Decked out in their finest gowns designed to resemble the resort’s iconic peaks, Miss Whistler Mountain and Miss Blackcomb Mountain skated around a San Francisco rink, posed for photos and stopped to chat with Bay Area locals earlier this month.
Their visit was part of a Tourism Whistler ad initiative in San Francisco that also featured a pop-up photo exhibit with Whistler images by amateurs and pro photographers in the holiday ice rink at Union Square, a prominent public plaza in the city.
"We've had lots of good feedback about people coming up to them and taking photos and saying, 'I hope to come to Whistler some day,’ or people who were like, 'I just got back last week and I loved it,'" said Kirsten Homeniuk, senior manager of marketing services with Tourism Whistler. "The skating rink venue is keen to have a long-term partnership — it runs from November to January every year in San Francisco — so it presents an opportunity for us to potentially do something every winter."
As part of the effort to showcase Whistler to the Bay area, Tourism Whistler is also launching TV advertisements slated to run there on NBC during Olympic primetime.
The initiative is in collaboration with Tourism Whistler; the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains Tourism Region and the Vancouver Hotel Association. The group is funding the 30-second TV spot to air 44 times throughout the Olympics. The ads are designed to remind people about the Olympic legacy in Whistler — which includes everything from infrastructure like the Whistler Sliding Centre to mementos such as the Olympic rings — and the lingering spirit of the Games in the area.
"The goal is really awareness and reminding that market that we were a host venue," said Homeniuk. "For Tourism Whistler, the destination market is extremely important to us. We want to make sure those travelers are coming to Whistler. San Francisco and California have always been a really important market. If you look at the destination visitor versus the regional visitor, they (stay) longer, experience more in the resort and spend more money. They're important to our economy."
The ads are expected to reach three million viewers during primetime throughout the Games. Tourism Whistler and its partners contributed equally to the campaign, which will feature images of Whistler during the Olympics, as well as shots of Vancouver as a host city.
"It's airing during Olympic primetime, which is fantastic," Homeniuk said. "Thirty seconds is pretty quick. The focus is on reminding viewers we were a host. It's got iconic, significant video footage of both Vancouver and Whistler. So we have things like a shot of the Inukshuk on the top of the mountain, which is an iconic piece — a good visual to connect to Whistler and to the legacy of the Games."
While the TV spots serve to pique viewers' interest in visiting the area, online banner ads on the NBC website are meant to draw readers into booking actual trips.
"They're still going to use Olympic visuals and a little bit of a messaging around the spirit of the Games, but they're (designed) to say, 'A stay and ski package is X amount' and it drives them through to Whistler.com, where they can plan a vacation to Whistler," Homeniuk said.
While she and members of the other two organizations wrote the script for the TV ad and provided the video footage, NBC is tasked with editing it together. "Producing TV spots can be really pricey," Homeniuk said. "Production of that is included in the overall price of the buy. It makes our dollars go further. We saw the initial proof and we have rounds of revisions to go through."