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New Mexico Tourism Scraps Contests in Favor of Marketing Through Storytelling

May 09, 2014 10:00 am

Skift Take

Tourism contests win over very few loyalists while offering compelling stories about what makes New Mexico unique will undoubtedly have a greater impact. Kudos to New Mexico for taking a risk, and trying something different.

— Dennis Schaal

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Visit New Mexico

Visit New Mexico is marketing through webisodes to provide with the goal of providing actionable tourism options to vacationers in the state instead of merely running contests. Pictured is Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town. Visit New Mexico


Traveling this summer in New Mexico might mean good fun and great memories, but it won’t mean a chance to win big bucks.

For the first time in four years, the New Mexico Tourism Department won’t run a travel contest with a large cash prize. The state’s past three annual promotions — “Catch the Kid” in 2011, “Get the Picture” in 2012 and “New Mexico True Stories” in 2013 — featured tasks that encouraged entrants to explore the state and offered grand prizes as large as $10,000.

The contests often targeted New Mexicans whose vacation dollars the Tourism Department hoped to keep in state and who were seen as potential New Mexico ambassadors.

But Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson said her office is forgoing a contest this year in favor of other longer-term programs designed to foster state pride and give travelers more “actionable” trip suggestions.

“We have a lot going on in-state. We’re just not doing a travel ‘game’ if you will,” she said.

This year’s in-state marketing plan includes a series of webisodes featuring interesting and inspirational locals. Posted to YouTube, the “New Mexico True Stories” also will play on movie screens as pre-movie advertisements and perhaps as a bundled feature in their own right. The first few include a video of mixed-martial artist Carlos Condit that garnered 73,000 YouTube views in two months.

“That’s really focused on instilling in-state pride,” Jacobson said.

If New Mexicans love New Mexico, the thinking is that they will sell it as a vacation spot to friends and family from out-of-state.

The department also will promote in-state travel through radio ads and a new Sunday morning TV show that begins next month.

The radio campaign — which commenced earlier this year — promotes specific upcoming fairs, festivals or special events around New Mexico. The TV show, meanwhile, will follow host Michael Newman as he visits and highlights various New Mexico communities.

While the department’s past travel contests and their associated cash prizes generated interest, Jacobson said it was time for a fresh approach.

“This year we are really focused on in-state pride and advocacy and making sure New Mexicans feel really proud they’re from New Mexico, while equipping them with (information about) what to do when they want to travel themselves and when they invite friends and family to visit,” she said.

Jacobson said the new strategy allows for a more consistent, year-round message. It also creates an archive of material — like videos and TV footage — that the department can reuse.

The contests cost about $400,000-$500,000 each to market. The new in-state promotional effort is expected to run about $660,000 for the full 2015 fiscal year.

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