Airwaves Help Sweeps Soar for Tourism Ireland

Talk show host Rosie O'Donnell's mention of Tourism Ireland's “Home Away from Home” online sweepstakes, plugs during NBC's “Today” and other marketing efforts yielded 47,278 registrants, of which 16,834 opted into the tourism promotion agency's database.

Live March 11 through April 30, the campaign primarily aimed to create awareness of Ireland as a tourist spot.

“Due to the decrease in people traveling overseas due to terrorism, we needed to increase awareness of Ireland as a tourist destination and as a safe home away from home,” said Susie Lanza, marketing manager of New York-based Edelman Interactive Solutions, which produced the sweepstakes.

The campaign targeted U.S. consumers ages 25 to 65 in the slightly upper-income demographic.

O'Donnell was booked for free to deliver the program messages and to give away a trip and gift baskets from Waterford crystal and Irish-themed live on her March 13 show. She then asked viewers to visit to win their own trip.

Once online, visitors could register for the sweepstakes and sign up for e-mail updates. They could plan and book vacation packages, participate in offers and get information on tour operators.

Edelman also created Webdecoder game pieces to drive people from offline to to register to play to win. The Webdecoder game piece was placed against the blue screen on the site to see whether the visitor had won a trip to Ireland, Waterford crystal or other Irish gifts.

The game pieces were distributed guerrilla-style the week of March 11 to passengers at the Delta Shuttle check-in counter at New York's LaGuardia airport. The pieces also were handed out at other high-traffic locations around New York City like the Grand Central and Pennsylvania train stations. In all, about 25,000 pieces were distributed.

“We had a 7.7 percent return rate on that, about 2,000 registered on, and it was an interesting test of a new way to get people to a Web site,” Lanza said.

Extra support came through signage at a concert March 16 outside NBC's “Today” show studio in New York's Rockefeller Center.

“We were in the crowd about six to seven times, and each time they focused on our board, we were on for a second or so,” Lanza said.

A survey with researcher Bert Sperling that showed Ireland was No. 1 in a poll of the “World's Most Welcoming Places” was also pitched to several news outlets.

Altogether, such marketing gained traction for For example, the site recorded only 264 sweepstakes registrations before the Rosie placement. Afterward, registrations shot up to 5,780.

Similarly, before the “Today” concert, had 7,000 registrations. Registrations swelled to 13,160 by day's end.

“I think it was more the combination of strategic and integrated public relations and online marketing,” Lanza said.

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