip.

7 In December 1995, Sun Life mailed the final promotional item: a Christmas ornament from the property where qualifiers would soon be relaxing: Marriott's Casa Marina Resort.

8 For the 55 managers and sales reps who made the grade, an unadorned coconut, packaged in a box with a poem, served as an invitation to the Key West trip.

Sun Life mailed clever encouragement on Get FunKey letterhead with every promotional item.