Marketing Blizzard Gives Ski Site a Lift

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Ski resort Sugarloaf/USA concludes a season-long marketing campaign this week that has increased its online database fivefold and raised online revenue 47 percent.


The campaign, which included direct mail, e-mail and a radio spot, began in September to tout the Carrabassett, ME resort's 50th anniversary. It targeted Boston, northern Massachusetts and Maine.


The resort began the campaign by sending introductory e-mails to its existing database to notify those people about its Golden Ticket giveaway. The promotion offered random giveaways, such as ski passes and vacations, in exchange for opting in to receive a weekly e-mail newsletter.


Sugarloaf followed up the e-mails with a 10-day radio spot, inviting people to its Web site, www.sugarloaf.com, to opt in for the newsletters. Around that time, it dropped a 4 1/4-by-6-inch direct mail piece to its offline database of 40,000 people, hoping to drive them to its Web site as well. Respondents to the radio and direct mail campaigns also could participate in the Golden Ticket promotion.


The effort increased Sugarloaf's e-mail database from 4,000 to more than 20,000.


"We were very satisfied with results," said Jim Costello, vice president of marketing at Sugarloaf. "We were able to build specific target audiences and send out our newsletters accordingly."


Those who signed up for the newsletters provided demographic data that Sugarloaf used to segment its database, Costello said. The company sent two e-mails per week -- one informational and one promotional -- to generate bookings, he said.


Costello said some of the promotional e-mails recorded a 10 percent response rate, compared with a 1 percent rate for direct mail campaigns it had previously run.


The company saw a 10 percent increase in winter reservations, which Costello attributed primarily to the online marketing. Online sales were $517,000 for the 2000-01 ski season, up from $351,000 for the previous ski season.


Another goal of the campaign was to create word-of-mouth marketing for the resort. Sugarloaf followed up the first three phases of the campaign with another direct mail drive to people who opted in, this time thanking them for signing up and offering them two-for-one tickets to the resort, Costello said.


"It touched off a real viral effect, and people started telling their friends about it," he said. That direct mail effort had a 40 percent response rate, he said.


Sugarloaf also mailed daily planners that included Golden Tickets, said Rich Rico, chief creative officer and founding partner at VIA, Portland, ME, an integrated communications firm that managed some of the marketing for the campaign. The goal, again, was to drive people to the Web site.


A result of the push to the Web was that Sugarloaf's phone volume decreased 15 percent, Costello said.


"The Internet has lowered our costs of marketing in every imaginable way because the e-mail newsletters are so cost-effective," he said. "We're able to send out these newsletters twice a week at a very low cost and get back an impressive return. We weren't able to do that as easily with our direct mail efforts."


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