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Mount Bachelor targets more skiers

BEND — Portlanders accustomed to dark, dreary, traffic-clogged winters will have a contrasting image to view on their television sets: a movielike trailer portraying Central Oregon as the land of blue skies, powdery snow, elegant fare, snow angels and sleigh rides.

That's what the Central Oregon Visitors Association and Mt. Bachelor ski area are planning as part of their $250,000 cooperative marketing campaign, "Real Winter," which is funded equally by the region's largest tourism promoter and its largest winter attraction.

"It's based upon contemporary movie trailers," said Alana Audette, COVA's president and CEO. "The challenge is how to convey the myriad of things that this region has to offer. The movie trailer is a stroke of brilliance because it allows us to tell the Central Oregon (winter) experience in a 30-second sound bite."

The campaign will saturate the Portland market with a mix of television, newspaper and Internet ads from December through March, including 3,500 cable and network television ads per week, Audette said.

COVA hopes the new marketing campaign, created by Bend-based advertising and marketing firm Citrus, will benefit the entire region's $498-million-a-year tourism economy by targeting a broader range of potential visitors than just the typical skier or snowboarder.

"It's a great way to take an important resource and leverage each other's marketing budget, dollar for dollar," Audette said. "We're hoping it will sell more lift tickets and draw more overnight visitors."

Last year, the campaign by COVA and Mt. Bachelor focused more heavily on attracting potential ski and snowboard visitors with information about Mt. Bachelor and Central Oregon tourism sent directly to Portland-area homes. The $230,000 campaign did not have a television component but was deemed successful because it increased visitor traffic to COVA's Web site and resulted in more skiers and snowboarders on the mountain, Audette said.

COVA members, which are largely tourism-related businesses in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties, can use the creative aspects of the campaign but would have to pay for their own direct-mail advertising, she said.

COVA and Mt. Bachelor wanted to ramp up the sophistication level of the winter campaign for the Portland audience and gear the television campaign toward the Central Oregon wintertime experience, said Carly Carmichael, marketing director for Mt. Bachelor.

"We wanted to create a stronger branding message about why you should drive past other mountains to get here," Carmichael said. "Last year's campaign was pretty focused with 'here's the snow, come ski' — this year's is about the true winter experience that people don't have in the (Willamette) Valley. It's more all-encompassing."

The first ad mixes in perfect ski conditions with activities such as fine dining and a child gazing up at the sky in wonderment with a voice-over narration that sounds straight from Hollywood.

The second ad starts in dark and dreary, traffic-clogged Portland during winter and shifts to Mt. Bachelor. It appeals more to the skier and snowboarder crowd who might want to escape the drippy winter climate of Portland and experience Mt. Bachelor, Carmichael said.

At the end of the two 30-second spots viewers are directed to pick up a Central Oregon visitors guide to learn more about the region.

"The winter ski vacation is not just for skiing; it's the whole experience," Carmichael said. "It's the service you get in a restaurant, it's ice-skating and dogsledding. People want something for everybody in the family."

It's a message that appeals to Aleta Nissen, a COVA board member and co-owner of Wanderlust Tours, which provides snowshoeing tours and other outdoor activities in the winter.

"The message has gotten broader and broader over the years," Nissen said. "It's not just for skiers and snowboarders it's appealing to the 45-year-old mom, who makes the traveling decisions. There are so many different things to do in this region." The decision to appeal to a broader demographic and promote a broader range of activities ultimately helps all tourism-related businesses by creating a picture of the Central Oregon lifestyle, said Jim Kinney, general manager at Seventh Mountain Resort west of Bend.

"The campaign is evolving in the last few years in a very good direction," Kinney said. "It's more mature. It's going to present an image that's well received in the Portland market and put us on a more competitive level with resorts like Sun Valley (in Idaho)."

COVA and Mt. Bachelor will evaluate the campaign's success based on traffic directed from the commercial site to COVA's Web site, requests for visitor guides and on-mountain surveys, Audette said.

Separately, Mt. Bachelor is hoping to gain additional marketing mileage from a ski segment that is expected to be shot there this winter for an upcoming Warren Miller film.

If the deal is completed, the film crew would shoot the mountain on location in February, using local skiers and snowboarders, and telling a story about the mountain and surrounding areas to a worldwide audience. The movie would be watched at screenings around the world prior to the ski and snowboard season in 2008-09.