As inbound travel and tourism to New York City began to rebound from the pandemic, we at NYC & Company affirmed our organization’s role to both inspire visitation and to help spread the economic benefits of a healthy tourism economy across the five boroughs. That means promoting NYC’s traditional tourism corridors as well as encouraging visitors to explore beyond them, all in an effort to support local businesses, particularly those that are women- and BIPOC-owned, in areas of the City that were hard hit by the effects of Covid-19.
Building on the established notion that visitors like to see New York City from the perspective of an expert local guide, we chose five notable New Yorkers, one in each borough, to showcase their neighborhoods and the community-minded businesses within them. Called NYC Local Legends, this digital series, comprising five separate films, focuses on a range of local offerings—including restaurants, shops, attractions and more—as presented through the perspectives of longtime New Yorkers.
The series’ first installment features DJ Spynfo connecting with other locals and spotlighting the cultural significance and offerings of Mott Haven, a now-vibrant area in the South Bronx that has historically been associated with urban blight. The film highlights the dynamism of the area and its welcoming local businesses, many of which are Black owned and/or Latino owned, along with how they celebrate and honor the Bronx being the birthplace of hip-hop.
We created a project brief and executive summary to outline the objective, format and tone of the story that we wanted to tell, then assembled a production team that specializes in mini-documentary videos that we determined could match the storytelling and production style we set out to achieve.
Next, we concurrently listed potential neighborhoods and subjects that we wanted to highlight. When considering the Bronx, we focused on Mott Haven because the neighborhood is in the midst of a cultural renaissance, now rife with new and revived small businesses, many owned by natives and longtime residents. Though it is rapidly developing, Mott Haven and the South Bronx at large have historical significance to NYC as the birthplace of hip-hop.
Aside from identifying the right neighborhood, the key to creating this video (and the series) was identifying the right lead host talent and supporting locals who are from the neighborhood and could speak to the area’s history, cultural significance and offerings to visitors. We had some challenges casting the right person to lead this video but landed on celebrated DJ and small business owner DJ Spynfo. In speaking with him, he was unsure if he was the right person for the role because of his aversion to being in front of the camera, but his energy and passion for the neighborhood was infectious, and he was able to eloquently illustrate the timeline of the neighborhood from when it was mainly residential and deemed unsafe—even locals would venture to other areas to hang out—to today, when it is full of exciting places for visitors to explore.
We worked with DJ Spynfo to develop the narrative and identify other locals and small business owners who share their perspectives on the neighborhood, providing a well-rounded view of why Mott Haven should be on the radar for all visitors to NYC.
Since editing and releasing the video, we’ve supported it through a robust promotional plan that includes organic and paid social media, web placement, native advertising, newsletter and digital out-of-home promotion around NYC.
The NYC Local Legends: Mott Haven episode has garnered over 1.4 million views across social media. In addition to this quantitative metric of success, it has been well received by locals of the neighborhood, other New Yorkers, visitors and travel industry professionals alike—with many mentioning the authentic and compelling storytelling. Highlighting the neighborhood’s offerings and cultural significance has encouraged visitation to the area, which may not have traditionally been on the itinerary for visitors into NYC.