Putting a Destination on the Map

Virginia’s Blue Ridge Tourism

The Roanoke Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau unveiled its new regional destination brand name Virginia’s Blue Ridge in 2012. In 2013 Access, along with our strategic partner Mikula/Harris, was named agency of record after a competitive review that included several national tourism agencies. 


The Roanoke Valley in Virginia’s Blue Ridge boasts the largest metropolitan center in the Blue Ridge Mountain chain. However, the brand is new and the value proposition has not been made for our target audience. While the convention and visitors bureau (CVB) had done an amazing job rallying regional partners to produce the largest marketing in the organizations history, the total dollars available for media still fell short of the campaign’s goals. Client research indicated that top visitor markets for the region included Richmond, Virginia Beach, Northern Virginia and the North Carolina cities of Greensboro, Raleigh, Charlotte and Winston-Salem. In addition, research identified a married, 35-year old working mother with one child as the primary target. National research Access did on tourism echoed this focus and broadened the scope to include the primary focus of adults 35–54 and a secondary audience of adults 25–54.

Creating Opportunity

Instead of bemoaning the seemingly insurmountable discrepancy between goals and budget, Access got creative in a way that far exceeded the traditional agency model. We scoured the country for the best partners who had shared goals and audience demographics. We also focused hard on local partnerships that showcased the best, brightest, and most unique and iconic things about our area and forged relationships there as well. 

Kroger is the nation’s largest traditional grocery retailer, operating 2,461 supermarkets and fuel centers in 31 states. Forty-two million card-carrying Kroger shoppers across the country make 40 billion purchases on four billion shopping trips each year. In addition, Access was aware that corporately Kroger was focused on regional and local partnerships for their stores and also very concerned about promoting healthy lifestyles for their customers. Access pitched Kroger on a unique partnership allowing both brands to benefit. With the addition of the Kroger name to the effort, local partnerships came on board quickly. First, Black Dog Salvage was an obvious choice because of the national prominence of their cable show, Salvage Dawgs, on the DIY network. Second, perhaps a seemingly less-likely partner was Six Eleven Bicycle Co., makers of award-winning, high-end, custom steel mountain, road and track bicycles right here in Roanoke. They represented a unique, entrepreneurial, young, hip audience that meshed very well with the national focus on “maker” products and companies. What Access discovered before anyone else was that Six Eleven was going to launch their first-ever consumer line of bikes. Finally, we needed to spice things up with a little more flavor. And local diner Texas Tavern, a Roanoke icon for nearly 100 years, fit that bill perfectly. Access found ways to provide value to our client and also help invest in local, vital businesses to essentially allow this campaign to support both tourism and local economic development. 




Making It A Reality

But, how best to unify these partners and also reach our target audience? One thing for sure is that Kroger shoppers appreciate value. So we decided to create a contest featuring all of our partners, allowing each a showcase within which to shine and a dynamic way to capture and engage our audience. What family wouldn’t love a chance to win free custom bicycles, gift cards, unique home accents and furnishings, and fun apparel? Kroger also became excited about the opportunity and Access and their marketing team uncovered a potential to do something never before done in any Kroger store in the world. We would unveil new, state-of-the-art electronic kiosks in the lobbies of 55 stores in targeted cities for our client that mirrored the Kroger footprint in Richmond, Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach, Roanoke and the Raleigh-Durham area. These kiosks would be available exclusively to Virginia’s Blue Ridge for this launch during the first eight weeks. On the more traditional side, we worked with our media partner to plan and execute a targeted media buy focused on cable TV and digital space to most effectively reach our audience and drive traffic to Kroger and the contest entry microsite. Paid search would also broaden our reach and frequency. Kroger agreed to snipe all radio and TV in all markets during this time with contest information and also create a bag-stuffer program, placing contest flyers in every customer bag. Social media, supported by VBR and all program partners (including weekly pushes by Kroger to their 845,000 fans) would also drive engagement. We would make some magic.




The partnership with Kroger has been so well-received that Access is discussing with the company ways to expand the campaign into other states for new program partners. And while at this time the campaign is weeks away from its launch. We can already tell you this; this campaign is going to put Virginia’s Blue Ridge on the map.

Total Estimated Campaign Value: $21,661,520  

Total Estimated Campaign Impressions: 62,374,480  

Access is a highly-motivated, qualified team of marketing professionals with a “can-do” spirit that generates detailed “brand-centric” marketing campaigns.  Access understands how to take the science of marketing and turn it into higher results that generates higher profits.

– Landon C. Howard