Your client on the slopes of America
Meeting and greeting skiers at sponsored events
January 3, 2006
Skiing and snowboarding are the focus of many high-end consumers’ weekends and vacations during the upcoming post-holiday winter months. But for many advertisers reaching out to this audience, signage alone is no longer enough. They’re reinforcing awareness of their brands by staging events by the slopes.
To find out how to get your client’s message out in front of singles as well as families who frequent ski resorts, read on.
This is one in a Media Life series on buying the new out-of-home venues. They appear weekly.
Promotional events that reinforce brand awareness with skiers and snowboarders at resorts.
There are numerous methods of reaching skiers and snowboarders face-to-face. For this article we spoke with Sitour USA of Kingston, N.Y., a leader in onsite ski resort advertising.
How it works
Advertisers are looking for an integrated approach, contact with the advertiser beyond the signage. There’s a lot of clutter out there, and awareness-building is not enough, says Tate Lacy, vice president of sales and marketing. You need one-to-one contact so the consumer has multiple contact points.
Festivals and other sampling and direct-contact programs are added to a base of more traditional advertising, Lacy says.Advertisers start with signage. The second step is to take the advertiser’s objectives a step further and reach out to the target audience when they’re at play on the mountain and at rest at the lodge.
Specific programs and events are determined by the type of product and its intended audience. For example, food product sampling might be arranged at lodges and in condominiums or at ticket windows or in lift lines. Brand ambassadors can also roam through the crowd distributing samples and discussing brand merits with consumers.
Tours often travel from resort to resort. A base area, generally a tent, is set up near the lodge or in other high-traffic locations where staff hand out samples during the busiest times, Lacy says. Tours use prizing and fair-style games to attract consumers to spend more time sampling products.
Event marketing programs can be targeted at the young and families as well as general audiences.
Events generally include sponsor-branded tents and activities like races, games and sweepstakes.
Many brands are interested in more than sampling, Lacy says. Experiential marketing takes an activity as a concept and integrates brand messages. There’s prizes for those who play a game, and in the process they get educated about the brand.
Festivals and other events generally are staged in tents or other covered areas, both to protect against inclement weather and to catch the attention of skiers, Lacy says.
Posters promoting the events are put up four weeks ahead. Additionally, flyers are distributed to guests checking in, and table tents are displayed in the bar and restaurant areas. Flyers are also distributed at local restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets to reach skiers visiting the areas. Promotions are placed online on ski and snowboard web sites and weather sites.
Specific programs include:
Winterfest is a series of one-day onsite promotions sponsored by multiple brands. They may include ski races, product demonstrations and sampling, sweepstakes, games and contests, aprÃ¨s-ski parties and interactive internet programs. Other options include lift-line trivia contests, ski challenges with awards ceremonies, tips from ski instructors and scavenger hunts. A showroom and test-drive area for car brands is also an option. Product exclusivity is built in.
Snojam is a program aimed at snowboarders and geared to teens and kids. Tents, sound systems and snowboarding events are elements that can be sponsored.
Budweiser Rail Jam is a small rail set up outside of a terrain park. It’s a competitive rail where people will do tricks, so sponsoring the rail is sponsoring the competition. Budweiser becomes associated on the mountain and inside the bar area, as well, Lacy says.
Familyfest events span two to three days and are geared to appeal to all ages with family-oriented games and activities. Prizes include items like lip balm, branded hand-warmers and ski apparel like neck warmers and hats. Skis are sometimes used as grand prizes.
Currently we are working on a program–ski resort attacks–where we have street teams going out to canvass and interact with consumers, Lacy says. They can hand out T-shirts, buttons, pins, stickers, posters of leading ski athletes as we move toward the Olympics.
For example, a brand of athletic shoes or clothing or an energy bar could sponsor the appearance of a competitive skier. Related ads or handouts direct participants to the sponsor’s web site for further product interaction as well as biographical information about the celebrity.
Sponsorship of specific ski races is also available. Branded banners and programs are possible elements.
Programs are turnkey. Advertisers are primarily national brands, though there have been programs at the regional level.
Ski markets are divided into five regions:
-Northeast, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Rhone Island
-Southeast, including Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia
-Midwest, including Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin
-Rocky Mountains with Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming
-Pacific West, which includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington
California, Colorado and New England are the three biggest regions, according to Lacy. The Pacific Northwest and Michigan are also strong markets.
There were 56.4 million skier visits last season, according to a 2005 survey conducted by RRC Associates of Boulder, Colo. Each region performed above its 10-year average, with the exception of the Pacific West.
The National Ski Areas Association’s 2004-2005 estimate is slightly higher at 56.882 million.
-Northeast at 13.661 million.
-Southeast at 5.504 million.
-Midwest at 7.533 million.
-Rocky Mts. at 19.606 million.
-Pacific West at 10.579 million.
We like to say that in our network we reach about 68 percent of those skier visits, Lacy says.
How it is measured
Numbers of samples distributed are used, as well as feedback cards, web site hits and other direct-response replies. Participants in events are tracked. Lift ticket numbers are factored in as well as participant surveys.
Sitour is evaluated by the Traffic Audit Bureau every three years. In 2004 Sitour achieved a 99.9 percent compliance rating from TAB.
A study conducted by Simmons Research for the season ending in April 2004 concluded that Sitour’s ads achieve recall at a rate up to double that of place-based media benchmarks. The study was conducted by surveying skiers and snowboarders to determine awareness of advertising and its impact on their purchases.
Sitour has also used Nielsen to conduct ad recall research.
The growth of snowboarding is reflected by its popularity. In the West snowboarding accounts for over 45 percent of ski resort visits. Traditional skiing still dominates in the Colorado Rockies, where snowboarding accounts for just 22 percent of visits, according to the NSAA.
In a related report, the NSGA reports that participation in alpine skiing dropped 12.8 percent since 2003 while snowboarding visits to resorts increased 4.2 percent during the same period.
Despite the size of overnight destination resorts, drive-up ski areas deliver the most total skier visits. Day visitors to ski areas dominate all regions except the Rockies. Drive-up resorts deliver younger consumers focused on snowboarding, according to the NSAA.
Day versus overnight visitors, by region
|Region||day visitors||overnight visitors|
|Northeast||61 percent||39 percent|
|Southeast||65 percent||36 percent|
|Midwest||84 percent||16 percent|
|Rocky Mts.||39 percent||61 percent|
|Pacific West||59 percent||41 percent|
|Overall||52 percent||48 percent|
Since 2003 the popularity of alpine skiing, as reflected by participation rates, has declined 12.8 percent, according to the Illinois-based National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA).
What product categories do well
Food, beverages, athletic shoes, automobiles including trucks, spirits and beer, energy bars, bottled water, credit cards, telecommunications companies, entertainment including movie releases and electronics all work well.
Also anything hot because it’s cold out there, Lacy says. Hot coffee, hot cereal, anything.
Ski equipment and clothing generally sell prior to the beginning of the season, so they are available on site but are not a lead advertiser, Lacy says.
Geographic origin of skiers and snowboarders, according to a 1999 NSAA study:
-California at 11.3 percent
-Colorado at 10.4 percent
-New York at 7.4 percent
-Minnesota at 5.8 percent
-Massachusetts at 5.2 percent
-Washington at 4.8 percent
-Texas at 3.9 percent
-Oregon at 3.9 percent
-Pennsylvania at 3.6 percent
-Illinois at 3.5 percent
-New Jersey at 3.5 percent
-Michigan at 3.2 percent
-Other at 33.4 percent
Families with children age 17 and younger and singles age 18-34 are the top demographic groups in skiing and snowboarding.
Family status by region of the country
|Status/region||Northeast||Southeast||Midwest||Rocky Mts||Pacific West|
|Child||7 percent||17 percent||36 percent||8 percent||19 percent|
|Family||38 percent||32 percent||25 percent||30 percent||26 percent|
|Empty nesters||10 percent||15 percent||8 percent||15 percent||8 percent|
|Couple no kids||13 percent||11 percent||5 percent||16 percent||10 percent|
|Single no kids||32 percent||32 percent||19 percent||31 percent||37 percent|
Age distribution of skiers and snowboarders, according to a 2003 study by the NSGA:
– Under 17 years old at 16 percent
– 18 to 24 at 16 percent
– 25 to 34 at 20 percent
– 35 to 44 at 21 percent
– 45 to 54 at 17 percent
– 55 and older at 10 percent
Marital status of skiers and snowboarders, according to the NSGA study:
-Families comprise 31 percent
-Children comprise 17 percent
-Couples with grown children comprise 10 percent
-Singles with no children comprise 30 percent
Additionally, marital status by region:
Skiers and snowboarders have an average household income over $85,000 with 66 percent reporting being college educated and 46 percent in professional and managerial positions.
Specifics, according to the NSGA study:
College graduate: 66 percent
Post-grad work: 29 percent
High school grad: 13 percent
In college: 9 percent
In high school: 8 percent
In trade/vocational: 3 percent
Professional/executive: 46 percent
Student: 15 percent
Owner/self employed: 26 percent
Making the buy
Lead time is contingent on the program elements. Though season-long programs are booked in September, there are still openings for signage and sponsorship this season.
Factors that affect cost include program elements, size of resorts, labor costs, length of campaign and number of resorts. Larger resorts generally have larger fees, Lacy says. We don’t change our pricing relative to size unless driven by the resort factor.
Who’s already sponsoring onsite events
Diageo spirits, Chevy Trucks, Nike and Kraft Foods are recent advertisers.
What they’re saying
Most people outside of the ski space may not realize how much flexibility and opportunity there is. Almost anything can be done with enough time. “ Tate Lacy, vice president of sales and marketing for Sitour USA
Web site info
Sitour USA at www.sitourusa.com
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