Over the past few years, Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership has been increasing Northwestern Ontario's presence into the US Midwest markets, primarily around outdoor and more specifically, angling experiences.
In Chicago, the program is aptly titled "Canada's Great Outdoors" and thanks to an investment partnership between the Regional Tourism Organization and OTMPC totalling almost $600 000, the program has continued to grow in 2011.
Prior to 2001, Northwestern Ontario was well known in the US Midwest and it was a major market for summer outdoor experience seekers. Obviously, security and economic changes post 2001 created a new environment and the marketing efforts disappeared. Curtailing marketing efforts at that time did little other than reduce and almost eliminate our brand awareness into the Illinois market.
This year we have a multi media mixture of web, radio, bill board and print to help regain market share in a significant close haul market where research has indicated over the past four years, a large, economically solid foundation of outdoor enthusiasts. The call to action is Canadasgreatoutdoors.com, a portal developed to help outdoor enthusiasts in the US and other international markets navigate to find their desired experiences and provides individual tourist operators the chance to link free to the site, helping consumers find their way to them. Operators can list free of charge on the site and it gives them another opportunity for potential new clients to find them.
In addition to having Thunder Bay's Patrick Sharp and Babe Winkleman, one of the US's most well known as respected outdoor personalities, as radio spokespersons, we have also sponsored Chauncey's Great Outdoors, a Saturday morning radio program on ESPN 1000. As part of the twelve week sponsorship, we've offered twelve spots to Northwestern Ontario tourist outfitters to tell the avid outdoor enthusiast, their stories.
I've had a chance to meet Chauncey Niziol a few times over the past year and he's one of the most passionate, down to earth, fun and outgoing outdoor personalities I've met. his weekly radio show is heard by tens of thousands and his pod casts by thousands more. He also knows where to find me Chicago's best roast beef sandwiches...but that's another story.
After week two of the sponsorship, we've already been able to feature two great area outfitters. Last weekend, we kicked off the sponsorship with an interview with Alan Cheeseman of Wildernesss North and yesterday, featured John Covello of Dog Lake Resort. Both of these operators are high quality class acts, the kinds of folks we want to highlight for the exceptional angling experiences they provide, their amazing approach to customer service and their entrepreneurial spirit.
What I really love is that both Alan and John understand the connection between the urban and outdoors in our area and both plugged Thunder Bay as their gateway cities and the air connection from the Chicago area, particularly using Porter Airlines. It's important that we work closely with the world class angling providers outside our city limits because it helps raise the profile of Thunder Bay as Canada's Best Outdoor City and helps increase the economic impact in the city when our outdoor visitors stay a night, buy dinner, rent a car, or buy gas, bait, etc.
You can listen to the Wilderness North interview here, starting at the 17 minute mark.
You can tune into Dog Lake Resort's interview here, starting just after the 19 minute mark.
We'll be featuring Lake Superior Salmon fishing soon and there are still opportunities for lodge operators to take advantage of one of a few remaining sponsorship spots. There's no cost to participate. Anyone interested can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Canada's Great Outdoors is probably one of the best brand positioning efforts I've seen in a long time and there is tremendous opportunity for us in the Northwest to grow it and make it fit our specific experiences and markets. This can very well expand beyond its current geographic placement in Illinois and be prominently promoted through US and global avid outdoor media channels that will increase the position of the Northwest and from there, drive new exposure opportunities for individual operators. Its unfortunate that the uptake by the regional marketers to this program or interest to make it their own has been limited but thankfully we have a growing segment of the outfitter's market interested in pursuing new and innovative approaches to positioning our outdoors as it should be positoned - as world class.