Festival reveals $5 million marketing grand alliance Spreading the word brings 'em in By Chris Woodall The MasterCard World Ski & Snowboard Festival has unveiled an expansive new network of marketing alliances to boost popularity of the third annual fest. The value of all this promotion is said to be more than $5 million. It's a full-on assault by direct mail, television, radio, retail promotions, shopping mall signage, print media and consumer contests involving promotional partnerships throughout North America. "We consider it our No. 1 priority to bring more people to the resort at a time when resort visits normally begin to taper," says Doug Perry, festival chairman. This year's World Ski & Snowboard Festival is April 10-19. To corral a larger herd of visitors to Whistler, the festival will thoroughly stampede established markets, and aggressively cut trail into new markets, Perry says. "Every corporate alliance linked to the festival has been structured to drive people to the resort," Perry says. It has worked in the past. Whistler/Blackcomb had some of its busiest days of the year on both mountains during the festival in 1997. "Hotel reservations are up 25 per cent across the board for April (compared to last year)," Perry says. MasterCard doesn't have its name on the festival for nothing. The festival — the official name is the MasterCard World Ski and Snowboard Festival presented by Capital One — is featured in a new ski and snowboard affinity card campaign reaching hundreds of thousands of people on this continent. As people choose between skier or snowboarder graphics on their credit card, they are invited to "ski for free" at the resort. The program allows them to ski free for three days when they buy a four-night accommodation package for $279 (U.S.) in a co-operative deal hatched between Whistler/Blackcomb and the Whistler Resort Association. Labatt's Kokanee brand carries the festival hoopla to tipplers from B.C. to Ontario in its Kokanee Meltdown promotion, which offers a chance to win a trip to the festival. The $1 million radio campaign is supported on 1 million cases of Kokanee, on 1,500 retail displays and in 800 bar promotions. The festival's music and entertainment package, "Sonic Summit," sponsored by Canadian Classics, also moves the message from here to Ontario. That campaign is worth $400,000 and involves radio and bar promotions in 36 cities. Even the good folks in Quebec won't escape the avalanche of hype. A national mall campaign, in co-operation with Merchant Media, will pump the ski for free packages on five-foot displays in 161 shopping centres across Canada this week. The signs will be within the sightlines of a lot of people. "We've worked our way into the busiest traffic zones in Toronto," Perry says. "Some of the pedestrian zones where we are on display see 400,000 people a day." The major players in the ski industry are helping, too. A half-million-dollar campaign (Operation SnoBlast) funded jointly by Intrawest Corporation, the American Skiing Company and Vail Associates, and spearheaded by the National Ski Areas Association, aims to draw 13-21 year-olds into snow sports. "It's an unprecedented show of co-operation," Perry says. Plans for the campaign were unveiled last spring at a NSAA symposium in Whistler. Whistler appears to be the winner of the campaign, however, as NSAA polling of that age group found an overwhelming desire to come here. A prize trip to Whistler (Ultimate SnoBlast) is part of the push, including promotion in less traditional magazines such as Spin, WARP, Surfing and Plow. Alternative music radio stations in 30 cities and youth-oriented TV programming in 21 regional U.S. networks is part of the marketing drive. Just to ensure the message is everywhere in this province, the festival will be promoted at 59 Ford dealerships, at all Lower Mainland IGAs in association with Coca-Cola, and through every Salomon retailer in Canada. And no, it doesn't end there. Partnerships with major media such as the Vancouver Sun and Province, VTV and CFOX worth $300,000 will be launched soon. More than 200,000 households will be zapped this spring in a direct mail push run jointly by WRA, Whistler/Blackcomb, Ski Can and several hotel properties. "The message we're sending out is simple: we have the best spring skiing and riding conditions on the continent," Perry says.