Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sun Valley projects itself

Marketing Alliance initiatives launch next week


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

Arlene Schieven

Wood River Valley residents are well acquainted with the wonders of the area, so who better to reveal its secrets?

A new advertising campaign for Sun Valley seeks to tap into what locals already know, using their stories—in their own words—to make the pitch to potential visitors.

The Sun Valley Marketing Alliance has been working on the campaign with San Francisco-based ad agency Eleven, and it's about to make its debut on the national stage.

The firm created a strategic plan based on a marketing challenge: low awareness of the area among a key demographic—the 25- to 50-year-old age group.

"A lot of people didn't know about Sun Valley," said Arlene Schieven, the alliance's president and chief marketing officer. "We need to get it top of mind again."

Marketers set out to highlight unique attributes of Sun Valley. At the forefront of that list is the area's history. Sun Valley is billed, branded and sold as the original mountain resort town.

A series of video vignettes featuring locals and their stories has been posted on the marketing alliance website, www.visitsunvalley.com, and Sun Valley Resort's website, www.sunvalley.com. Excerpts from them will be shown, beginning next week, to theatergoers in Boise, Seattle and Los Angeles—areas the marketing alliance is targeting. Banner ads on other websites also will draw people to the videos.

"Those weren't scripted," Schieven said. "They're just saying what they feel about Sun Valley, and I think that's coming across really well."

The marketing group, in conjunction with Sun Valley Resort, also has launched a contest on Facebook, at www.facebook.com/SunValley to generate interest in the area among Facebook users.

Besides its history, Sun Valley can boast plentiful sunny days, independent businesses and a feeling of authenticity lacking in other resort destinations, Schieven said.

"We have roots here," she said.

Ironically, the original ski resort destination is enjoying success in drawing summer visitors, but is seeing room for improvement in winter-season visitors.

Content was created last year for use in this winter's ads.

"This year was (focused on) launching and using that content," Schieven said. "All of that content is now being showcased."

The marketing campaign caught the attention of The New York Times. Advertising reporter Stuart Elliott wrote about the push in the Times' Oct. 31 online edition. A version of the article appeared in the paper's Nov. 7 print edition.

Elliott told the Idaho Mountain Express that the campaign piqued his interest because he was familiar with the Sun Valley name but didn't know a lot about the area. He said the campaign's approach is a good one because it highlights the resort's heritage and history while presenting it in an updated way.

Elliott said consumers need to be drawn in to watch a video or click through web content, as opposed to traditional advertising methods that hold viewers captive and tell them what they're going to look at.

"You can't push this stuff on people any more," Elliott said. "This is how you need to try to reach them."

The success of the campaign can be measured by website visits, including how many people click through links on the site to navigate around for more information.

Ultimately, Schieven said, its impact will be measured by the "overall success of business here as measured by the local-option tax."

"We're setting a baseline and we'll move forward from here," she said.

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com




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