Hampton Inn takes road trip to restore national treasures

Roadside preservation is important to our nation's many travelers, especially those who travel by car and typically admire US history and culture.

Roadside preservation is important to our nation's many travelers, especially those who travel by car and typically admire US history and culture.

With this in mind - and aware that 75% of its guests travel by automobile - Hampton Inn developed a program aimed at refurbishing historical landmarks along various highways. The program, called "Explore the Highway with Hampton, Save-A-Landmark," launched in 2000 with the help of Cohn & Wolfe.

Last year, Hampton decided to focus its preservation efforts on Route 66, which runs through eight states and is often called the "Mother Road."

"We knew there were a lot of landmarks on Route 66 that people of every age were either familiar with or had driven by," says Jeremy Baka, SVP and chief creative officer at C&W.

Adds Melissa O'Brien, director of PR at Hampton Inn, the meaning behind Route 66 represents Hampton as a brand.

"To us, Route 66 is all about the love of travel and experiences of travel, and we celebrate that as a brand," she says.

With the help of C&W, Hampton sought to preserve Route 66 in a hands-on, travel-friendly way. Together, they created "Hampton's Route 66 Caravan."

Strategy

C&W needed to capture the spirit of Route 66 and associate it with Hampton Inn's brand image. It decided that the caravan - a 66-day road trip across eight states, from California to Illinois - would best present the campaign as an all-American excursion and allow the team to restore landmarks along the way.

The agency sought community support and participation in the project, knowing that community involvement in the Save-A-Landmark initiative would tap into the "civic-minded mentality" of the target traveler, notes Baka. The caravan also offered participants a sense of togetherness and sacrifice, while at the same time it positioned Hampton employees, who actually participated in preservation efforts, as all-American community members.

In addition to community participation, C&W needed to secure relationships with preservationists, Route 66 associations, and landmark owners across the eight states to gain extensive knowledge of the highway.

Tactics

After gathering information from various sources, the PR team worked with preservationists to create "Roadside Attractions" signs that highlighted and explained 60 significant sites along the route. In addition, the team posted new Route 66 signs along the highway, recruiting the help of Hampton employees and community members.

C&W called on Route 66 historian and preservationist Jim Conkle to lead the trip and serve as a program spokesman. With the help of other Route 66 historians, three sites were chosen to be refurbished: La Plaza Park in California, the "oldest house" in New Mexico, and the Eat-Rite Diner in Missouri.

To secure media interest, the agency created a VNR and sent out press releases nationally. C&W also distributed a b-roll package via a satellite feed.

Results

Activity on the Hampton Inn website experienced more than a 100% increase, specifically linked to the caravan, and stayed high for four months after the effort ended.

More than 460 million media impressions were generated, including mentions in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. In addition, the VNR resulted in 100 station airings.

Future

Hampton will continue its Save-A-Landmark program with the help of C&W. This year, Baka says, Hampton has expanded its efforts to include the promotion of "hidden landmarks," with an online database that highlights frequently overlooked sites, like the place of James Dean's death.

Hampton will continue to work on Route 66, although not as much as it did last year, says O'Brien. The hotel still partners with Conkle, helping him lobby in Washington for the preservation of Route 66, she adds.

PR team: Cohn & Wolfe (Los Angeles) and Hampton Inn (Memphis)

Campaign: Route 66 Caravan

Time frame: April 29 to July 3, 2003

Budget: $499,900

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