Despite Covid-19 coinciding with Cardrona’s largest online sales month, the Cardrona in-house marketing team managed a historic sixth consecutive year of pre-season sales growth.
To celebrate Cardrona’s 40th anniversary, the in-house marketing team were tasked with creating a unique campaign while driving brand preference and increasing pre-season sales after five consecutive years of growth. All of this needed to be achieved on a tight budget.
To add a layer of complexity, in December 2019 Cardrona acquired Treble Cone. Paid activity now also had to communicate the benefits of a dual-mountain offering.
The pre-winter campaign period of February to May is crucial; committed skiers religiously purchase Earlybird passes and visitors dream and plan winter holidays. Halfway through March, however – Cardrona’s largest online sales month – Covid-19 added another complexity that was almost impossible to prepare for.
The team pivoted from a sales focus to one of transparent and empathetic messaging in order to maintain loyalty with stakeholders. With a $0 budget, heavily reduced hours and 65 days without paid activity, Cardrona entered survival mode.
With international borders unlikely to open, the new forecast for Winter 2020 was at best a 50 percent reduction in skiers. When it was confirmed the ski industry could operate at Level 2, campaign restart was urgent – but every dollar spent was a risk. The focus was purely on driving sales and a maximum ROAS. The team produced regular updates delivered via video, blog posts, Instagram story infographics and eDM. Entertainment was provided with regular competitions, activities and social engagement. Extensive media coverage surrounding Cardrona and confirmation that the ski season would go ahead created a huge buzz.
This activity did the heavy lifting in the brand awareness space, allowing the in-house team to focus purely on sales activation. The tongue-in-cheek tagline “Cardrona: Promoting sick days since 1980” was no longer appropriate, so campaign creative was adjusted to fit a post-Covid environment. A Zoom video featuring Cardrona’s frontline staff answering FAQs was developed, and close monitoring of feedback and social comments drove the creation of subsequent information.
Under alert levels, almost 50 news articles mentioned Cardrona or quoted GM Bridget Legnavsky. Cardrona was named in Jacinda Ardern’s daily press conference two days in a row – the only New Zealand ski area to be mentioned. Features published during Alert Level 2 reinforced the 40 Year campaign, such as Stuff’s ‘Cardrona Knows How to Party’.
Against all odds, 2020 marked a historic sixth consecutive year of pre-season sales growth, exceeding targets. Cardrona’s communication response during the crisis was widely recognised as industry-leading, increasing audience loyalty and trust. Cardrona’s deep understanding of its audience, and a team of ski marketing specialists immersed in snow culture, ultimately resulted in highly effective marketing communication.
Category: Best In-house Marketing
Company: Cardrona Alpine Resort
Marketing Initiative: Winter 2020: Pre-season Campaign
Marketing Partners: DataStory, Mark Clinton, Charlotte Kiri, Troy Tanner
Judge’s Comments: “Cadrona is small business excelling at what they do best with their marketing programme. In a competitive market, with a small window of opportunity to capture their customer and revenue stream they had a well-defined marketing programme in place which was dramatically impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. They were able to reinvent and expand their customer engagement and uptake.”
Finalists: Trees That Count / The Project Crimson Trust, NZSki, Meridian Energy, J. H. Whittaker & Sons, New Zealand Police