RV sales get a boost from centennial celebration

Campaign honoring the 100th anniversary of the first mass-produced RVs to generate industry and consumer excitement.

Client: Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (Reston, VA)
Agency: Barton Gilanelli & Associates (Philadelphia)
Campaign: RV Centennial: An American Journey Continues
Duration: January – December 2010
Budget: $725,000

Gary LaBella, VP and CMO of Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), explains that “a boost” was needed to help the industry recover from weak sales caused by the recession. Longtime AOR Barton Gilanelli &Associates (BG & A) helped devise a campaign honoring the 100th anniversary of the first mass-produced RVs to generate industry and consumer excitement.

“We wanted to celebrate industry history and shine the spotlight on the modern product and current market,” LaBella says. “The centennial was the perfect hook.”

LaBella adds that the industry's image had remained positive despite weak sales, so ensuring ongoing positive coverage is a priority.

BG president and co-founder Frank Gilanelli says the aim is to rally and empower manufacturers, dealers, suppliers, and campground owners, and promote RVing to consumers.

Outreach includes media relations, events, videos, social media, and websites. RV historian David Woodworth serves as spokesperson. Mascot “Centennial Charlie,” a four-foot stuffed black bear, also attends media, industry, and consumer events.

Woodworth kicked off a media tour on April 12 with an SMT showcasing RVs at the RV Hall of Fame Museum in Elkart, IN and an April 17 Today appearance featuring 2010 and 1916 model RVs outside NYC's Rockefeller Center. The tour, including the RVs, continued through April. Messaging focused on RV travel's evolution and relevancy. Gilanelli says coverage has also included lifestyle and economic recovery angles.

Rvcentennial.org launched in January. LaBella says it's primarily industry facing. Consumers and media are directed to GoRVing.com (centennial materials were added March 1). Four videos were created for media, online, and event use. They include an industry salute by VIPs, such as GE chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt.

A caravan dubbed “100 Days Celebrating 100 Years of RVing” featuring “Centennial Charlie” visited industry and consumer venues from February 27-June 7. An industry celebration was held June 7 at the RV Hall of Fame museum.

The team has used RVIA's Twitter and Facebook pages to post campaign information, including 100 daily “industry fact” tweets coinciding with the caravan.

LaBella says 2010 RV shipments from manufacturers to dealers are expected to be to up 39% compared to 2009. 

“Certainly, this centennial celebration has put a favorable light on the industry and contributed to a quick [economic] turnaround,” he adds.

From January 1 to July 4, RVIA reports 61% traffic increase (1,090,070 total visits) to GoRVing.com compared to the same period in 2009. Nearly 1 million visits occurred after centennial pages were posted on March 1. BG notes a 49% increase in Facebook fans (to nearly 10,500 currently) since January 1, and 300 new Twitter followers joined during the 100 days of tweets.

BG “conservatively” estimates 20 million media impressions to date in outlets including MSNBC, BBC, Redbook, and USA Today. Gilanelli adds a pitch to TV show Jeopardy yielded an RV category that will air in September.

Media relations and social media outreach continues. Upcoming events include RVIA representatives ringing the NASDAQ closing bell on August 26 and another caravan.

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