Following a 2013 slump from a $100,000 city funding cut and last summer’s wildfire threat, the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance has a new source of support, a promising advertising campaign and a growing digital presence, which organization representatives discussed at a quarterly meeting held Tuesday at the Wood River YMCA in Ketchum.
President Arlene Schieven acknowledged that her work is hard to gauge, due to the intangible nature of advertising success. Still, she said, the alliance is casting a wide net to attract new visitors.
“It makes sense that [locals] wouldn’t know what we’re doing, because we don’t do it here,” she said.
With a marketing campaign that mainly focuses on five large U.S. cities, she said she views the alliance’s quarterly public meetings as a way to bridge the communication gap between the local and the far-flung.
“Without that tax passing, we would’ve not had a summer campaign.”
Visit Sun Valley
Commonly referred to as Visit Sun Valley, the organization was a joint collaboration between the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley in 2010 after the disbanding of the chamber of commerce.
The recently created Air Service Board has allocated $465,000 to the Marketing Alliance for this summer. The board, which was created at the end of 2013 with the passage of a 1 percent increase to local option taxes, was a godsend for the group.
“We had zero dollars for summer marketing,” Schieven said in an interview this week. “Without that tax passing, we wouldn’t have had a summer campaign.”
Since the organization started its summer campaign, website visits for May were up 80 percent, she said.
The latest campaign invites tourists to tailor-make their Sun Valley vacation. It’s similar to the American Express advertisements featuring celebrities filling in short facts about themselves. Backed by picture-perfect moments, the ads urge viewers to seek adrenaline, culture and whatever else makes them tick.
Schieven said the organization is capitalizing on the uncontrived realness of Sun Valley with the mantra “seek universal truths.” The campaign is visual-heavy: bikers careening down mountain trails, a bird’s-eye view of concertgoers at the Sun Valley Pavilion, fly fishing on a crystal mountain lake.
Visit Sun Valley works hand-in-hand with the Sun Valley Resort to create ad campaigns and market them. The campaign is 80 percent digital. Digital campaigns are the way to go, Schieven said, because it’s easier to gauge returns through counting clicks.
In Denver, the campaign has large billboards at the airport and wrapped around city buses.
“Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco are probably the three biggest in terms of our budget,” Schieven said. “Then Seattle, and then Denver. We were doing those interesting things in Denver because the way we look at our marketing is how aware the population is of Sun Valley and how that population matches what we have to offer.”
In terms of website traffic, the largest increase this winter has come from San Francisco. After the new direct flight into Sun Valley started this winter, there was a thousand percent increase in website click-through rates for San Francisco web traffic.
The group is drawing a new media presence to the valley, as well. Greg Randolph, Visit Sun Valley’s public relations and social media director, hosted well-known journalists for four days of recreation in Sun Valley in March and plans to do so again in August. Schieven said these initiatives are part of the reason why Sun Valley has made it onto several Top 10 lists this year.
“We pour the strongest Kool-Aid we can so they write about us,” Randolph said at Tuesday’s quarterly meeting.
Increasing the number of memberships—now at 311—is another summer goal of the group. At the meeting, Schieven unveiled reduced membership rates in the hopes of recruiting more local business affiliates.
Board Chair Marty Albertson said members are given exposure on the organization website, and the highest percentage of members who use this service are nonprofits. He speculated that there are 700 to 750 businesses in the valley, meaning that less than half are taking advantage of membership.
“The membership fee is an investment in the community,” Albertson said.
URA looking for another tenant in Visitor Center
Visit Sun Valley board Chair Marty Albertson said at a quarterly meeting Tuesday that the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency is beginning to look for a third tenant to occupy the Visitor Center on Sun Valley Road. Visit Sun Valley currently shares the building with Starbucks Coffee. The Visit Sun Valley outpost agreed to downsize from 1,000 to 200 square feet in the event that a new renter agrees to share the space. Lisa Enourato, city government employee and KURA staff member, said the potential tenant would occupy 800 square feet and must not be a food-service company, to not compete with Starbucks. The tenant would have access to the Hemingway room and upstairs office, she said.