Visit St. Pete- Clearwater's guerrilla-style marketing brings northerners to Florida's beaches

8:43 PM, Feb 5, 2014   |    comments
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Visit St. Pete- Clearwater, a local tourism company, uses guerilla-style marketing to lure northerners to Tampa Bay area beaches.


Tampa Bay, Florida-- Visit St. Pete- Clearwater is a local tourism company that receives tax dollars to advertise the area across the country. 

They recently spent about $1 million convincing families to leave their cold weather climates up north and enjoy the sunshine St. Pete and Clearwater's beaches have to offer.

"It's guerilla-style advertising, but the industry word is touch points," explained the deputy director of Visit St. Pete- Clearwater, David Downing. "We try to catch a person's attention as many times as possible on their way to work."

The ads are clever and catch the attention of locals in snowy cities. 

"Imagine you get on the subway in New York, and the placard above you is for St. Pete Clearwater," Downing described. "You get on the subway trains- almost 600 subway trains wrapped for visit St. Pete Clearwater- [and] when you get out, there are snow stamps in the ground, that say 'I need'" 

And the cleverness continues on other forms of transportation. For example, New York's buses are wrapped with ads that say, "Wake up in a city that never sleets"; "Never mind Wall Street, invest in some sun" and "We salt margaritas, not sidewalks."

The ads are becoming a big topic of discussion in New York. So much that the New York Times printed a story about the Florida marketing group, putting them on the same level of clever advertising as national ads like Geico. 

"To have our hard work be recognized as cutting edge, along the lines of Geico and competing on a national advertising level is very gratifying," said Downing. 

Families like Chad Teasdale's are visiting from Wisconsin. Andrea Rettew is visiting from Pennsylvania and Rosaline Secrest drove in from Indiana. All three of these guests have one specific destination in common: St. Pete Beach's Alden Suites. 

"I may be from Indiana and did not see those ads, but I know what St. Pete has to offer, and you do not need that much advertising," laughed, Secrest. "This place sells itself!"  

Her 14-hour drive turned into a 30-hour drive because of the horrible ice and snow along the way. 

"It was worth it though. Even if it's foggy, it is so worth it," she said.

"My husband was snow-blowing from early in the morning until late in the afternoon on Monday before we left. I am not missing any of that!" said Andrea Rettew. "I saw the ad on the television. It said 'cheap airfare from Harrisburg International to St. Petersburg', and I called my husband at work and said, 'Honey we are going!'." 

The guerilla-style marketing tactics worked well for Rettew. 

"We are enjoying the beach, the food, and my husband loves golfing so that is exactly what he is doing," said Rettew. 

Alden Beach Resort and Suites Vice President of Operations, Tony Satterfield said his sales are up 25 percent in January,  seven percent in February, 10 percent in March and 17 percent in April already.  

"First and foremost, I know it is the cold weather that is giving us this increase in sales,  but I am grateful for all of Visit St. Pete- Clearwater team's effort. They are amazing," said Satterfield.  

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