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Three Ways Tourism Boards Use Sport Sponsorship

Three Ways Tourism Boards Use Sport Sponsorship

5 Minute Read

Article Highlights

• Tourism boards are in a constant battle to attract visitors to their region

• As sponsorship continues to become a larger segment of the marketing mix, tourism boards have turned to sponsorship to get their message across

• Tourism boards can use sponsorship to accomplish a variety of business goals including reaching a targeted demographic, drive awareness, and generate pride amongst locals

The business of travel is a very competitive industry. Consumers can opt to visit a numerous amount of destinations and tourism boards understand this and must find ways to make their destination stand out amongst the competition. Tourism boards have invested in marketing for several years which in addition to their local culture and other factors, has contributed to the brand of the destination. This is evident with Las Vegas famous slogan, “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” giving Las Vegas a more adult themed brand.

As sponsorship continues to play a bigger role in marketing strategies, tourism boards leveraged sponsorship in their marketing initiatives. There have been a number of examples of tourism boards leveraging the following of a major property to accomplish business objectives. The tourism board of Mexico, Visit Mexico, is a sponsor of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays and was also a sponsor of last year’s Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight. The tourism board of Bermuda has sponsored multiple properties in New England including the Boston Red Sox due to the close proximity of the island to the region.

Depending on the awareness and life stage of a travel destination’s brand, the tourism board will strategically select assets and determine activation strategy that will best help them accomplish their objectives. An area may be well known to the general public but it may not be top of mind when people consider placed to travel. The tourism board may then opt to use their sponsorship to engage with consumers raising their profile as a travel spot. However, for a destination that many people may not be aware of, they may look to sponsor a prominent asset that will generate a lot of visibility to increase their brand recognition. MKTG analyzed three ways a tourism board can use sponsorship to market their destinations.

Reach a Targeted Demographic

Tourism boards can engage in sponsorship to reach a target market they are looking to attract. Since 2012 Travel Alberta, the tourism board for Alberta, Canada, has been a sponsor of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. Alberta is already a province likely known to many LA Kings fans as both the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames are conference rivals of the Kings. However, Alberta may not have been a travel destination top of mind for many Kings fans. To raise their profile as a travel destination in the Los Angeles market, Travel Alberta activated in a way to have people engage with the province. Travel Alberta has hosted multiple activations through their Kings deal including a takeover of the Nokia Plaza located near the Los Angeles Kings’ arena, creating the Alberta Dome. Fans could visit before or after the game and participate in different Alberta inspired stations including an interactive video of Alberta. Travel Alberta also encouraged Kings fans to post pictures of their trip to Alberta using the hashtag #VacationLikeaKing which would then be featured on their website. They would also be entered to win a LA Kings VIP prize pack. Through leveraging the Los Angeles Kings for a number of activations, Alberta was able to market itself as a travel destination to a market where they may not have been top of mind before.

Drive Awareness for Newly Developed Region

For some destinations that the general public may not be aware of, sponsorship can be used as a major branding play to have their name in front of a large audience. This was the approach that the country of Azerbaijan took when they secured the jersey sponsorship of prominent Spanish soccer team Atletico Madrid. Through sponsorship of Atletico Madrid, Azerbaijan aimed to project a renewed image of itself on the world stage, promoting itself as a tourist destination and looking to stimulate trade relations with the country of Spain. Azerbaijan was the sponsor from 2012-2015 gaining significant awareness when Atletico Madrid won the Spanish Championship in 2014, qualifying for the Champions League. Azerbaijan has also stated that soccer is an optimal platform for global communication. For a new country that has only been around since the fall of the Soviet Union, securing a major asset is one way to promote their image to the world. Much like a new company that may seek ways to increase their brand recognition, sponsorship of a major asset is one way to achieve that.

Keep Tourism Dollars from Leaving & Generate Pride Amongst Locals

For some destinations, sponsorship may be less about attracting people from outside the region and more about keeping tourism dollars from leaving the area. It has been well documented that Michigan is a state that has been hit hard economically and as a result of that, residents may have less money for things like travel. Michigan’s tourism board, Pure Michigan, is a sponsor of a number of properties within the state. Pure Michigan became the title sponsor of a NASCAR race that takes place at the Michigan International Speedway. Pure Michigan has also been a sponsor of the Detroit Tigers since 2012 giving them signage and video board advertisements within the ballpark. While Detroit Tiger’s games sometimes get national coverage providing an opportunity for Pure Michigan to gain awareness outside of Michigan, the majority of viewers of the Tigers come from within the state. By marketing to a Michigan crowd, Pure Michigan may be able to attract an audience that is looking for an affordable way to spend their vacation by staying close to home. It also keeps tourism dollars from leaving the state and allows Michigan to retain money. Through Pure Michigan’s sponsorship of hometown properties they are also investing in their home state in a time when they need investment. This can demonstrate their hometown pride gaining a favourable view amongst the local citizens.

Tourism boards must act more like a brand and less like a government association. Much like in traditional sponsorship categories like automotive and financial, tourism boards can look to gain an advantage by using sponsorship to help push their unique attributes, raise awareness for the destination, or keep tourism dollars from leaving the area. 

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