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NSAA Report: Canyons Reports on a Year of Big Marketing Changes

This week I’ll be reporting some of the marketing goodness that came from this year’s NSAA National Convention and Tradeshow. It was great to meet many of you and many thanks again to NSAA for providing a press pass on such short notice.

I’ve always been interested in The Canyons (now Canyons) resort in Park City. When American Skiing Co. bought the resort and dropped the Wolf Mountain brand, I was there. And by there, I mean I had one of the first chairs on opening day back in 1997. So when rumors started flying about more big changes at the mountain, new owners, and a new brand, I took notice.

Let me also say that I have been a bit confused and perplexed by some of their tactics. Not mistakes, just ideas that didn’t add up. Luckily, Todd Burnette, Canyons’ Marketing Director, was at the NSAA Convention with a report on how the rebranding went and some of the elements of their 2010 – 2011 campaign. The majority of this session felt like a promo for Talisker (Canyons’ owners) but there was also some good info that resulted. Here’s the report:

The Ultimate Mountain Gig
Todd confirmed that one of the main goals of the UMG was to generate increased web traffic which would in turn help drive the new brand and awareness about improvements at the resort. Over 400 videos were submitted, totalling just under 200,000 views. In the end, two people were given the Ultimate Mountain Gig: Andy Campell and Kaylin Richardson. The thing that Todd didn’t mention, was how many of the entries resulted from a handful of full spread print ads they placed in ski and snowboard magazines during the fall months. The winners themselves didn’t seem to blog that much either, at least not as much as I’d expect a full time blogger to deliver. With the cost of those ads, combined with the $80,000 paid to the bloggers, I’m having trouble seeing how 200,000 views is such a success.

Airport Partnership
One of the main components was a SLC airport partnership. According to Burnette, a huge numer of skiers that arrive in SLC haven’t decided which resorts they will ski at. So, Canyons used variations of the “Better Way to Mountain” tagline, along with huge ads around the baggage claim area to drive these skiers to their resort. These taglines included the following with skiers / vacations doing the resort equivalent of the traveling phrase:

  • A Better Way to Fly
  • A Better Way to Make a Connection
  • A Better Way to Travel
  • A Better Way to Arrive

They also snagged billboards on I-80 (the freeway that takes you from the airport to the Park City resorts and is a common way to reach the Cottonwood Canyons resorts as well) with headlines indicating that from that point it was only 24 minutes to Canyons’ slopes.

Video also played on TV screens throughout the airport showing a promo / commercial for the Canyons.

Media Coverage
Canyons also worked hard to bring as many press people to the resort as possible. Coverage included:

  • EXTRA (who Canyons worked with to use the resort as their HQ during the Sundance Film Festival)
  • Peter Greenberg (coverage)
  • New York Times (article)
  • Weather Channel
  • Huffington Post (article)
  • Associated Press

Talisker Ownership
Slim Jims are to fillet mignon as normal vacations are to holidays with a Talisker resort. Luxury, expensive, and elite are the name of the game. The thing I can’t figure out is if Canyons has been struggling to create this upper-class brand, why are they giving away free lift tickets to every Utahn that hits a Warren Miller movie showing each fall? On any given weekend, you’ve got lifts hauling a split load: half destination skiers dropping $15k on their vacation, and half cheap locals who are skiing on their free ticket from the film. Are they hoping these skiers will bring their friends who will drop $90 for a pass? Are they counting on 5% of them becoming CEOs and vacationing to the same resort they could go to as a broke college student?  It doesn’t add up.

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  • That guy

    The only thing worse than vanilla is confusing everything to everyone vanilla, or maybe confusing everything to everyone vanilla with a long time pr director bailing mid season. Maybe we can agree that it’s a great time to be PCMR.

  • phil

    Right now: Canyons probably the #1 destination winter resort in No. America. I have no info. to back that up, just saying. Lifts, terrain, size, lodging, restaurants—all first class all the way.

    • GreggBlanchard

      Phil, thanks for the feedback. I'd be interested to hear what resorts you've skied that you're comparing it against. When I set Canyons side by side with the Whistler/Blackcombs and Vails of the North America, Canyons seems to be on the right track, but has a ways to go.