Gaylord Hotels was made for Christmas. Its special holiday events have brought magic to hundreds of thousands of guests and historically driven nearly 40% of leisure revenue between events and room sales. However, when COVID-19 rocked the country in 2020, Christmas programming looked to be in jeopardy. The hotel’s annual ICE! events were cancelled because the ice carvers couldn’t get visas and willingness to travel had plummeted. The brand pivoted quickly to launch a brand-new event, I Love Christmas Movies™, alongside the usual lineup of Christmas programming. The Gaylord Marketing Organization was tasked with selling room nights, educating consumers about new programming, and selling tickets to the events, all in a compressed timeline. The team had just six weeks to sell the event before opening – far less than the typical 20 weeks.
The goals of the campaign were to drive sales for room nights and room night packages, raise awareness and drive sales for the all-new I Love Christmas Movies event, as well as support ticket sales for other holiday programming. These objectives were continuously measured by ROAS and ROI, CTR, website traffic, impressions and reach, and gap to goal for ticket pace and room nights.
To overcome the challenges of marketing a new event and operating on a very tight timeline, the team launched SO. MUCH. CHRISTMAS. as an umbrella campaign designed to encompass all of Gaylord’s Christmas events and programming, including the new I Love Christmas Movies event. The visually compelling SO. MUCH. CHRISTMAS. Campaign was created to intrigue guests with the magic of the season while showcasing the breadth of holiday offerings at each resort. The campaign featured unique wrapping paper designs with repetitive and playful objects that tied into activity offerings, bold, snappy fonts and copy, and exciting imagery of on property events and experiences to draw in consumers. These fun creative pieces were combined with thoughtful strategy in selecting media channels and placements to create our go to market plan.
The next phase of the Christmas marketing strategy was a secondary campaign focused specifically on the I Love Christmas Movies event. This component was necessary to raise awareness for the all-new attraction and drive ticket sales. The messaging around I Love Christmas Movies relied heavily on the brand’s partnership with Warner Brothers. Intellectual property including imagery, characters, and quotes from the films featured in this offering were used prominently across the creative pieces in this campaign.
For both campaigns, creative pieces aimed to showcase the scope of the Christmas offerings at Gaylord, reflect the reality of social distancing and safety at the resorts, and drive conversions. The campaign was executed with a strategic mix of paid, owned, and earned media, and trade tactics. The integrated campaign featured more than 3,500 creative placements across various channels including custom TV spots, radio spots, print ads, organic and paid social, paid digital and native advertising, public relations, and OOH.
Each medium had an intended goal. For example, print, OOH, and radio advertisements were designed to drive top-level awareness of the event and landing page views, while others such as paid digital, social, and lower funnel channels, were focused on driving landing page views or conversions. Throughout the campaign, under-performing tactics were improved upon or paused to increase the overall success of the campaign.
In seeking to educate customers about a new event and our brand Christmas offerings and ultimately drive them to purchase tickets, book room nights, and attend – the Gaylord Hotels team blew past its benchmarks and drove exceptional performance across the campaign while executing in record time. Combined digital marketing efforts drove a 6.1:1 ROAS, with paid social CTR at 1.3%. PR drove nearly 1.4B potential impressions and organic social 16.7M impressions with an 8.7% engagement rate. Web traffic was up 9% YoY. Most importantly, this drove business and revenue, exceeding goals for room revenue and package revenue and driving profit 4.8% above goal -- despite pandemic travel restrictions and marketing an unknown, all-new event.