CAMPAIGNS: Couples unite with Don CeSar at 75th anniversary event

PR Team: Don CeSar Beach Resort & Spa (St. Pete Beach, FL) and The Zimmerman Agency (Tallahassee, FL) Campaign: Pink Dreams and Promises Time Frame: August 9-11, 2002 Budget: $30,000

PR Team: Don CeSar Beach Resort & Spa (St. Pete Beach, FL) and The Zimmerman Agency (Tallahassee, FL) Campaign: Pink Dreams and Promises Time Frame: August 9-11, 2002 Budget: $30,000

"The Florida travel business has always been reliable," says Carrie Zimmerman, president of The Zimmerman Agency. "We used to fight for a piece of that pie, but now we're fighting just to get the pie." Zimmerman doesn't typically do event PR, but after Yankelovich and Roper Starch released studies last spring indicating that family, commitment, and love were extremely important to Americans, she decided that a big, romantic event would help commemorate the Don CeSar Resort's 75th anniversary, and increase its draw in the wedding market. "The attitudinal research showed strong indicators toward recommitment and rekindling romance, so we wanted to take advantage of this in a tasteful way," she says. Strategy The hotel is already well established in the wedding market - its architecture and ambiance have helped it secure more than 300 weddings each year. "It's important to focus on our strengths, one of which is the wedding market," says Mike Chagnon, Don CeSar's director of sales and marketing. "We want to increase our share of that segment, ultimately creating return leisure guests. Group markets also provide guaranteed insurance because of the contractual commitment they provide." Tactics The agency and hotel created a mass, Saturday-night non-denominational vow-renewal ceremony and reception with dinner, music, dancing, and champagne toast aimed to recreate the wedding-day atmosphere. "We didn't demand that the women wear wedding gowns because we wanted to keep it casual and not make it into a really gimmicky weekend," Zimmerman says. "But 90% came in wedding gowns. People took it very seriously, and it showed that keeping a pulse on people's attitudes and building campaigns that are relevant is crucial now." First For Women ran a piece in June that encouraged readers to participate in a survey called "Tips for a Successful Marriage," and enter to win airfare and accommodations to the weekend event. More than 2,000 respondents took the survey, and excerpts from their words of wisdom were incorporated in press releases. Their responses also helped the firm devise a "relationship retreat" package and offer activities like massage lessons, ballroom-dancing lessons, and yoga, along with a marriage workshop on friendship, love, and intimacy led by a couples coach. For three days prior to the event, five Zimmerman account execs dressed in pink Cinderella gowns caused a splash when they stormed Florida radio and TV stations with wedding cake and rice bags. Local Fox and CBS stations broadcast live segments throughout the day on the Friday before the event, highlighting the scheduled activities, as well as interviews with the general manager, event participants, and other hotel staff. Results More than 200 couples attended the ceremony, and the resort took in about $50,000 in room revenue. Chagnon added that restaurant, bar, jewelry, and clothing sales all spiked over the weekend. "You start out and think, 'If 20 couples come, that's great,' but we sold out the entire hotel," Zimmerman says. "It was truly amazing." Ninety-seven television spots aired across ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, and MSNBC in 29 states. Print coverage appeared in the New York Daily News, The Boston Globe, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, AAA's Going Places, Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, and St. Petersburg Times. Future The resort plans to offer annual wedding-vow-renewal weekend packages, but the agency says it won't be a big production again. "We're not going to turn it into a big publicity vehicle again because then it has nothing to do with current affairs, which was the strategy behind this campaign in the first place," says Zimmerman.

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