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Olympic countdown draws attention from media around the world

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It’s less than 365 days until the Olympics, and the global media attention is starting to zero in on Whistler.

Last week alone, as the 2010 Olympic torch was unveiled and the One-Year Countdown celebrations commenced, Whistler received more than 11 hours of broadcasting exposure, both nationally and internationally, according to Tourism Whistler.

“That is not just significant,” said Casey Vanden Heuvel, director of communications for Tourism Whistler. “That is massive.”

Vanden Heuvel said there were more than 10 major broadcast outlets reporting live from Whistler at various times last week, including Nine Network from Australia, SkyView from Mexico, ARD from Germany and China Central Television.

The biggest one was the NBC Today Show, which shot a 10-minute live segment at the base of Blackcomb at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 12.

“Our ad equivalency estimate for that (NBC Today Show coverage) is over $1 million… for an audience in excess of 5 million viewers,” said Vanden Heuvel, referring to the fact it would have cost Tourism Whistler $1 million to advertise for 10 minutes with that broadcaster.

“One in four visitors in Whistler come from the U.S., and the NBC Today Show allowed us to reach out to a great number of them in a really positive way.”

Whistler’s media exposure extended beyond these majors broadcasters.

Al Jazeera, The Korean Times, International Herald Tribune, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Reuters, the Bangkok Post and a slew of big-American papers were among the list of news media outlets that reported on the one-year countdown and Whistler’s preparations for the Games.

According to Vanden Heuvel, the weekend prior to the One Year Countdown, Tourism Whistler tracked 25 mentions of Whistler in North American and United Kingdom media. On Tuesday, Feb. 10, that number rose to 50 mentions. The following day, it was up to 150 mentions.

On Thursday, the actual Countdown day, Tourism Whistler counted 600 mentions of Whistler.

“Tourism Whistler has definitely identified that the media exposure, as a result of the 2010 Games, is the single biggest opportunity for brand awareness of our resort destination,” said Vanden Heuvel when asked what this coverage means for Whistler.

“You can see, with the kind of exceptional growth that happens with something like a One Year Countdown, how that is going to translate starting Jan. 1, 2010 until the end of March.”

More than 700 accredited and non-accredited media representatives are expected to be in Whistler during the Olympics, representing 30 to 40 countries.

Vanden Heuvel said last week’s media exposure was Tourism Whistler’s “test event” for communication during the Games.

“It was our opportunity to see what we are capable of, learn what we can focus on, what we can do better at, and establish some procedures and policies of our own in order to better maximize the Games-time opportunities,” he said.

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