When recession forced The Bahamas Government to cut budgets globally, the Ministry of Tourism cut the UK marketing budget by 40%.
We had launched The Bahamas ‘Where Every Story Starts with a Smile’ campaign in the previous year with tremendous impact and a national outdoor presence. Our challenge was to maintain the momentum and develop the campaign further by placing greater emphasis on more cost efficient marketing tools.
We needed to make Bahamas.co.uk do the heaving lifting, maximising comparatively cheaper tools such as social media and PR to create a buzz and drive traffic online. It was also essential to reward visitors to the site with richer content designed to inspire, and motivate interest to book a holiday on one or more of the 14 main islands that make up The Bahamas tourism offer. We had an innovative and award winning plan!
Building on the UK brand campaign which focused on the people of The Bahamas and their unique stories, our task was to:
· Maintain the momentum of the new UK brand campaign with a 40% reduction in budget
· Increase awareness of the 14 main islands that make up The Bahamas tourism offer
· Increase desire from visitors to want to holiday in The Islands of The Bahamas
· Drive traffic to www.bahamas.co.uk and increase prospect database
· Engage the local Bahamians on each of the 14 key Islands of The Bahamas to encourage their involvement and participation and ultimate ownership of the activity
Our solution was to make www.bahamas.co.uk the central platform of the marketing communications activity and explore how to increase the site’s ‘stickiness’ by improving the content.
We also looked at how to engage with key brands to add value to the marketing activity.
We commenced a search in the UK to find 14 aspiring British filmmakers to travel to The Islands of The Bahamas and create films to promote the islands. Joining forces with the National Film & Television School, Canon Cameras and British Airways we launched The Bahamas 14 Islands Challenge.
To create maximum exposure and participation, we carried out an innovative PR and social media programmed on two levels, firstly to attract filmmakers through blogging channels and relevant websites and secondly to drive consumer engagement and visitors to both 14islandsfilmchallenge.co.uk and Bahamas.co.uk.
MAKING SOCIAL MEDIA WORK
To optimise our Social Media strategy we targeted top creative and design led news and trend websites with 1 million plus visitors per month. News of the challenge spread quickly as these social networks hooked on to the story.
We then focussed on specific film interest and creative websites with a typical audience population of actors, directors and filmmakers. We also posted the challenge in the ‘jobs’ section of recruitment sites. Finally we conducted a manual search for blogs and film forums and via Twitter and Facebook we ‘mined’ for groups or twitter feeds on films or filmmaking, feeding threads of conversation and encouraging dialogue.
Within a month we had 150 willing filmmakers on board, each having submitted an example of their work, their chosen favoured island in The Bahamas, and a rationale of why they should be selected.
42 shortlisted candidates were then given £100 to produce a short film based on a real-life character in their home town to demonstrate their storytelling capabilities and filmmaking talent.
SELECTING THE FINALISTS
Our panel of film industry judges including film director Bharat Nalluri, Oscar nominated producer Finola Dwyer and Nik Powell Director of the National Film and Television School selected 14 finalists to film The Islands of The Bahamas.
At key milestones in the campaign we fed information to our online audience encouraging participation from non filmmakers and driving traffic to both 14islandsfilmchallenge.co.uk and Bahamas.co.uk with promotional incentives. Non-filmmakers were encouraged to participate by signing up to become an ‘armchair critic’.
Voting for their winning film meant automatic entry to win a holiday in The Bahamas, a Stressless recliner or one of 14 Canon cameras. We maintained interest on monthly basis with a number of promotional incentives including membership to Lovefilm or the British Film Institute, iPod Nanos and magazine subscriptions.
MEANWHILE... In The Bahamas
In tandem with the UK activity, a competition was launched across the Islands of The Bahamas to identify a family or group of people to represent each island. Their role was to act as host, cast, crew, researcher and confidante during the filmmaker’s stay on their respective island.
British Airways were brought on board as co-sponsor as well as Stressless, a premium reclining furniture brand to tie in with the armchair critic element of the activity.
Each filmmaker was loaned a state of the art professional camcorder supplied by Canon which ensured a level playing field for all participants as well as a high quality end production.
Canon’s involvement in the Challenge enabled them to raise their profile within the professional filmmaking circuit and also provided the opportunity for future ongoing joint consumer promotions with major high street retailers.
The National Film and Television School supplied a high level of credibility by association as well as providing editing resources as part of their sponsorship deal to enable finalists to complete the film ready for release.
FILMING IN THE BAHAMAS
In January our 14 finalists were flown out to their respective 14 islands. They each kept us entertained via Twitter and online blogs during filming encountering the warmth and character of the Bahamian’s first hand. In just 14 days they had to work out how best to capture the personality and charm of the island they were representing.
Back in the UK
On the 15th March just 6 months after the challenge kicked off, the 14 films were premiered at a prestigious event at BAFTA where the top three filmmakers, as judged by the experts were awarded their prizes including £14,000 for the best filmmaker.
The challenge galvanised and inspired both the Bahamas Tourist Board and the Bahamian population and engaged UK filmmakers and most importantly holidaymakers by helping further bring to life what The Bahamas has to offer.
Over 3,000 people signed up to the database as armchair critics and in the first week alone, traffic to Bahamas.co.uk increased by 207%.
All 14 films will be used to promote The Bahamas and can be viewed at bahamas.co.uk
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