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It was a big roll of the dice when Australia’s tourism authority ventured more than twice its annual marketing budget on a TV commercial during Super Bowl 2018. But it already looks like it was a winning bet.

“The U.S. is a critically important market for Australian tourism, ranking second in terms of expenditure, and third in terms of visitor arrivals,” John O’Sullivan, managing director of Tourism Australia, told Skift. “Whilst awareness and intention to visit amongst Americans is improving, conversion is still low.”

According to government figures, 753,300 Americans visited Australia the year ending June 2017 (up 14 percent from the previous year), spending $2.85 billion (A$3.78 billion).

The $27 million (A$36 million) campaign centered on a faux trailer for a sequel to the iconic Crocodile Dundee movie franchise created by comedian Paul Hogan. The lavish production starred a who’s who of Australia’s Hollywood exports including Chris Hemsworth, Hugh Jackman, Margot Robbie, Russell Crowe, Ruby Rose and Isla Fisher, with Hogan himself making a cameo appearance.

Plenty of Media Attention and Popular Reach

The Super Bowl advertisement and the social media campaign preceding it were hailed as a marketing triumph. The broadcast was seen by an estimated 103.4 million Americans, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. According to O’Sullivan, the campaign truly went viral, with more than 200 million social media views. It also generated more than 13,000 media articles, the equivalent value of which Tourism Australia estimates at almost $63 million (A$84 million).

But tourism operators and the Australian taxpayers behind the funding expect more than marketing accolades. They want to see American feet on the ground.

“What we have seen across our trade partners is a 30 percent increase in sales and about a 20 percent lift in yield,” O’Sullivan said.

This too may just be the tip of the iceberg, thanks to the raised awareness about Australia and the diversity of its tourism offerings, he explained. Immediately after the screening of the advertisement, there was a 1,400 percent increase in web searches for “Australia”, and American travel agents specializing in Australia had a doubling of enquiries.

In the first four weeks after the screening, 204,000 leads were generated from australia.com.

“Super Bowl was just the start of the conversation with the consumer in the United States. What was sitting behind that was 21 distribution partners, two airlines (Qantas and American Airlines), Expedia and other key players,” he said, adding that all the partners were primed with specific offerings as the commercial went to air.

“This wasn’t just about awareness of Australia. This was backed by a really solid distribution play.”

Turning Awareness Into Bookings

Tourism Australia is taking a long-term approach and the campaign is aiming to almost double the spend of American tourists in Australia by 2020. “We’re trying to drive another $450,000 (A$600,000) per year out of the market by 2020, which is pretty ambitious. We’re also determined to get Australia up to number one in the awareness and intention-to-purchase funnel to increase conversion. So, for us, it’s both a brand metrics play as well as a sales play.”

The second phase of the current promotion aims to capitalize on the Dundee momentum and features comedic actor Danny McBride (Brian Dundee in the TV commercial) in a social media campaign called “Why Australia” which highlights key tourist attractions such as nature, food and wine, indigenous culture and sports and events.

The Super Bowl deal also included ongoing NBC coverage for Australia, and the destination will continue to feature in shows like “Late Night with Seth Meyers”.

Meanwhile, Tourism Australia is working closely with its 4,500 “Aussie Specialist” travel agents. These agents were targeted in an EDM (Electronic Direct Mail) before the Super Bowl and have been kept informed of the activities and encouraged to take advantage of the raised awareness.

While air fares between the United States and Australia have been extremely competitive in recent years and the exchange rate has been favorable, O’Sullivan is fully aware that those conditions can change without warning. “We take the risks of external shocks as a given, and that’s why it’s important to get the brand metrics solid in the United States. If we can get that active consideration and intention to visit top-of-mind with Americans, they already know we’re a safe country and we’re a welcoming country, so the visitations will follow.”

The current activities are aimed at more affluent travellers who are less affected by market changes, and the aim is to increase the length of their stay and increase their spend on the ground, he explained.

For U.S. visitors to Australia, it’s not so much build it and they’ll come. It’s more about show them and they’ll put another shrimp on the barbie.

Photo Credit: The second phase of the Tourism Australia promotion aims to capitalize on the Dundee momentum and features comedic actor Danny McBride (Brian Dundee in the TV commercial and at right in this photo) in a social media campaign called “Why Australia” which highlights key tourist attractions such as nature, food and wine, indigenous culture and sports and events. Tourism Australia