If you build it, they will come. One of the great lines in movie history is a nice fit with our VR efforts over the past year. The team at R&R Partners has been busy developing virtual reality content for our Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) client at an exhaustive rate, while consumers ate up the experience.
And while industry professionals have recognized our latest efforts in marketing the destination, most recently, the research community has taken notice. Early in 2016, we were approached by YuMe, a global audience technology company that was interested in using our VR content for a study being commissioned with Nielsen. The study was a neuroscience-informed research report based around emotional engagement across mobile VR and 360 video as compared to TV. Nielsen’s neuroscience team studied 150 people as they consumed VR content from Las Vegas and Disney across these three platforms.
The results were great and provided much needed insight for our industry on a new platform. Not only will this study help R&R Partners keep delivering impactful content, it will give guidance to the entire advertising industry.
A few of the key findings include:
Likeability is higher for VR and 360 video.
Guided exploration is key for brands and consumers.
Emotional engagement in VR is up to 34 percent longer compared to 2-D.
Vegas VR, Las Vegas’ virtual reality app, sure knows how to get around. Since its debut in March 2016, the app has been downloaded over 11,200 times; has traveled to more than 10 countries; and has been incorporated into over 20 events, activations and trade shows globally.
Las Vegas has quickly become a leader in the virtual reality (VR) destination marketing field and is still one of the only destinations globally to incorporate virtual reality into its marketing efforts and to have a VR app.
Vegas Goes Virtual
For over 35 years, R&R Partners has been the communications agency of record for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). Campaigns like “What happens here, stays here®” were responsible for creating the modern Las Vegas brand that attracts more than 42 million visitors annually.
But, in order to keep campaigning fresh and relevant, R&R Partners envisioned a new direction for positioning the brand that would tap into the visceral and deeply emotional reasons visitors connect with the city. Thus, Vegas VR, Las Vegas’ virtual reality app, was born.
“Las Vegas is always looking for innovative ways to engage visitors. The VR app allows us to showcase the destination to first-time visitors and remind Vegas enthusiasts about all of the unique offerings,” said Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “Vegas VR gives our visitors a new way to connect with Las Vegas.”
When using Vegas VR, consumers are directly connected with a series of original 360-degree interactive videos that become immersive virtual reality experiences when used with a VR viewer compatible with smartphones, such as Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR.
From zip-lining through the Fremont Street Experience aboard Slotzilla, to being serenaded on an authentic gondola ride through The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian and more, Vegas VR places trade show delegates, consumers and would-be visitors alike into some of the most iconic Las Vegas experiences.
A City Seen ‘Round the World
Las Vegas became one of the first destinations to utilize virtual reality technology in March 2016 when Vegas VR was showcased during the ITB travel trade show in Berlin, Germany.
Domestically, the LVCVA introduced the destination’s virtual reality technology to industry and tech media at the 2016 South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Conference and Festivals in Austin, Texas, which celebrates the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries.
Since its initial debut, it has continued to be used on a global scale. From trade shows, to media events and consumer brand activations, Vegas VR continues to shine.
Over summer 2016, Vegas VR went through its first major refresh, which brought new content and a new design. Additional features were added to some of the videos, including fact overlays, scene-change capabilities and time-lapse footage.
The LVCVA’s foray into VR technology started about two years ago when it partnered with Google on GeoVegas, a site that featured steerable 360-degree photos and videos inside Vegas hotels and attractions. It functioned like a digital walk-through, enabling viewers to tour a hotel, nightclub or restaurant.
To create the VR content, R&R Partners worked with the LVCVA and its destination partners to film 360-degree videos of experiences that only exist in Las Vegas using a Pro7 360 Plug-N-Play Holder and seven GoPro Hero 4 Black cameras, professional tools used for filming virtual reality 360-degree content in various environments.
Once the videos were created and stitched together, R&R Partners worked with Wemersive to create the Vegas VR app users can download today. Depending on the content of the video, the entire process can take anywhere from one to six weeks to create.
Vegas VR continues to be one of the most accessible VR apps on the market. All users need is the app, a smartphone and a cardboard viewer. Even without a cardboard viewer, users are able to watch all of the 360-degree videos on the app and interact with the videos using gyroscope, swipe and zoom functions without using additional virtual reality technology.
The Vegas VR app has been downloaded more than 11,200 times. The LVCVA has also distributed its virtual reality content through social media channels and other digital platforms where they’ve received over 17 million views.
The LVCVA and R&R Partners are always looking for new content and will continue to create and add new VR experiences to the app. Moving forward, the LVCVA and R&R Partners will look to add storytelling elements to the VR content and continue to use new elements such as the fact overlays, multiscene capabilities and time-lapse elements.
Vegas VR is available for iOS and Android platforms and is free to download here or through the App Store and Google Play. A selection of 360-degree videos are also available to view on Las Vegas’ YouTube channel.
The LVCVA has also launched VIVA, a dynamic and engaging platform that captures the best Las Vegas has to offer through original destination digital content, and WhereToVegas, a mobile app that provides visitors with a social heat map of trending locations and events in Las Vegas, helping visitors maximize their Vegas vacation experience by informing them of the “hot spots” in town during their stay.
I’ve attended conferences across the globe, including an education industry show in London and an energy-efficiency segment event in Kuala Lumpur. In past roles, I’ve even had the opportunity to speak at several—two highlights being at the World Energy Efficiency Congress in Abu Dhabi and at regional conference in Thailand. As a veteran to keynotes, breakout sessions, inspirational speakers, and the art of conference lanyard collection, I feel like I have experienced it all.
And I was wrong. Attending a leadership conference specifically geared to the inspiration, celebration and development of women was a new experience. Celebrating its 10th year and hosted by the MGM Resorts Foundation, this week’s Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC2016) in Las Vegas was a dynamic event with a full agenda for its sold-out crowd of 1,000 women (and a few men). I could wax poetically about the powerful lineup of amazing women, like Phyllis A. James (MGM Resort International’s chief diversity officer), who left me with this thought—that “women have multiple glass ceilings, yet each of us has a hammer.” Yet, I thought I’d rely on the experiences of my talented colleagues who also attended WLC2016, all of whom were invited guests of the R&R Foundation, a proud WLC2016 sponsor.
MGM Resort’s Phyllis A. Jones
Donna Brazile Charms and Inspires
Dr. Lalia Rach’s “Business Leadership: For Adults Only”
“The big theme I took away was leaning in to fears,” says Julie Teasley, director of operations. Several speakers directly mentioned the ideology that Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg made famous in a TED Talk, and others emphasized that instead of waiting to be recognized, women should move forward to success. Donna Brazile, a favorite of attendees who made an impact on several of us, quipped, “Why are you still waiting to be asked to lead? Why not you? There is no one better.”
Donna is a veteran democratic political strategist and most recently named interim chair of the DNC. Her hilarious sense of humor and words of wisdom also resonated with Yanick Dalhouse, account director from R&R Resources+ in Washington, D.C. She recalls Donna saying, “We don’t have to check the boxes that others give us; we can check our own.” And this author giggled along with the entire room to this Donna-ism: “I’ve always told the men I’ve worked with … when I come through the door, I’m not asking you to leave. I’m just saying scoot over!”
R&R’s Chantel Perreault, operations supervisor, recalls several speakers talking about focusing on the important priorities, and breakout speaker Judi Holler added that the master of all fears is the fear that one will succeed. Judi, a former improv comedian at Chicago’s famous Second City, had a quote that resonated with Chantel: “Make fear your homeboy.”
Jeanette Schneider Charges WLC Attendees to Take Charge of Our Destinies
Yanick Dalhouse, Joan Jungblut, Julie Teasley, Shan Bates-Bundick, Karyn Hearn-Phillips, Chantel Perreault, Sara MacFarlane
Alison Levine: Adventure Grand Slam Designee Who Has Climbed Highest Peak on Every Continent
Something that resonated with Joan Jungblut, corporate media director, from several of the speakers, was best articulated by Donna Brazile: “No matter how you got in the room, bring others with you,” which is to say seize the opportunities that arise for you, as well as create opportunities for others to rise. Another point that was covered in sessions by both Dr. Lalia Rach and Eric Boles was that mediocrity is contagious. Joan says, “It’s easy and ‘safe’ to be average, and so we don’t set goals high enough. We have to set high expectations for ourselves and our teams so we rise to those expectations.”
“Overall, I came away with mixed emotions: on the one hand, we’ve come so far,” shares Sara Macfarlane, director of insight. “But on the other, you could see how even among some of the monumental women on stage, we continue to struggle with the duality of being a professional woman and that we continue to limit ourselves.” Karyn Hearn-Phillips, project supervisor, recalls Judi Holler’s “There are no mistakes, only gifts,” and this advice that sums up the elegance and professionalism that we all hope to be, shared by Donna Brazile: “Be a woman of grace, valor and tenacity.”
Lindsey Patterson, media director, recalled this additional Donna gem that I will leave you with: “Relationships matter. Even when you have staunchly different views, it’s important to play nicely.” With such an outstanding leadership conference under our belts, and with the wisdom by such incredible leaders at our fingertips, we are inspired. And I hope this recap and the learnings of several women leaders at R&R Partners serve to inspire you, as well.
Sponsorship marketing: the frosting on a brand’s overall marketing mix and the multibillion-dollar industry that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Due to the continued fragmentation of media (I’m talking to you cord-cutters) and shifts in demographic buying power (hey, millennials!), sponsorship marketing will continue to increase in overall advertising spend for brands all over the world.
One current client of R&R Partners who uses sponsorship marketing as a large part of their media strategy is the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. Las Vegas sponsors an array of events throughout the year spanning awards shows, culinary festivals, sports championships and more. One of its longstanding sponsorships with the National Hockey League features a season-long media partnership, as well as the NHL Awards broadcast live from Vegas each June.
A sponsorship can begin to die a slow decrease-in-ROI death unless the parties involved continually evaluate, evolve and challenge each other to push the envelope each and every contract renewal.
Previous digital initiatives for the NHL/Las Vegas partnership focused on a league sweepstakes as a mechanism for database acquisition. But with the digital landscape constantly changing and evolving, content started to take more of a strategic front seat.
Knowing that reaching sports fans when they are most engaged is the best time for brand messaging to be consumed, our team determined real-time hockey content was the best avenue to explore in replacement of the sweepstakes initiative. We wanted the brand to be organically attached to a platform that hockey fans would seek out, versus the brand doing the heavy lifting in seeking out fans. The goal (no pun intended), was to completely reverse the brand consumption flow.
Enter Las Vegas’ first ever video content component of their NHL sponsorship: Road Warriors.
Using a pillar of Las Vegas’ sponsorship strategy, “All Roads Lead to Vegas,” (in recognition that Vegas is the city where champions are crowned), Road Warriors paid homage to players and teams who had stellar plays while on the road.
The platform followed a succinct distribution strategy. A spectacular road play would occur during a game, the video footage would be clipped and edited together, and then posted to both the NHL’s Facebook and Twitter pages. A branded website on NHL.com housed all of the Road Warriors content throughout the season and also included 100% share-of-voice for Las Vegas creative. To create a fully integrated platform, Road Warriors highlights were shown within nightly sports programming on NHL Network.
The framework was there, but, would NHL fans dig it? Short answer – they did.
Launching in February to coincide with NHL.com’s website redesign launch, Road Warriors saw double digit growth in fan engagement through the end of the 2016 season. An impressive feat when you think as teams start to become eliminated from Stanley Cup contention, those fan bases organically become less engaged, reducing the overall audience who would be interested in hockey content. Road Warriors broke through that trend.
The social posts garnered more than 8.1 million video views and 188,000 engagements. Webpage visits were almost 800,000 with visitors spending on average more than two minutes per visit. This was all accomplished with zero paid media support driving to any of the content, proving the platform was relevant, engaging and organically executed.
But the most impressive stat? Road Warriors was the #1 NHL sponsor video program of the year. SCORE!
As part of the festivities hosted around the NHL Awards, the league holds a morning summit with their season’s partners. I was honored to have the opportunity to share Road Warriors with the group, alongside our NHL account executive, Josh Cohen. We held great company with Tim Horton’s and MillerCoors being the other two brands who presented their NHL initiatives for the year. Brands like Honda, McDonald’s, Samsung and Visa were in attendance to learn how they could craft winning programs similar to ours.
Not only was this a great platform to showcase one of our clients, we were able to showcase R&R Partners as an expert in partnership marketing. Oh, and we were also awarded a Las Vegas hockey team that afternoon, too—obviously not due to Road Warriors’ success.
Effect on tourism is a contentious issue in pro-marijuana measures
Measures that will loosen restrictions for the recreational use of marijuana in Washington state and Colorado have raised questions about its potential effect on local tourism, this feature says. Opponents in Colorado say the measure could have a negative effect on the state’s image. “If Colorado receives international media attention as the first state in the U.S. to legalize marijuana in their constitution, Colorado’s brand will be damaged and we may attract fewer conventions and see a decline in leisure travel,” said Visit Denver CEO Richard Scharf.
Norwegian Cruise Line will raise prices for Hawaii sailings
MGM Resorts and Royal Caribbean partner to offer more benefits to loyal members
MGM Resorts International and Royal Caribbean International recently launched a strategic partnership to benefit members of both companies’ loyalty programs, MGM’s M life and Royal’s Crown & Anchor Society.
Airlines seek new fees despite ancillary revenue increasing
Airlines earn ancillary revenue for extra baggage, Wi-Fi service and other goodies, and they stand to make 11.3% more in 2012 than they did with such fees the year before, this feature says. Major carriers will earn $36.1 billion in fees this year, according to a report by IdeaWorksCompany and Amadeus. But watch out for new charges. “The low-hanging fruit is gone; they are going to have to invent products,” says travel writer Joe Brancatelli.
Priceline to buy Kayak for $1.8 billion
Priceline.com will buy travel metasearch company Kayak for $1.8 billion. Priceline will pay $40 a share for Kayak, including $1.3 billion in stock and $500 million in cash, the companies said Thursday afternoon.
Tropicana Las Vegas to become a DoubleTree by Hilton
Las Vegas’ Tropicana hotel will be reflagged in January as the Tropicana Las Vegas — a DoubleTree by Hilton, marking the first time a Hilton Worldwide-branded hotel will be on the Las Vegas Strip since Hilton spun off what would become Caesars Entertainment in 1998.
Mexico’s Interjet will add Las Vegas service this month
Colorado and Florida have cheapest domestic fares, says ARC
Travelers departing from Colorado and Florida are the most likely to find the lowest airfares, according to ARC statistics. ARC said that based on an examination of average fares for 12 months ending April 30, 2012, Colorado was the least expensive state for a roundtrip domestic flight. Looking at a six-year period, ARC found that from Jan. 1, 2006 through Dec. 31, 2011, the least expensive airfares were in Florida.
Southwest looks beyond U.S. borders to Mexico, Caribbean
Southwest is becoming an international airline as it begins taking over AirTran Airways’ routes to Mexico and the Caribbean after the airlines’ merger. Southwest recently signed a deal for a new reservations system capable of handling international bookings and is seeking approval to build a new international terminal in Houston to add as many as 25 flights a day. “We have always wanted to get to a point where we added international capabilities,” said Southwest Chief Commercial Officer Bob Jordan.
AA ramps up personalization in selling and tailoring services
AA is making efforts to “personalize” air travel by offering tailored, relevant fares and services based on such customer attributes as previous itinerary searches, a traveler’s flight history and frequent-flyer status.
United Airlines withdraws preboarding privileges for families
United Airlines has dropped its policy allowing families with small children to board ahead of other passengers. Fliers with children not holding first- or business-class tickets must now board with their assigned boarding groups.
Royal Caribbean announces plans to upgrade reservations system
Royal Caribbean will undertake a five-year program to upgrade its reservations system, the company has announced. Through the $100 million initiative, the cruise line seeks to “help travel agents sell cruises more easily and service their clients more effectively by leveraging the latest technologies,” it says.
USTOA launches Facebook promotion
The U.S. Tour Operators Association has launched a travel sweepstakes through Facebook that is aimed at increasing consumer awareness of and participation in the packaged-travel industry. Four USTOA members — Pacific Delight Tours, Go Ahead Tours, Collette Vacations and Globus — have provided travel product worth $40,000 for Around The World With USTOA Sweepstakes, which will take place from May 29 through June 25, with one of four prizes awarded each week.
Report: “Disney” is top keyword in searches for vacation destinations
An analysis by AdGooroo of keyword-search frequencies on the Internet has concluded that “Disney” is the most-searched travel destination from January through February 2012, at 7.3%. Las Vegas came in second at 6.3%, followed by Florida at 5.7% and the Caribbean at 3.2%. The study also showed a significant interest in deals, with 13.3% of keywords searched related to discounts.