May 28, 2012 | Tracy Johnson | Comments
Calgary’s annual celebration of all things cowboy turns 100 this year, with a super-sized marketing plan to corral more visitors from around the world
There are few juicier pitches for Canadian marketers to hit out of the park this year than “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” turning 100 in early July.
Fortunately, the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede’s super-sized centennial marketing and advertising campaign that rolled out in the fall is already paying dividends. Ticket sales are well ahead of last year and international interest is on the rise.
The “We’re Greatest Together” campaign taps Calgary’s transformation during the Stampede, when dressing western, two-stepping and bad eating and drinking habits become the norm. It also celebrates the way Calgarians come together over the 10-day exhibition. “It’s a broad call to action,” says Phil Copithorne, outgoing creative director of Calgary-based agency Karo, which put together the campaign. “Stampede is really dependent on Calgarians’ engagement in many ways.”
Each TV spot uses a mix of archival and modern footage to show how the Stampede has changed over the past century, but still remained very much the same in spirit. Calgarians, he says, have always danced, dined, dressed and ridden at the Stampede. The spots end with a variable tag: “The city that rides/dances/creates/dresses/dines together, stays together.”
“The first phase of the campaign [talked] about the bigger role of the Stampede in Calgary,” says Copithorne. “And now the campaign is focusing on getting Calgarians amped up and selling tickets.” The paid campaign has been helped along by a fair bit of earned coverage: The Calgary Herald is running a weekly story examining each decade of the Stampede. On top of that, almost every week the Stampede rolls out a new announcement, be it the latest midway food—Yes! Deep fried Kool Aid this year!—to a zip line across the grounds, on which you can travel 60 km/h, to a new roller coaster.
“It made a difference, getting to market early,” says Copithorne. “The 100-day launch started in March, it’s been very well received, ticket sales are doing very well, the city has a heightened sense of anticipation, and the Stampede continues to take to market new ideas.”
This month, as the Stampede flags start to decorate Calgary intersections, the next part of the local campaign will roll out with more print and television ads. Again using the “We’re Greatest Together” footage, that campaign ramps up through June to turn excitement about the event into ticket sales. The goal is to get a record number of people through the gates come July. With early ticket sales already setting records, the biggest gate ever is within reach.
Outside of Calgary, the campaign is slightly tweaked, says Karen Connellan, director of consumer marketing at the Calgary Stampede. “It’s built around the idea that there is a city that dances together or dines together. The response has been great; people seem to love how everyone transforms during Stampede.”
In part because of a $5-million federal grant through the Canadian Tourism Commission, Connellan and her team have been able to fund a much more expansive campaign. The media spend is up by 25% and there have been promotional events in the U.S, South Korea, Beijing and Berlin.
In early March, the Stampede set up a tent outside the Honda Center, the home of the Mighty Ducks in Anaheim, California. Each section of the tent hit one of the five brand messages; there was traditional Stampede food, dancing and music from Canadian Idol finalist Jason Greely, a mechanical bull to ride, a yahooing contest and a chance to try on western clothing. “We really leveraged ‘We’re Greatest Together,’” says Connellan. “It’s been great to go outside the city to see that we’re bigger than ourselves, that the event is bigger than ourselves.”
Picturing the Wild West
You have to love the poster that started it all. Epic movie-like quality. The taming of the West by well-to-do gentlemen.
I like th raw elegance of theis poster. Like a true plains cowboy – authentic and straightforward.
This Bradbury Thompson-inspired poster is great for its naive simplicity. One boot in the dirt and one in ’60 high design.
The Flames were new in town. Calgarians had light rail transit. “Tainted Love” was hot on the charts. The ’80s had arrived and the mood was electric.
Simple, understated layout. A nicely handled tribute to the famous horse Grated Coconut.
1922, 1926, 1930
I have actually never seen these. Few have. They are the famous “missing posters” of the collection. Their creative stature lies in their mystery. And in true western style, there’s a reward for whoever can capture one.