State hopes flakes tourism dollars start flying

December 19, 2011
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While commuters may bemoan driving to work in snow, George Zimmermann is delighted.

The reputation of Michigan’s snow base culls an annual average of $4 billion during the winter months, a good chunk of it derived from out-of-state visitors who revel in the white stuff and don’t blanche at shelling out money for snow gear, hotel stays, ski lift tickets, gasoline and the like.

“Those other states don't have the winter product that we do, mostly because of snow cover,” said Zimmermann, vice president of Travel Michigan, a business unit of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. “Our primary goal is to get more out-of-state visitors, in this case (for) winter activities. Places like Chicago and Cincinnati do not have the same winter opportunities in their area.”

Michiganders will see Travel Michigan’s Pure Michigan winter billboards dot the Mitten State’s roadsides, said Zimmermann. Radio and TV spots will be broadcast starting Jan. 2 in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. The Pure Michigan winter ad campaign will run through early February.

Specifically, the Pure Michigan winter billboards — which highlight snowmobiling, snowboarding and ice climbing — are featured in those out-of-state regional markets, as well as in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing and Traverse City.

The Michigan Snow Sports Industries Association radio ad titled “Ski the Hills of Michigan” will air in Fort Wayne, Toledo and Green Bay, as well as the in-state markets of Grand Rapids and Lansing.

The Pure Michigan television ads “Snow Days” and “Chance of Snow” and the radio ads “Snow Day” and “Snow” also will air in these regional markets, as well as in Chicago, Indianapolis, South Bend, Cincinnati and Milwaukee.

The total winter advertising budget is $1.6 million and includes $30,000 in funding committed by the Michigan Snow Sports Industries Association as part of the Travel Michigan Ad Partnership Program.

All partnership advertising includes the Pure Michigan brand identity. Partners also have a featured Web presence on and support for public relations and social media efforts. Travel Michigan is the state of Michigan’s official agency for the promotion of tourism.

It’s advertising dollars well spent, said Zimmermann.

“If you’re a snowmobiling enthusiast, you’re going to start heading north and want them to come here,” said Zimmermann. “Downhill skiing and cross-country skiing and dog sledding is mostly done on natural snow, so if you don’t have the snow base, you’re not going to get the business. We’re trying to pull those people south of us, and it has worked pretty well for us.”

Meanwhile, despite the flap over the Wisconsin-shape mitten tourism promotion, Zimmermann remains unflustered. An unscientific online poll at titled “Who Is The Real Mitten State?” overwhelmingly thinks the cheesehead state needs to leave its mitts off Michigan’s promotional campaign.

“I’m not really sure what Wisconsin’s original intent is with their promo, but we’ve had some good-natured back and forth,” said Zimmermann. ‘The poll is clearly lopsided. We’re the mitten and I’m happy about that.”

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