Some 17.5 million family travelers visited New York City in 2015 and this year the city’s tourism bureau thinks that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can help welcome them.

NYC & Company, the city’s destination marketing organization, will use the turtles in its 2016 family ambassador campaign that launches this week. Past ambassadors have included other animated characters, including Dora the Explorer.

In addition to in-market promotions, for the first time NYC & Company is planning to market the city to family travelers in more than 20 shopping malls across the U.S., including in the New York metro area, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Dallas, and Denver. The U.S. accounts for most of the family travelers that visit the city.

The campaign’s focus on shopping malls is no coincidence —shopping is the most popular activity for families visiting New York City. Some 43 percent of family visitors shop in the city compared to 27 percent of families that visit museums and 16 percent that visit landmarks or historic sites.

New York City’s family visitor market has grown nearly 33 percent since the annual family campaign began in 2009 and accounts for 30 percent of the city’s overall visitor market. The city had 13.2 million family travelers in 2009 and NYC & Company expects about 17.7 million family travelers in 2016. New York City had 58.3 million total visitors last year.

The turtles are the city’s eighth family ambassador since 2009; previous family ambassadors include The Muppets, The Smurfs and last year’s Dora the Explorer and Friends. But unlike past group ambassadors, the characters and names of all four turtles will be promoted rather than presenting them as a group.

The campaign’s also neatly coincides with the upcoming “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” movie release on June 3.

“The multigenerational appeal was key with our selection of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” said Chris Heywood, a spokesperson for NYC & Company. “The plot of the upcoming movie involves the turtles defending the streets of New York City so that’s a perfect tie-in for us. People traditionally haven’t thought of New York City as a family destination but that is changing. With this campaign we’re relinquishing full control of the brand and letting the turtles tell their story about the city.”

NYC & Company worked with Nickelodeon on its 2015 and 2016 family campaigns. Although the network’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” show airs in more than 170 countries in more than 50 languages, the campaign’s international reach will be smaller and primarily through earned and social media.

Expanding NYC & Company’s Reach

NYC & Company’s new partnership with JC Decaux is key to its inaugural shopping mall ads.

The Paris, France-based advertising corporation has a presence in more than one million shopping malls, public transportation systems and other public spaces in the U.S. and 69 other countries. These include 3,500 bus shelters, 300 newspaper kiosks and 20 public toilets across New York City through JC Decaux’s 2015 acquisition of Spain-based Cemusa.

In 2005, New York City signed a $1.4 billion, 20-year deal with Cemusa to leverage its advertising reach and promote the city’s tourism and government-related ads. NYC & Company controls 20 percent of bus shelters and newsstands in New York City. As part of the deal, NYC & Company also gets about $21 million worth of out-of-home media advertising space per year outside of New York City. The organization also uses JC Decaux for “See it For Yourself,” the organization’s international marketing campaign, which targets the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Australia and Brazil.

Below is the Bronx poster of the turtles campaign portraying a visit to the Bronx Zoo.

teenage mutant ninja turtles bronx

Photo Credit: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are NYC & Company's official 2016 family ambassadors. NYC & Company.