North Carolina currently ranks as the sixth most visited state in the nation and domestic visitors spent $18 billion here in 2011. The Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development measures success through exposure from broad media coverage, travel inquiries, qualified lead generation and ultimately visitation and travel expenditures to the state.
The primary communications objectives for the Division's efforts include increasing awareness of North Carolina as a premier leisure travel destination, attracting more consumers to VisitNC.com and providing downstream referrals for NC travel industry partners.
The Division invests in a variety of media opportunities to help promote travel and tourism across the state. These vehicles also include cooperative advertising programs that provide travel industry partners with similar opportunities for maximizing exposure for their own destination or property. The Division's advertising program strives to impact North Carolina's brand awareness and intent to travel in our key markets of origin.
Building on North Carolina's envied brand position as a place of unrivaled scenic beauty, the Division launched a new message strategy in March 2012 to broaden travelers' understanding of the state's captivating beauty to reflect the distinctive places, people, stories, art, flavors and experiences that create deeper, more emotional connections and spark more frequent and longer visits.
Current consumer research trends indicate travelers are looking for fulfilling destinations that provide distinctive experiences and lasting memories, and the new "Deeper Connections" message strategy focuses on finding the next level of vacation, relaxation and realization to make trips more meaningful, enriching and enlightening. This consumer insight was complemented by input from more than 500 industry leaders from around the state who participated in online surveys and marketing workshops conducted by the Division.
The new messaging strategy and marketing campaign helps differentiate the state in a very competitive marketplace by celebrating iconic North Carolina experiences — such as tracing the footsteps of Blackbeard, observing the wild horses of the Outer Banks, tuning in to the state's rich and varied music heritage, drinking in the scenery on the Blue Ridge Parkway and other routes, pursuing outdoor adventure, cheering for racing legends, golfing across a range of terrains, and savoring the celebrated fare of chefs, winemakers, and craft brewers and distillers that have made North Carolina a top culinary destination.
As travelers increasingly research and plan their travel online, the Division continues to increase its emphasis and investment in online media. In 2012-2013, the Division will for the first time invest the majority of its paid advertising budget online. The increase in digital efforts will continue to be complemented with print advertising in select magazine titles that are proven performers for the Division and its co-op partners.
The target audience remains primarily females, 35-54, middle income and up, an audience proven to shape most leisure travel planning decisions. The shift to more online will support this core audience while also expanding North Carolina's reach and exposure to broader demographics. The campaign will also use geotargeting to maximize the exposure and effectiveness of the Division's investment in markets of origin providing the greatest return on investment.
Online display advertising, content sponsorships and custom NC eBlasts broaden awareness and generate consumer inquiries by driving cost-efficient traffic to VisitNC.com for travel planning ideas, and forwarding qualified traffic to partner sites through downstream referrals. The North Carolina brand maintains a year-round presence online supported with incremental seasonal efforts to strengthen exposure for North Carolina's messaging during key travel planning periods. Digital provides great flexibility by allowing for the cost-effective introduction of more and varied messages that help showcase the breadth of North Carolina's story. Representative digital media partners include TripAdvisor, weather.com, Pandora, golf.com and network providers such as Casale Media.
North Carolina's beauty and appeal will continue to be celebrated in a mix of lifestyle magazine titles that are proven lead generators and also provide editorial environments complementary to the state's brand. Representative print media partners include Better Homes & Gardens; Coastal Living; Cooking Light; Family Circle; Garden & Gun; O, The Oprah Magazine; Outside; and Southern Living.
The Division balances its emphasis on attracting out-of-state visitors with very effective promotional efforts instate resulting from ongoing partnerships with the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters, the North Carolina Press Foundation and UNC-TV. Collectively, these efforts generate nearly $4 million in exposure annually for the North Carolina brand and VisitNC.com in print, newspaper, television, radio and online. The Division's partnership with UNC-TV includes underwriting of the highly-rated weekly show "North Carolina Weekend" that promotes VisitNC.com while showcasing iconic and often undiscovered places, people, attractions and stories all across the state.
Cooperative Advertising and Marketing Opportunities
The Division develops and offers NC travel destinations and organizations affordable co-op advertising programs. Cooperative advertising and marketing programs are evaluated and selected based on their ability to effectively and efficiently reach North Carolina's target consumer. These programs combine paid media placement in a variety of platforms relevant to the Division's core audience. New for 2012-2013 are expanded digital display and eBlast co-op programs. The Division also offers customized advertising programs on VisitNC.com with discounts based on volume. For details about the Cooperative Advertising opportunities available, click here.
The Division produces a variety of printed and online publications for travelers, potential visitors to the state and tourism industry professionals. Advertising in these publications is a cost-effective way to reach potential visitors to the state. For details about print and electronic Division Publications, click here. To advertise in the Division's Annual North Carolina Travel Guide, contact Journal Communications.
In the wake of Hurricane Irene, the Division immediately moved to help protect and ensure a successful Labor Day holiday weekend throughout the coastal region and across the state. After conferring with Eastern North Carolina tourism partners, the Division developed and implemented a post-storm online advertising campaign to get the "we are open" message out to potential visitors throughout North Carolina as well as in the Richmond, Norfolk/Tidewater and Columbia markets. The North Carolina Association of Broadcasters and the North Carolina Press Association also assisted in running the online ads below on media websites throughout the state starting just two days after the hurricane. Additional co-operative advertising is being planned in target markets to promote fall visitation to impacted areas as well as traditional fall destinations.