What do buses, breakers and buckets have to do with Panama City Beach? They're all included in next year's marketing plan.
This week, the Bay County Tourist Development Council (TDC) gave the green light to the 2014 media budget of $3.6 million. The plan includes print, broadcast and digital media targeting drive markets (Atlanta, Birmingham, Dothan, Huntsville, Tallahassee), fly markets (Dallas, Nashville, St. Louis) and international markets (Canada, United Kingdom, Germany).
The budget for marketing spring break, which brings the first big crowds of the year to the beach, is 100,000 – up $25,000 over last year but still a fraction of the total marketing budget. In 2013, the TDC allocated $75,000 for the event.
"The amount of money that the TDC is putting into this campaign is very small compared to the other things that we are spending money on," Dan Rowe, Executive Director, said. "The TDC is very concerned about the brand image of Panama City Beach."
Bay County commissioner Mike Thomas, who also serves on the TDC board and has been a vocal critic of some past spring break promotions, voted to approve the 2014 plan. "You can't stop it so you might as well make it better," Thomas said.
The TDC's spring promotional efforts will be implemented by Collegiate Marketing Group, the same company that received $50,000 of last year's total. The agency will use digital media to promote the first and last weeks of March. "Those are people that typically the police and motel people will all tell you we have less problems with," Thomas said.
"We believe that [by] working with Collegiate Marketing Group we can clearly target our message," Rowe said. "We understand what they'll do with the money, they have a track record in Panama City Beach [and] they've done well with the dollars that they've received previously."
Tourism officials see huge potential in attracting international travelers that have found Panama City Beach "by accident" while on their way to other destinations such as New Orleans.
According to Susan Estler, Vice President of Marketing for the Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, the beach has received positive press in several European publications. "Many people find the southern hospitality to be incredible and something that they haven't found in other areas of Florida when they're traveling throughout the state," Estler said.
In a cooperative advertising campaign with Visit Florida, Panama City Beach will be featured inside the train from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport through the downtown area. "When it is cold, dark, dreary, snowy, windy, you name it in Chicago... they'll be seeing positive images about Panama City Beach," Rowe said.
Rowe said a major emphasis will be placed on "visitor engagement" – encouraging them to share their experiences and extend the TDC's marketing reach. The centerpiece is a so-called "Bucket List" of activities visitors can aspire to. "They're able to do things that they may not have done or they've wanted to do, but they're also telling their friends and family of the different things you can do here," Rowe said.
Click on the links to view the complete marketing plans.