North Carolina invites visitors back with documentary series

The Firsts That Last 2.0 campaign showcases what amateur filmmakers love about the state.

The campaign drew 60 submissions, which will be narrowed down to 12 videos.

CHARLOTTE, NC: As the tourism industry picks up after its stagnation during the COVID-19 pandemic, Luquire is reminding visitors why they enjoy returning to the state of North Carolina year after year.

North Carolina ranks fifth in the nation for visitation, welcoming more than 50 million visitors a year, and tourism data shows 80% of first-time North Carolina visitors return to the state year-after-year, according to the organization. 

As Visit North Carolina's AOR for more than a decade, the PR and marketing agency based in Charlotte is capitalizing on that attitude with the Firsts That Last 2.0 campaign. 

The first iteration of the campaign took place pre-pandemic and aimed to give visitors their first experiences in North Carolina. 

In its second edition, Firsts That Last 2.0 is an integrated public relations and advertising campaign that asks filmmakers to create short films that highlight the "firsts" in North Carolina that had a "last"-ing effect on them. 

The campaign drew 60 submissions, which will be narrowed down to 12 videos that highlight different points of view and areas of interest across the state.

"Coming out of the pandemic, we've had a lot of research pointing to people wanting to re-explore the places they love but in new ways," said Kylee Sprengel, the Visit North Carolina account director at Luquire. "We feel really strongly about the breadth and depth of these stories and storytellers." 

In addition to being about a "first" in North Carolina, filmmakers also had to clearly adhere to Leave No Trace principles, because the state partners with the Leave No Trace initiative, which encourages people to enjoy nature while protecting the environment.

The films will be screened on the Visit North Carolina website and culminate in a film series competition in August with plans to declare a winner by October. The film that emerges will be aired on national television.  

With the help of J Public Relations in New York and a multimillion dollar budget, outreach for the campaign is focused regionally along the East Coast because about 90% of people who visit North Carolina drive. Sprengel and her team relied heavily on cable television, streaming and paid social buys. 

"Because of the very visual nature of the campaign and how these stories are shared via short film, we have gone pretty heavy on the video component," she said. 

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