Alternative holiday draws visitors to Seaport Village

Seaport Village is one of San Diego's most popular attractions, but during the holiday shopping rush, the landmark found itself second to the region's malls.

PR team: Seaport Village (San Diego) and Bailey Gardiner (San Diego)
Campaign: Deck the Palms
Duration: December 3, 2006
Budget: $15,000

Seaport Village is one of San Diego's most popular attractions, with its 70 boutiques and restaurants drawing 4 million visitors annually.

But during the holiday shopping rush, the landmark found itself second to the region's chain store-lined malls; people needed more than the promise of unique shops and sunset views to make it their holiday-season destination.

Strategy
To increase local traffic during its slowest time, Seaport Village enlisted AOR Bailey Gardiner to give it "a fresh spin," positioning the waterfront landmark as the home of San Diego's only warm-weather holiday celebration, says agency principal Jonathan Bailey. The firm worked with Seaport's in-house marketing team to "find something we could own and really build on, something no one else out there was doing," notes Seaport Village GM Terry Hall.

Tactics
"Lots of malls try to make San Diego fit what the holidays should mean," Bailey says, by importing snow and hosting tree-lighting ceremonies. "We created a new San Diego tradition." Seaport's Santa arrived on a ski boat wearing board shorts and flip-flops. The merchants decorated live miniature palm trees. Bailey Gardiner established early regional buzz by sending media reps fruitcakes with a postcard of Santa surfing and followed up with a day-of fruitcake chuck 'n' hurl contest to benefit a San Diego school.

Results
Hall says Seaport Village's car count was "up about 65%" from the previous year. Also, Web site hits increased 26% from November and December 2005, and when MSN.com selected "Deck the Palms" as the fourth-ranked holiday event in its national top 10, the site got more hits than it had the entire year.

Future
Bailey said firm and client are "already talking about how to make next year's event even better."

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