Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism in Cape Canaveral and the regional Space Florida economic development agency are working together to re-establish the area as a global hub for space-themed tourism and advanced aerospace industry.
After NASA’s space shuttle program shuttered in 2011, the region immediately lost the throngs of visitors who came from around the world to watch the epic shuttle launches at Kennedy Space Center.
However, the rocket launching business is actually better than ever these days due to the growing volume of government and commercial contracts. SpaceflightNow.com reports there are 24 lift-offs scheduled in 2015 “thanks to jam-packed manifests for SpaceX and United Launch Alliance to send up satellites for the U.S. military, NASA and commercial telecom operators.”
The Space Coast Office of Tourism and Space Florida economic development agency obviously want to bring those rocket-watchers back to the region, but there are two big challenges. One, a Falcon 9 satellite rocket launch doesn’t have quite the same cachet in the minds of Americans that the manned space shuttles once did blasting off Kennedy’s massive gantries. Two, no one really knows about all of the commercial liftoffs.
“Too many people around the world think that America has mothballed its space program since the shuttle retired four years ago,” says Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Meanwhile, the Space Florida economic development agency’s primary mandate is attracting aerospace industry investment up and down Florida’s central east coast. One way for them to do that and drive exposure toward the region also includes promoting the commercial rocket launches, which means their interests are directly aligned with the tourism bureau’s.
So in May, Space Florida unveiled a new website and video promoting the launches called “We Are Go,” named after the phrase that flight directors say during countdown to clear a rocket for launch.
Created with new and old NASA footage and sounds of live flight crew chatter, the inspirational video delivers an emotional kick that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck a bit. It combines imagery of high-tech innovation and patriotic nostalgia with an underlying message that America can accomplish magnificent things, especially powerful for anyone old enough to remember the Apollo launches.
According to Space Florida, the $350,000 We Are Go promotional campaign incorporates digital, social, broadcast and out-of-home ad buys with outlets such as National Public Radio, In Flight video, SpaceFlightNow.com, Weather.com and The Orlando Sentinel.
For years, the Space Coast Office of Tourism has maintained a secondary website at SpaceCoastLaunches.com to promote the monthly commercial rocket launches and drive eyeballs to its main website at VisitSpaceCoast.com. But previous to this year, the launch website had lacked the drama to really convey the excitement surrounding the launches on its own, especially without any of the media buzz that once surrounded the space shuttles.
And then in May, suddenly the economic development agency’s new We Are Go website made the tourism bureau’s Space Coast Launches portal look rather tired. So Brad Cohn, chief creative officer at the Florida-based Paradise Advertising agency who created We Are Go, approached the tourism bureau to pitch a remake of their Space Coast Launches website with the same visual impact as We Are Go.
The bureau said yes, so Cohn & Co. created an all-new SpaceCoastLaunches.com. Now the two sites promote the launches and the destination with the same design narrative and emotional resonance to help drive both visitor and corporate attention to the destination.
“[The bureau] jumped on the opportunity to actually coordinate with us and make it look and feel like it was one big entity from the user experience point of view,” says Cohn. “Everyone rallies around this message. By using the iconic phrase ‘We Are Go,’ we’ve tapped into instantly recognizable ideas that are the backbone of America: ingenuity, idealism and innovation.”
Both of the two new websites also promote Kennedy Space Center where the $100 million Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction opened in June 2013. That’s a big investment to fall into oblivion, so Cohn and his team conceptualized the video not just to engage the hardcore space tourism fan. It’s also designed to potentially engage the family vacationer with children who are often fascinated with astronauts and space travel.
“So if you’re a family that comes down to Orlando for a week at Disney World or Universal, come to either the Kennedy Space Center or come to the Space Coast and watch a launch because it’s just a great travel experience,” says Cohn. “Your kids can learn about space and kind of get involved with it, and eventually, hopefully down the road once public space tourism gains some momentum, we can start teasing the notion of how you’ll be able to actually, yourself, go to space.”
The aligned We Are Go and Space Coast Launches websites exemplify the next generation of destination content marketing that serves both the interests of tourism bureaus and economic development organizations. It also helps secure additional government support when the ROI applies to long-term benefits for both visitors and local business infrastructure development.
“This is the most significant collaboration between the two agencies, and it is just a classic example of identifying when marketing objectives align,” explains Eric Garvey, executive director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism. “The two sites work together to take a user from inspiration to action along a marketing funnel, so SpaceCoastLaunches.com is the hand-off point into actual trip planning.”
Greg Oates covers tourism and hospitality development.