Highlighting the unique “personalities” and experiences of the over 40 mountains and ski resorts that are part of Alterra Mountain Co.’s Ikon Pass is a juggle for Gate 7’s representation team. Distilling the power and utility of the Ikon Pass into just four days of breakfast TV broadcast integration is even tougher. But when our team was faced with mounting time pressures from wild weather and COVID-19, they helped create twelve fantastic segments of live television.
Background and Challenge
Alterra Mountain Co. owns and manages a total of 41 mountains ski resorts around the world, and is well-known amongst skiers for its Ikon Pass, a 12-month global ski pass that gives holders access to any of Alterra’s 15 owned mountains, plus an additional 26 associated mountains.
During its second full year of Public Relations representation in the Australian market by Gate 7, Alterra Mountain Co. wanted to expand brand awareness and highlight the power of its Ikon Pass to Australian consumers. With so many mountains available to pass holders—each with its own unique personality and experiences—finding the perfect way to distill the wide scope of the program into a singular message would be pivotal to the success of the campaign.
Gate 7’s PR team knew that a broadcast integration would be the perfect way to take Alterra’s key messages to various target markets within the national audience simultaneously. In particular, the team focussed on live breakfast television because it presented the perfect mix of broad appeal and narrative integration for the type of mass media exposure that Alterra Mountain Co. was seeking.
However, breakfast television presents its own challenges. From the innate risks of live broadcasting, to unique pivots from one day’s production messaging to the next, not to mention further challenges presented by Australia’s 2019/20 bushfire season and the spectre of COVID-19, the upcoming integration’s window for success was narrowing.
Strategy and Solution
By weaving specific marketing messaging into the narrative of the program, Gate 7 would be able to amplify Ikon Pass information to a wide range of viewers, while taking advantage of unique opportunities to bring that message direct from not just one destination, but several, to showcase the depth and breadth of mountains available to pass holders. Channel 7’s Sunrise program, with the largest audience amongst the many breakfast television programs, presented the opportunity to reach the largest audience. Gate 7 had worked with the production team behind Sunrise previously on a number of integrations ranging from single-day trips to week-long road trip specials.
The team immediately got to work booking back-to-back weekend slots on Channel 7’s Weekend Sunrise, where weather presenter James Tobin would broadcast live from Ikon Pass destinations in the U.S., delivering a total of four days’ coverage, capitalising on his love of skiing.
Initial planning for the programming began in March 2019, at a Gate 7-hosted media sales mission for the Alterra-owned and affiliated resorts, when Tobin met with five representatives from Alterra Mountain Co. and its associated destinations. More detailed planning began towards the end of 2019, aiming for a broadcast in January and February, however due to sensitivities around Australia’s tragic bushfire season, this timeline was pushed back to a March broadcast date.
Comprehensive narrative across the 24 weather crosses would focus on Tobin’s “Ikon Pass Journey.” As the crew moved from one mountain to the next, they highlighted the activities and facilities available at each, including family-friendly slopes, après ski spots, and culinary experiences. During these crosses, Tobin interviewed mountain communications representatives and local skiers, highlighting how travellers could integrate snow days into their classic California and U.S. holidays, and detailing a new policy allowing better utilisation of the Pass between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere winter seasons.
The crosses included footage from the slopes plus Ikon Pass branded graphics showcasing how consumers could plan the ultimate ski holiday. A follow up integration from Australia’s Thredbo Mountain in the Southern Hemisphere winter months continued to emphasise the global utility of the Pass post-broadcast.
Results and Learnings
On the first weekend, the broadcast integration showed incredible results. With over 1.5 million Australian consumers tuned-in, the first 12 live weather cross segments were worth an estimated AUD$5.5 million in PR value. However, this weekend stood alone, as Channel 7 recalled the on-ground production team before the second broadcast weekend due to progression of the COVID-19 outbreak throughout March. While the Californian destinations completed their broadcast, unfortunately none of Colorado’s locations made it to air.
While this unfortunate turn of events cut the broadcast short, initial results indicated that the second weekend of broadcasts would have received equal viewership numbers, if not more, due to more audiences staying home due to COVID restrictions. And it wasn’t all bad news, as the events solidified our relationship with Alterra Mountain Co. immediately prior to a particularly tough time in the global travel industry.