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Perspectives
The marketing ups and downs of consolidation: my top 3 “pros”.

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GREGG
BLANCHARD
       

I’ve been wanting to jump into the consolidation of skiing/resorts for a while now and hinted last Friday that this was the week I’d do it.

Now, I’m going to start with my thoughts on this matter, but I want to hear from all of you. Do you think it’s good for marketing? For skiing? For growth? For the health of mountain towns? I’ve got a short, anonymous survey up that I’ll leave open through the weekend and report on next week.

There are surely downsides, but I’m going to start with the good stuff. Let me also be clear that I’m going to focus almost exclusively on the marketing implications because, well, I’m a marketer and being one step removed I don’t understand the nuance of the business/finance/etc. side to do anything but try to not sound like a complete doofus…which I am.

So, pros today, cons today. Let’s get started.

Pro #1: Greater Ski Marketing Reach
Just like a DMO has the resources and justification to cast a wider, larger marketing net than a local hotel who just needs to fill rooms this weekend, when 10+ resorts join forces under a unified brand, you tend to see larger splashes that no single resort would have been able to pull of on their own.

Being able to target our messages is a powerful ally on the ROI front, but when we talk about giving skiing as a sport a bit more exposure I think the effects I mentioned above will lead to more people being inspired by ski resort marketing than otherwise would have. We talk about the benefit of big, national stages for skiing (X Games, Olympics, etc.) but without some sort of supporting branding getting in front of the masses the rest of the year, those 2-3 days a year can’t do much.

I’m hopeful these bigger, better, joint campaigns will help drive the exposure of skiing to more people.

Pro #2: More Skiers Seeing the Beauty of Season Passes
A season pass is a marvelous thing for skiers. You can ski through the sweetspot of your fitness and endurance without feeling pressure to go 9-4, which can lead you to come skiing more often, which can lead to skiing being not a 3-4 day/year activity but a 8-10 day/year activity. It becomes easier to ski when the skiing is good, take it easy when it’s not, and take more of a more balanced, safe, “stop eating when I’m full” approach to the sport.

Vail Resorts has long had the goal of selling 1,000,000 season passes and with Ikon’s business model and direction mirroring theirs, I think we’re going to see numbers of season pass holders at a level none of us could have ever imagined even just a few years ago. Heck, we could say the same thing about today, and that trend will continue.

In other words, even if this whole experiment goes ASC on us, at least lots of people will have seen a different way to ski as not just a day skier, but a pass holder.

Pro #3: Some Healthy(?) Competition
I think a key benefit of Ikon/Alterra joining the fray is competition for Vail Resorts. Although it’s leading to a “who can acquire the rest of the mid/big resorts first” race, I tend to think that two players will be better than one in the long term. At least in a few key areas.

Like innovation. EpicMix will surely be responded to and then one-upped and then updated and further improved. Booking experiences will be reimagined lest that unconverted visitor end up on the competitors more optimized site and spending their hard earned money there. You can only fight over the pie for so long before you have to start thinking longer-term and ways to grow the sport.

Overall, I think competition will drive innovation in marketing and the guest experience that otherwise would have taken much longer to happen.

That’s (Mainly) It
There are surely some other smaller things that benefit skiers themselves or other segments of the market, but from a marketing perspective those are my top three.

Agree, disagree, have other points to make? Drop them in the survey and I’ll share some of those next week.

Tomorrow will be the marketing downsides of consolidation. Stay tuned.



  • Kurt Gellert

    Good topic, Gregg…the pro’s I see as an outsider (and I may be wrong).
    1. The economies of scale may help the struggling smaller resorts who are consumed by the big boys to continue to operate
    2. Pricing competition for the ski passes – as long as Ikon maintains their competitive positions close to Denver and SLC, the price pressure could flourish and that could be good for skiers
    3. Concerted marketing efforts by the big players fighting for each skier to visit their resort should make it’s way into the lodging area as well and deals for summer visitors

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