Skift Take

California's reputation as an ideal tourism spot was dinged during the pandemic. The state is trying to remind travelers that it's still a fun destination.

Visit California is reintroducing itself globally with a new $32.8 million tourism rebranding campaign – its first in a decade — on March 4. 

The tourism body is adopting a new “brand platform” called “The Ultimate Playground.” The tourism campaign plays off of California’s free-spiritedness and abundance of destinations and experiences. The campaign is based on research about the value of play from the National Institute for Play in Northern California.

The campaign is a significant investment, part of Visit California’s total spending on global marketing this year of $158 million.

The focal point is a 30-second ad called “Let’s Play.” The video features 10 diverse destinations across California set to the tune of “Mr. Blue Sky.” Skift got a first look:

Ultimate Playground’s media buys will include streaming, linear TV, podcasts, and celebrity and influencer collaborations. The campaign will stretch across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K., Australia, and China over the next 18 months. 

Across all 14 of its core inbound markets, California will be pursuing media opportunities, trade integrations, and consumer activations under the banner of The Ultimate Playground, said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California.

Why California Needs a Reintroduction

The tourism rebrand is a response to a drop in consumer sentiment, especially domestically, toward its previous brand platform, “Dream Big,” which played off California’s image as the destination where anything is possible, a Visit California spokesperson said.  

During the state’s lockdown, Visit California couldn’t market as much, and its image took a hit. Politicization around its lockdown, media focus on urban challenges, and extensive coverage of devastating wildfires hurt the state’s image. 

Some of California’s most popular destinations were presented in a doom loop narrative. San Francisco, for example, became associated with crime, a downtown in decline, public drug abuse, and homelessness.


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Tags: california, san francisco, tourism, Visit California

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