The pandemic's stay-at-home mandate may have put radio's trip giveaways on hold, but as restrictions are gradually being lifted, the contests are coming back. iHeartRadio currently offers a trip for two to Miami as a promotion for hip-hop act Saweetie's hit “Best Friend” and one to Iceland in conjunction with the Will Ferrell movie “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.” Through partnerships with Sandals, Visit Florida and LEGOLAND, Audacy has been back in the trip giveaway game since last fall.
In a changed world, how have listeners responded to these contests? “Trip giveaways and travel always score very positively for listeners,” Audacy Director of National Promotions Josh Pearlman says. “Desirability and anticipation of returning to normal regarding travel is, not surprisingly, heightened right now, but there’s an appropriate amount of patience in play too.” Adds Coleman Insights Associate Consultant/Marketing Director Jay Nachlis, “Conventional wisdom is that people are itching to travel, but we don’t objectively know the extent to which that is true. There’s an obvious timely benefit to launching trip promotions, but we would encourage stations to think strategically about how they go about it.”
When it comes to trip giveaways, Doug Harris, President of broadcast marketing consulting firm Noisemaker Communications, agrees that “the listener is ready, but radio has some work to do.” Right up top is addressing safety issues and listener comfort. “We’ve done a ton of work to identify airline, hotel, resort and experiential partners who take this pandemic seriously,” Pearlman says, emphasizing a focus on identifying opportunities that can be safely fulfilled now or with a six-to-18-month window. Likewise, Nachlis advises, “Make sure there’s no accidental negative attached, i.e., having to take the trip before listeners are comfortable. Flexibility [is] a nice added benefit.”
'The Prize You Cannot Buy'
Experts agree that post-pandemic, emphasis should be on selecting the perfect location and setting up the promotion. For Harris, it's about “finding a destination connected to an experience, and adding an element that meets the standard of 'the prize you cannot buy'. Most stations would have balked if approached with a trip to Romania, but if that trip meant you could spend Halloween in Dracula’s backyard, that’s the spin that gets listeners excited.” Nachlis suggests that the trip giveaway's re-introduction is as important as the prize itself. “Stations with an existing recurring signature trip promotion can use this 'return to travel' moment as an opportunity to really boost that image,” he says. “Others may use this opportunity to create a new signature contest, with this moment as the jumping off point.”
Harris suggests that bringing back trips also presents opportunities for making the promotion more listener-friendly. “Can the hotel partner call the station when your winner checks in so your jock can call the room or the winner’s cell phone? Can your group’s station in that market pick up your winners from the airport in a station vehicle for transport to their hotel? Can we provide winners with station branded travel props like a carry-on or masks? Most of this requires time, not money.” Then there's the importance of promotion after the trip. “We’ve got to get back to sharing the winner’s excitement with the audience,” Harris says. “When the winner returns, even if it's weeks or months later, somebody needs to get them on the air to tell about their experience.”
The post-COVID trip giveaway can be key for listener engagement. “Don’t miss the emotional component radio is so good at,” Nachlis says. “Your brand was there for listeners during lockdown, you informed them with important information, you supported the community, you were a comfort in a challenging time. We’re almost out of it and now you’re going to help them (literally) get out.” Adds Harris, “The notion that 'my favorite radio station sent me, took me, gave me, etc.' can be a lifelong memory. If a station sends a work-from-home-fatigued listener on their first plane ride since lockdown, that’s big.”
The shared feeling is that the time is right for trip giveaways. “At this moment [they] may present a unique opportunity for radio brands,” Nachlis says. “Radio often shines when it capitalizes on a combination of timeliness, emotion and strategy.” Adds Pearlman, “Listeners are excited to have options and a great prize to look forward to, while partners are able to get the message out about safe travel and experiences with their brands. It’s been a win for everyone so far.”