Tourism BC leverages Olympic attention

VANCOUVER: Host cities for the Olympics are given a rare global spotlight that few let go to waste, and British Columbia is no different.

VANCOUVER: Host cities for the Olympics are given a rare global spotlight that few let go to waste, and British Columbia is no different. Tourism BC is leveraging interest around the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games with the launch of its largest ever contest.

The Great Mountain Giveaway contest, which is supported by an extensive media relations campaign, offers residents from Canada and the US a chance to win a VIP skiing experience at one of 13 BC mountain resorts, including Whistler, with 19 of their friends. “We wanted to find a way to tap into the growing excitement of the Games,” said Carol Nelson, Tourism BC's director of marketing, North America. “At the same time, we wanted to mitigate any counter Olympic aversion to skiing this winter—like the perception that Whistler is closed because of the Olympics.”

To help generate media interest in the contest, Tourism BC recruited as spokeswoman Ashleigh McIvor, the reigning skicross world champion and a favorite to medal when the sport makes its Olympic debut in February. “We looked at extreme skiers and potential Olympic athletes, and we came across Ashleigh who is the perfect combination of the two,” said David Brodie, senior account director and acting GM, Optimum Public Relations in Vancouver, Tourism BC's AOR. “She also grew up in Whistler, has skied at all the resorts that are part of the contest… and really personifies the ski experience in BC.”

McIvor recently wrapped up a 24-hour media tour in New York, which included more than 20 interviews with print and online outlets including Reuters and Sports Illustrated. The tour also included blogger outreach, and interviews with key online influencers via Skype. “It was natural to focus on social media, because there a lot of people talking about snowboarding and skiing online,” Brodie added. “But there are also some key travel bloggers and podcasters that we wanted to target.”

Since the PR campaign launched on December 10, the contest has been covered by such broadcasters as NBC, Fox and the Ski Channel. It has also been talked about on popular ski blogs, including Newschoolers.com and Homeboyski.com, as well as such travel podcasts as Indietravelpodcast.com.

The Great Mountain Giveaway microsite went live November 20, but the contest wasn't promoted until the start of December with online ads and e-mails sent to interested parties of Tourism BC's online database. “Once we launched the PR campaign, visits to the site spiked to over 1,600 per day from about 550 per day,” Nelson told PRWeek. “So it has definitely had an impact.”

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