Tourism Toronto recently concluded a marketing initiative designed to promote the city as a gay-friendly tourist destination. Created by CP+B Toronto, the initiative took the form of a contest offering New Yorkers a chance to win a $20,000 wedding during the July 1 Toronto Pride Festival.
The contest kicked off in June by inviting same-sex couples to have their picture taken with an over-sized wedding cake outside New York City’s Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (which created a special Canada-themed cone). The photos were posted to Tourism Toronto’s Facebook page, with the organization choosing the winners based in part on a statement indicating why they wanted to get married during the Pride Festival.
Several hundred people participated in the contest, with the winning couple receiving two round-trip executive class tickets from New York to Toronto, accommodations at the Windsor Arms hotel, wedding attire and a marriage ceremony as part of the annual Pride Parade.
New York was selected both for its status as one of North America’s biggest media markets as well as its relative proximity to Toronto. As expected, however, coverage of the contest was widespread.
The ceremony received extensive coverage from traditional media outlets including the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, CBC and Reuters, as well as numerous blogs and social media outlets.
While CP+B creates regular campaigns for Tourism Toronto targeting the LGBT community, this year’s event was part of a broader effort to raise the city’s profile in key U.S. markets in advance of World Pride 2014. Toronto will be the first North American city to host the global event.
“We’re ramping up for that event and trying to get as many people as possible to come here,” said Michael Murray, executive creative director of CP+B Toronto. “What we really wanted to do was put Toronto on the radar for the LGBT community globally and, more specifically, in the United States.”
Same-sex marriage is a hot button issue in the U.S., where it is currently legal in only eight states. According to ProCon.org, an independent, non-partisan organization that provides a voice on controversial issues, Canada is one of only 10 countries that have legalized same-sex marriage.
According to a 2009 economic impact report by Pride Toronto, the 2009 Pride Toronto event generated $40.5 million in spending by non-locals—including $12.2 million on accommodations and $11.7 million on restaurants, bars and clubs. Of the estimated 411,450 people who attended the event, approximately 36,550 were international visitors.