It was the little Internet marketing and social networking campaign that could.
At last count, more than 65,000 people have visited the Whistler Sabbatical Project's website at http://wouldyoudoit.whistler.com. The Facebook page at "Go Whistler" has over 12,000 "likes," and is growing. And the number of entries into the competition — where the first prize is an all-expenses trip to Whistler for one month, plus a salary — was closing in on 10,000.
More importantly, the story Whistler Sabbatical Project has been picked up across a wide variety of media, bringing global exposure to the resort in a new way.
Kirsten Homeniuk, senior manager of marketing services at Tourism Whistler, wouldn't say they were surprised by the success of the campaign, but agreed that it has exceeded their expectations in a lot of different ways — including how much it's been embraced by Tourism Whistler members and the community as a whole.
"From my perspective, and from all of Tourism Whistler, we certainly strived for an integrated campaign where everybody is singing the same tune and working collectively together, and I feel that no campaign to date has been able to do that like this one," she said.
The Whistler Sabbatical Project was launched back in October and closes on Jan. 31, 2012. A group of 10 randomly selected finalists will be drawn from Feb. 1 to Feb. 10, and will have to write a short essay of 250 words or less to describe what winning the Whistler Sabbatical Project would mean to them. A grand-prize winner will be announced on Feb. 13 and the winner will have from Mar. 1 to Apr. 30 to claim their prize. The prize?
A round-trip ticket for two to Vancouver and ground transportation by private limousine to Whistler. One month of accommodation in a fully furnished home chosen by Tourism Whistler. Two one-month Whistler Blackcomb ski passes, two one-month bus passes, two pairs of K2 skis, with poles, bindings, boots and travel case, and one month's salary for the grand-prize winner up to $4,200. The winner will also receive up to 18 "Explore Your Options" activities provided by Tourism Whistler members, ranging from dinners to tours.
The contest is open to anyone in Canada, the U.S., Australia and the U.K.
The cost of the campaign has not been tallied yet, nor has the value of the exposure that the contest has generated for the resort. Homeniuk said the numbers are being tallied, but expects the value to be significant.
The idea of running a contest as the resort's main promotion for the season is a bit different for Tourism Whistler, but they wanted to do something that would resonate with its target market.