Promo Programs

To make an impression; to attract customers; to celebrate aviation and the airport. These are just a few of the reasons airports invest dollars in marketing campaigns. AIRPORT BUSINESS recently spoke with several airports about some of their most creative and unique programs. One trend that comes through is that the use of the Internet as an advertising and measurement tool is influencing airport marketing teams and the
audiences they are looking to reach.

The San Diego International Airport marketing staff had several goals in mind when it established its 2003 marketing campaign, according to VP of marketing and communications Therese Corso. "Our goals were to inform the public and provide opportunities for the community to celebrate aviation, as well as to position the authority as a new public enterprise -- a modern airport to a thriving region." Not only was 2003 the 100th anniversary of aviation, but also the 75th anniversary of Lindbergh Field and the first year of the San Diego Regional Airport Authority's existence. "It was our coming out party, so to speak," says Steven Schultz, press officer.

To commemorate the event, a 100-page book was published, along with a film entitled The Future Takes Wing: San Diego International Airport, 75 Years of Flight. According to Corso, the book won a number of awards and the film even won an Emmy from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in the historical/biographical program category. Corso says that not only is it unheard of for an airport to win an Emmy, it's also rare that a public sector agency would win the award.

Besides the marketing pieces, SAN also held events to celebrate and promote aviation and the airport. A family day was held at the airport in August 2003, complete with a flyover of a replica of the Spirit of St. Louis.

Another public event was a concert held at Balboa Park featuring the San Diego Symphony playing all aviation-themed music, including Flight of the Bumble Bee and other songs from aviation films. This was free and open to the public.
These events along with banners hanging in the airport and a specially designed logo for the occasion helped to create a "unique brand identity," says Corso. The airport also ran two TV spots on a local public broadcasting network, which also won awards.

The airports' 2003 budget for the campaign was some $300,000, says Corso. However, many of the events were co-sponsored by community partners, such as the San Diego Symphony Orchestra and the San Diego Aerospace Museum.

Quantifying Success
Corso explains that a number of elements are analyzed to measure the success of the airport's marketing campaign. One is what she calls the publicity value: "How much media coverage we received. In 2003 where the focus was on the anniversary, we had something like over 250 stories either on television or in print done on the airport."

From that exposure, Corso estimates the value to the airport was $850,000 in publicity. Other ways to measure include attendance at the events and activity on the website. "We notice that when we have a major exposure in the press we have a sharp increase in web hits," she says.

New air service is a direct result of the marketing effort and another way Corso measures results. "We saw a net gain of 90 additional weekly flights, and that's pretty significant," she says.

Along with the aforementioned awards, SAN was also the recipient of Airports Council International-North America's highest marketing honor, the Peggy G. Hereford Overall Award for Excellence.

While there is nothing that SAN has done in terms of marketing that it would not implement again, Corso says the airport will definitely increase the use of its website ( in its campaigns, particularly with what she calls the airport's biggest issue: selecting a site for a possible new airport.

"We're planning some big public events around that," says Corso. "We have a series of aviation education forums where we bring in experts to talk to the community leaders and educate them about air transportation issues." A referendum to decide whether a new airport will be built and where goes before the voters in 2006. "We want to get as much education out there to the public so they can make an informed decision."

Corso says the marketing budget has increased as the overall airport budget has increased. And, because of the financial pressures airlines have been feeling in recent years, SAN has increased its marketing efforts. "Because the airlines cut back, we decided that we would provide that service for them," says Corso.

Book Celebrates, Informs
The Spirit of St. Louis Airport (MO) has an annual marketing budget between $17,000 and $20,000, according to John Bales, acting director. For the airport's 40th anniversary, it invested a portion of that in a piece commemorating and celebrating the history of the airport. In partnership with Phillips 66 Aviation and with the help of Marketing Alternatives Inc., the airport printed some 2,500 copies of the commemorative Spirit of St. Louis Airport 40th Anniversary book, which was distributed to tenants and users of the airport, as well as the local community and media.

The book informs the community about the activities at the airport as well as the history, and attracts potential customers and tenants. Ted McDermott, Marketing Alternatives Inc. says the book along with the airport's entire marketing campaign convey sophistication and a positive image for the airport.

"It's very important to have a marketing presence," he says. "This book was an opportunity to reach the aviation and non-aviation community. And any time you can overlap those efforts it's money well spent." Spirit of St. Louis Airport also works with MAI on a newsletter and other promotional items.

Bales says some of the airport's 2005 marketing dollars will go toward preparing for the NCAA Final Four tournament to be held here in March. The airport plans to direct its marketing toward the NCAA schools, businesses, and sponsors involved with the tournament. "As time gets closer we'll do more specific mailed and emailed pieces to those teams we know will be in the Final Four," he says.

Reasons to Fly SDF
Louisville International Airport (SDF) is using billboards and a radio campaign to remind the community of the reasons to fly from the airport, including low fares, convenience, and new facilities. According to William Rawlings, director of marketing, the billboards and radio spots can be seen or heard in Lexington, KY, Cincinnati, OH, and Evansville, IN. SDF has an annual marketing budget of some $500,000 and contracts with the local Paul Schultz Advertising agency.

Says Rawlings, "What we're really saying with the billboards is there are many, many reasons to choose our airport. We have spent roughly $40 million in total renovation of our airport, and there are still plans being made for improvement. Because of this we continue to advertise and promote the airport."

MKE's Marketing ‘Ordeal'
General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee worked with two agencies on one of its most recent campaigns, "Avoid the Chicago ORDeal." Says MKE public relations director Pat Rowe, "We sat down to do our strategic planning for the year and came to the conclusion that the purchase of airline tickets is being done more and more online," explains Rowe. The two-part campaign then plays off this trend.

The first part involved online advertising with Orbitz, says Rowe. When users of the site entered Chicago O'Hare as their arrival or departure airport, an ad for Avoid the Chicago ORDeal, Fly MKE would appear. Clicking on the ad would give the user a fare calculator, demonstrating the possible savings by flying out of MKE -- not just airline savings but parking savings as well.
The second part of the campaign was a coupon booklet mailed to frequent fliers and through newspapers. Some 115,000 printed pieces were distributed. This offered travelers further discounts on parking at MKE and a more detailed look at how traveling from MKE could save them time, money, and hassle.

The cost of the campaign was some $80,000, says Rowe. While it's still too early to determine the level of success, she says "we were very encouraged by the hits on the website." Rowe says has had some 9,000 unique visitors since it went live in April 2003.

Rowe says the airport will definitely make more use of online vehicles to promote the airport. "That's the wave of the future. We absolutely will continue to fold technology into our marketing."