Ski Corp. hires new ad agency


The Steamboat Ski Area already has skied a few runs with its new advertising agency.

Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. announced earlier this month it had awarded its advertising account to Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell of Orlando, Fla. The announcement marks a shift away from the VIA agency that created the "This is My Steamboat" campaign now running in skiing and outdoor recreation magazines. However, ski area executives say they remain pleased with the campaign and will ask their new agency to expand on it.

"YPB&R won us over with their insightful strategies, extensive research and analytical capabilities, and bold, creative ideas," said Andy Wirth, vice president of sales and marketing for Steamboat and The Canyons in Park City, Utah. "We truly believe YPB&R will help the Steamboat brand stand out in a crowded and very competitive category."

Although YPB&R is in a Sunbelt state, the agency specializes in leisure travel accounts and publishes a thick report on mountain travel trends. Steamboat consulted closely with YPB&R to adjust its strategy during the travel downturn immediately after the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Recent YPB&R clients have included Carnival Cruise Lines, Ritz Carlton Hotel Company, Marriott International and the Mexico Tourism Board.

CEO Peter Yesawich has been a frequent speaker here, appearing before the annual convention of airline executives hosted by the ski area.

The notion of the "time impoverished" vacationer has been one of Yesawich's themes. He said mountain resorts must continue to make themselves more and more convenient for vacationers who can't seem to pull themselves away from their careers for more than four days. Travel times to destination resorts play an ever-increasing role in vacation decision-making, Yesawich said.

Yesawich also has told Steamboat audiences that the Internet has empowered travel consumers in their quests for bargains, and haggling about lodging rates and vacation packages has become part of the culture.

Steamboat's agency switch was anticipated -- Wirth confirmed in August that his team was evaluating proposals from 10 agencies even as the "This is My Steamboat" campaign was rolling out. The new campaign was Steamboat's first big shift in emphasis this decade. Doug LaPlaca, Steamboat's marketing director, said the ski area was happy with the work done by Portland, Maine-based VIA and creative director David Abend.

However, Wirth said Steamboat decided it needed an agency that is stronger in research.

VIA was hired in 2003 to service accounts at all seven of the ski resorts in the American Skiing Co. family, Steamboat among them. The intent was to create economies of scale. However, Wirth said that approach was abandoned because it proved difficult for one agency to develop campaigns suited to the divergent customer bases of the different resorts stretching from Utah to Vermont and Maine.

Steamboat's "This is My Steamboat campaign" is meant to make an emotional connection with potential Steamboat vacationers.

The new ad campaign marks a departure from the familiar campaign that had been running since the autumn of 2001 and the build-up to the Winter Olympics in Utah. That campaign was successful in building on Steamboat's brand: family friendly, Ski Town USA, home of Olympians, genuine Western friendliness and powder. However, it fell short in some areas, based on interviews with casual focus groups, LaPlaca said.

Typical of the new campaign is a two-page magazine spread, which features two dominant photographs. On the left side is a sepia-toned portrait of a wistful young woman. The right side of the ad portrays a trio of horses grazing through the snow in front of the iconographic More Barn, with the slopes of Mount Werner looming in the background.

The main body of text reads: "I count horses through my windowpane. 5 ... 6 ... 7 ... I watch them pawing quietly at the snowy earth, snorting short billows of steam, listening to the mountain like I do."

"This is my Steamboat."

The ad is completed with information about contacting Steamboat in small type and a trio of more traditional photographs by Steamboat photographer Larry Pierce that appear to be tucked into the frame of a bulletin board or picture frame.

The use of sepia-toned photographs is meant to make the ads stand out from the standard fare in ski magazines.


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