"Partners’ help ski areas with marketing
SUMMIT COUNTY – When ski resorts send out direct mail advertising this summer and fall, some prospective customers will receive it not because they went skiing this winter, but because of the car they bought.
Resort companies, like other large corporations, have used partnerships and sponsorships from other companies to help push their products and capture customers. And with the country’s economy in a stall, consumers can expect these tag-team efforts to continue, if not increase, as companies vie to position themselves to collect from a smaller pool of dollars.
Sometimes, competing resorts partner with competing products. Vail Resorts, for example, enjoys a partnership with Pepsi. Coke joined forces with Copper Mountain, on the other hand.
Sometimes the partnership changes to reflect a company’s new target market. Copper has a partnership with Chevy trucks. Vail Resorts used to partner with Chevy but switched to BMW a couple years ago.
And in at least one case, the competing resorts partner with the same company. Both Vail Resorts and Copper Mountain maintain a partnership with Coors.
“It’s a symbol of lifestyle association,” said Ken Rider, Copper Mountain’s manager of partnerships and promotions, who likened the practice to professional sports, in which stadiums and teams take on sponsorships from companies. “People who are into the active lifestyle like to use brands they’re familiar with or associate with that target lifestyle.”
Some of the sponsorships are little more than advertising for the companies. Nature Valley, the granola bar-maker owned by General Mills, for example, merely provides food products to be distributed on the mountain. Other companies also pay a fee for the exclusive right to have their product sold on the mountain.
The partnership relationship benefits both companies, said those in charge of partnerships at the resorts. Ski areas take advantage of discounts to purchase fleets of snowshoes or host a conference of BMW owners. The manufacturers or service providers that partner with resorts get increased exposure for their business.
At Keystone each year, BMW hosts conferences for dealers and owners. The events also include test drives, offering an extra experience for the regular Keystone visitor.
“We’re trying to get true marketing value on a two-way street,” said Martin White, Vail Resorts’ senior vice president for marketing and sales. “We want to enhance our guests’ experience and benefit our partners.”
The marketing message can also be low-key. Rider said customers are constantly bombarded with advertising messages, and some partnerships take on subtle aspects so that “people don’t feel like they’re being screamed at.” He cited the ski area’s deal with Coca-Cola as an example: The beverage-maker sponsors the resort’s tubing hill, and the resort hangs unobtrusive Coke banners around the area.
In the age of electronic data, the companies can also join forces with information. White said Vail Resorts and its partners share marketing databases and criss-cross their advertising efforts. Pepsi, for example, used to simply pay Vail Resorts a fee. Now, the two companies share each others’ marketing databases for an extended list of addresses.
The partner companies also extend the resorts’ geographic reach, White said. BMW sees its highest sales on the East Coast; this allows Vail Resorts access to prospective skiers outside of the West. Coors is popular in Texas. White said Coors vendors in Texas offer Vail Resorts opportunities for point-of-purchase promotions.
Macy Allatt, marketing coordinator and director of partnership programs for Atlas Snowshoes, said the relationships can not only help a company but fuel an industry. Atlas, a San
Francisco-based maker of snowshoes, pioneered a snowshoe partnership with Vail in 1996. Since then, the program has grown to more than 50 resorts throughout the country at the same time snowshoeing has seen a burgeoning popularity. Atlas capitalized on this growth, Allatt said, aided by the first snowshoe-related patents in years for springloaded bindings.
“It’s very helpful to us,” Allatt said. “We’ve established races, teams with local athletes, and, in the outdoor industry, you need to have these kinds of relationships for leverage.”
The relationships can suffer the throes of the economy, though. As Starbucks’ coffee brand grew, Vail Resorts joined forces with them and parted ways with Millstone. For communications technology, Copper Mountain entered into a partnership with WorldCom. Since forming the partnership, auditors revealed $80 billion in overestimated value in the company, which has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
“It can be frustrating,” said Rider, who added the partnership with WorldCom is still intact. “You can have partners who might not even be people you work with and suddenly things go south.”
Consumers can expect the match-making to continue. White said that Vail Resorts will “aggressively” expand its partnership efforts, including more space for partners on Vail’s Web sites. New partnership deals might also be in the offing.
“We’re working on some mega-deals right now,” White said of Vail Resorts. “We’re no longer just a ski company. We’ve become heavily invested in golf.”
Ski resort partners:
Resort companies partner with other corporations to mutual benefit – increased exposure, customer loyalty and added value to experience.
Vail Resorts partners with: Atlas Snowshoes, BMW, Charles Schwab, Hewlett Packard, Coors, Hertz, Starbucks, Mountainsmith, Nature Valley, Outlast, Pepsi, Rocky Mountain Sunscreen, Smartwool and Sprint.
Copper Mountain partners with: Chevy Trucks, Coors, Coca-Cola, Evian, WorldCom, Eduproject, Wells Fargo Bank, Summit Foundation, Special Olympics and Warren Miller Entertainment.
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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