Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Marketing campaign hits a home run


If you are exhausted or disenchanted with life here after a seemingly endless slack in another dismal economic year, go to and savor the new image campaign for Sun Valley. It will be delicious succor, a restorative for your faith in the wisdom and joy of living here.

The campaign, themed the Original Mountain Town, advanced by the Sun Valley Resort and the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance, is hardly designed for locals. It is, however, a stunning introduction to Sun Valley by local residents who conversationally become spokespeople and endorsers, emblematic of the valley's character and quality. These vividly attractive video messages are to be shown on resort Internet sites and initially in Seattle, Los Angeles and Boise theaters.

They are driven by a deft combination of high-end cinematic imagery, subtle personal exhortation and seductive music. All the beguiling themes, the core product qualities of Sun Valley, are advanced: small-town values, stunning beauty, outdoor sports, respect for the environment and the exhilaration of a simple life. And the accessibility of all these qualities when visiting this comfy town, fundamentally untainted by glitterati, fashionistas and cheapjack celebrity.

Local resident Ashley Brown is a gracious, well-spoken, attractive young woman. We see her working with the ski patrol on the mountain. Playing in the snow with her dogs. Doing some trap shooting with her young and cheerful friends. Speaking fondly of the fossils who have been on the mountain for 30 or 40 years.

Most important, she conveys the message that many ski destinations "have been blown up with highways coming into town and huge infrastructure, stuff like that." Sun Valley is "one of the only ski resorts still attached to a small town. A lot of people ... don't understand that towns like this still exist."

< Representing the old codger class is a grizzled cowboy with a great love for his work—driving a sleigh from Sun Valley Lodge out to, as he puts it, "Trail Crik." He's warm and philosophical. "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a human. ... I was born within a hundred miles of here. ... Dad didn't have a tractor, we did everything with horses. ... Driving sleighs you get to meet some of the greatest people in the world. ... I firmly believe kids are the greatest crop we got. ... We just must need more time to cultivate them."

And this is said over remarkable video of horses and snowscapes, tack, a wooden sleigh plowing across the fields, mountains outlined in the background sky, toward Trail Creek.

And there are other marvelous voices. A mountaineer, members of the hockey team, a couple running Galena Lodge, a snowboard coach, a snow groomer on the mountain.

This is soft sell, a carefully textured form of branding so smooth you don't realize a transaction is being established.

The style, the message, is what resort General Manager Tim Silva spoke of when he returned to Sun Valley: the creation of a product image that speaks to young people and also to the women who plan family vacations. Without diminishing the allegiance of the hidebound traditionalists.

The campaign is executed by the resort's advertising agency, Eleven, based in San Francisco.

Silva recently told The New York Times that once visitors get to Sun Valley, they find it wonderful. The task is to get them to "need" to be here.

Some may find these videos and related efforts too soft for the brutally competitive ski marketing environment. But it protects the core image of 75 years while introducing the resort to those who have not yet felt the need to visit here.

And to all of us, it says, "Be calm, be appreciative, relish the good fortune."

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.