Sponsorship and event marketing for tourism

Hawaii isn’t the only location in the country to be experiencing a decline in tourism, but relative to other locations (even other hot-spots) the importance of tourism to our economy is a bigger piece of the pie. The state and the tourism entities are certainly working hard to ensure that new markets are opened and that Hawaii remains a destination of choice.

Sponsorship and events are playing a key role in destination marketing for other locations and it would be quite easy for Hawaii to do the same. For example, I just read about a tour that the State of Texas is doing throughout the summer to various festivals and events in the Midwest. The mobile tour features interactive games which feature Texas are more than just a dusty, cowboy centric place (i.e. guessing whether various photos were taken in “Texas or Not?”) and a video kayaking tour. Visitors are treated to a complimentary CD of Texas Musicians upon departure through the tour. In addition to taking the tour to 15 locations (mostly Fairs and Festivals), Texas is buying sponsorships to ensure inclusion in advertising and awareness beyond festival attendees. If Texas can change its dusty image, certainly Hawaii can attract new markets.

Imagine how easy Hawaii would be to sell with an similar interactive program throughout Asia and the western US? When people can feel as though they “know” Hawaii, what’s not to love?

On another note: about a month ago, there was an article in PBN about how the PGA has removed golf tournaments from the Hawaiian islands, while still taking the promotional dollars provided to them by the HTA to support such events. HTA was clearly frustrated by the lack of results, and their confidence in the PGA was shaken. When I read the article, I wondered to myself what the real problem was. After all, golf as a sport has changed but it is hardly hurting (I think major league hockey is the big major sport bummer) and how is it that the PGA can support events in smaller, less impressive markets, but not Hawaii? Automatically, everyone says “cost of getting here” but I don’t buy it – there are majors tournaments all over the world. Something seemed amiss, and I thought that it was the opportunities that the PGA provides its corporate partners that was at the heart of the problem.

Compare the PBN article (Aug. 08):

“I’m a little concerned about the PGA’s ability to secure title sponsors, and I am concerned about the overall field that they get out here to Hawaii,” said David Uchiyama, HTA’s marketing director. “You don’t see a Tiger Woods or a Phil Mickelson.”

to this:

“North American-based companies will spend an estimated $1.36 billion to sponsor pro and amateur golf tournaments, sanctioning bodies and related events in ’08, up nine percent from $1.25 billion in ’07. “ – IEG Sept. 08

Furthermore, the significant growth in golf partnerships is due to increased sponsorship opportunities that are more “robust” and come from golf associations other than the PGA including the USGA. Perhaps the PGA has gotten so comfortable that it is no longer being creative in its partnership presentations and opportunities. (Boy, if THAT isn’t a lesson learned for properties).

Granted the HTA has to be selective and smart about where it spends its budget, particularly in these times, but the HTA is right to request that its funds be returned. Perhaps they could send that budget on a program with the USGA or a marketing program that puts Hawaii into the hands of potential visitors, such as a mobile event-marketing program.