The 10th anniversary year for Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month presents a triple whammy for the industry. Two rare events, the Winter Olympics and World Snow Day, combined with the Bring a Friend Challenge, give resorts three solid events to leverage and create visibility and motivation for learning how to ski or snowboard. LSSM/BAF organizers are rightly calling this the “Triple Play.”
With three anchor events, it makes sense for resorts to develop programs for LSSM and BAF, and to prepare specific invitations and PR campaigns around each anchor. This year more than most, it will be possible to promote the learn-to programs over a period of months, not just a weekend, week, or month. And the anchors provide plenty of hooks for media partnerships, as well as social media content.
An Olympic Movement
The biggest play, by far, is the 2018 Winter Olympics. As part of NBC’s contract with the International Olympic Committee, the network will air repeated messages aimed at viewers interested in learning Olympic sports. These messages will point to a website that provides relevant learn-to information. This is a major opportunity, and skiing and riding are better positioned to take advantage than most sports.
How effective the NBC effort will be is difficult to predict, but the potential is huge. For the 2014 Olympics, NBC created the “Gold Map” website to help connect viewers with sports organizations and drive participation in winter sports. This was a largely last-minute affair with limited impact—though the U. S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) and LSSM/BAF organizers worked it as well as they could.
This time around, NBC is making a much more robust effort. Two years ago, to help fulfill its contract with the IOC, NBC bought sportsengine.com, which connects consumers with sports organizations and clubs. This infrastructure will power the learn-to effort this year. Details are forthcoming; NBC was expected to begin rolling out the sport promotion to affiliates and sports organizations by mid-September. Resorts, USSA, and LSSM organizers will have a few busy months in which to adapt to whatever plan NBC rolls out.
Already, NBC has filmed learn-to plugs from more than 50 athletes, including skiers and riders. LSSM/BAF organizers will be working closely with USSA and NBC, so watch for news.
Resorts can imitate the athlete program by filming their own learn-to invitations with local and sponsored athletes, and using these testimonials to promote all three of the plays. Suppliers such as Head, Atomic, and Burton, with their teams of Olympic athletes, are another potential source for these spots.
Of course, promoting events around the Olympics is tricky; only official sponsors are allowed to use the term and the rings. But the upside is so great that it’s worth the effort. LSSM/BAF organizers can help with steps you can take without crossing swords with the IOC.
World Snow Day
The second play, World Snow Day, is a program that U.S. resorts have largely ignored in the past, as it has taken place over MLK weekend. Not this year, when it’s on Jan. 21, a week after MLK.
World Snow Day is sponsored by the International Ski Federation, as part of its effort to help grow skiing and riding worldwide. FIS promotes this especially for its Bring the Children to the Snow program, and it offers cash prizes to resorts for the most effective/creative events. Last year, there were nearly 500 events around the globe.
This event, too, offers a nice hook for media stories. What could be better than a worldwide movement? Plus, it provides a good opportunity to invite folks who have taken part in previous LSSM and BAF programs, in past years or even earlier in January, to return. With the Olympics barely two weeks later, NBC’s advance promotion of the Games will already have the attention of the general public, including the media.
For prize info and examples of resort promotions, check out www.world-snow-day.com.
Bring a Friend Challenge
The BAF Challenge will serve as this year’s LSSM/BAF kickoff event on Jan. 5-7. It puts the focus squarely on encouraging existing skiers and riders to introduce friends. To that end, organizers are urging resorts and state associations to reach out to core skiers and riders in a variety of ways, months ahead of the season.
One largely untapped resource: consumer ski shows. Several associations are already working with BEWI Productions’ shows in Boston and Denver to incentivize core participants to corral their pals. At consumer shows generally, resorts can tout learn-to programs at their booths and in media. LSSM organizers are also encouraging show producers to include news of BAF deals in their own promotional efforts.
As in past years, there is a BAF Challenge contest that involves a chance to win gear, travel, and other valuable prizes. Contest guidelines are at www.bringafriend.org.
Among the many other ways resorts can recruit core customers to become sports ambassador: Create a “Bring a Friend” learn to ski or snowboard offer specifically for that first weekend in January. Reward core customers for bringing friends, and throw a party for both the bringer and the bringee. The après party can introduce first-timers to the broader winter sports culture and seal the deal.
Nuts and Bolts
In fact, plan an age-appropriate après party for World Snow Day, too, with distinct family-friendly and adult-oriented options. Viewing parties are a natural during NBC’s Olympics coverage; make sure newcomers are invited and feel welcome.
National initiatives aside, it all begins with having a good on-snow program, whether beginners show up with friends or on their own. Consider providing custom mementos and goodie packages for these newbies to help cement your relationship with them.
At a loss for ideas? LSSM/BAF organizers have a slew of advice, templates, and creative materials for resorts to use. It’s important to tailor an on-snow and après program to your resort and audience, but the national organization can provide a lot of useful tools. It has, in fact, created an entire toolkit. Becoming a partner is well worth the small expense, even if there weren’t a tie-in to the Olympic broadcasts. For more information and up-to-date promotional news, head to www.learntoskiandsnowboard.org.