The leading sports newspaper in Romania, Gazeta Sporturilor, has made a name for itself with far-reaching journalistic investigations that led to significant consequences in Romanian society.
But when it decided to couple its newsroom efforts with those of its marketing team to package and distribute the content conveyed by these investigations, it brought about a new and innovative manner of reaching and engaging audiences.
The “Where’s the Money from Bute Gala?” campaign became one of the biggest success stories of Romanian journalism, demonstrating that when citizens and journalists come together, they become a force the government and judicial institutions can’t ignore.
The main objective of the campaign was to rally readers’ involvement in pushing forward an official investigation into the alleged embezzlement of €2 million from European funds, by state officials connected to the organisation of a professional boxing gala (the Bute Gala) in 2011.
At the end of October 2013, after two weeks of running several episodes of the investigation in Gazeta Sporturilor, the newspaper organised a street adventure game in Bucharest, near the main government buildings and where the boxing match took place.
This was a scavenger hunt that challenged participants to look for the money that couldn’t be accounted for in the Bute Gala match.
For the registration period of the participating teams, organisers relied mainly on the newspaper’s Web site (one of the leading Web sites in Romania, with more than two million unique visitors per month) and social media accounts to promote the scavenger hunt around the city.
The game took place on Sunday, October 27, 2013, with 18 registered teams, which searched for clues in the city that would lead them to the unaccounted sum of money from the Bute Gala — right in front of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate’s headquarters.
The scavenger hunt was also broadcast live on one news television in Romania and had a live-text on the newspaper’s Web site, involving the readers that couldn't participate in the event.
Furthermore, in its December 1, 2013, edition (which was Romania’s National Day), the newspaper launched a second flight of the campaign, encouraging Romanians to say what they would have done for their country with the money spent on this Gala.
The newspaper distributed 15,000 copies of the special edition, for free, in the capital and five other large cities during the National Day festivities, which were also attended by large numbers of government representatives.
Hundreds of messages were received from readers on that day, on social media accounts, blogs, and the Web site.
Two days later, the head of anti-corruption prosecutors re-opened the case, accusing its own prosecutor of covering up the case and dismissing her from office. The new prosecutors on the case announced they would formally accuse at least one minister and other highly ranked officials for defrauding European funds while organising the professional boxing gala.