The State Fair is an annual event that has been a New Mexico tradition for over 75 years. Unfortunately, in the mind of the public, not much has changed at the fairgrounds for many decades, leading many to believe that the Fair was a stale, dirty, unsafe event that just wasn’t worth visiting anymore. In the spring of 2012, RK Venture was hired by Expo NM to act as the new creative agency for all Fair-related advertising efforts. The Fair was in a dire situation, having seen attendance numbers decrease annually over the past 5 years. There was a misperception that the Fair’s best days were behind it. In addition to having to compete for a shrinking family entertainment budget, the Fair had to overcome the prevailing public opinion that there was nothing new going on at the fair, thus giving no compelling reason for folks to attend the annual event.
RK Venture’s strategy to rebrand and return enthusiasm to the state fair began with reaching out to a younger demographic, who had been generally dismissive of the fair. Fair attendance was mostly comprised of a traditionally older demographic, and we wanted to bring a new younger, hip energy to fair. We needed to dispel the public perception that the Fair was an unsafe, run down, overpriced venue that did not feature anything new or exciting from years past. We also decided that a mix of traditional adverting (outdoor, television and radio) would need to supplemented by an aggressive social media and web-based campaign in order to reach the Gen X and Millennial segments of the target audience.
For our first campaign in 2012, we enlisted a local YouTube celebrity named Lynette to act as our official “spokesperson” for the Fair. She represented a very recognizable, millennial New Mexico archetype that was sure to resonate with that segment of our targeted audience. We also introduced a sidekick for Lynette, a small baby pig named Chiccarón, (an inside joke that most New Mexicans would get right away.)
Lynette and “Cheech” were featured in not only a series of broadcast television commercials, but also an extended series of YouTube videos. These videos allowed for specific highlighting of numerous fair related activities as well as utilizing extended running times to allow for a deeper comic exploration of the fair, giving it a more editorial context.
Based on the success of the Year One campaign, we brought Lynette and Cheech back for a second year of ads for the 2013 Fair season. By this point audience familiarity with the characters assured a wide embrace of the sales message. The new content created revolved around more YouTube videos, which further extended the social media presence of the state fair campaign.
By 2014, Fair officials and RK Venture agreed that a new character was needed, so we decided to shift our focus for the next campaign. Still utilizing a humorous approach to get audience attention, the new ads were created to specifically highlight the main attractions and main reasons people attend the fair in the first place.
By being proactive in the broadcast and advertising schedule, the campaign came out earlier in the summer to remind people that the Fair was coming up in September and now was the perfect time to start preparing for its arrival. We featured various Fair participants (a rodeo cowboy, a teenage music fan, thrill rider crazed kids, a young boy with an insatiable appetite for corn dogs…) and showed how each would be preparing for the upcoming event.
For 2015 we extended the focus of the attractions of the fair even further in a very humorous and very absurd manner. The new ads gave a human voice to various inanimate objects associated with the Fair. The main attractions of the Fair (cotton candy, a jar of pickles, an electric guitar, a rodeo saddle) actually speak for themselves while delivering the call to action to get ready for the upcoming fair.
By broadening the appeal of the fair to include new demographics, RK Venture started to turn around the downward spiral in attendance that the State Fair had been suffering over the last decade. Daily attendance numbers increased in 2012, the first year of the new campaign. Every year since has resulted in increased attendance (either record breaking for a single day or season).
Some highlights included:
In 2012: As the opening of the Fair approached, Facebook and Twitter were used on a daily basis to create buzz around the event and character of Lynette “La Burquena.”
Each morning, Facebook and YouTube viewers were treated to Lynette’s exploits as she visited a range of attractions at the Fair. This created so much excitement among the audience, that people started coming to the fair specifically to meet Lynette. As footage was shot, she was often approached for photos and autographs. Videos were shared extensively among Facebook fans, and the YouTube channel garnered over 80,000 views during the run of the event.
Media coverage of the campaign included all local news channels, the Albuquerque Journal and the Santa Fe New Mexican ran stories about Lynette and the Fair. The new campaign was deemed a success, not only based on audience response, but in hard numbers as well, with over 400,000 attendees coming through the gates over the run of the 2012 Fair, its first increase in five years.
In 2013, the success continued, with the biggest one-day attendance numbers ever recorded in the Fair’s history.
In 2014, Fair officials estimated more than 100,000 people attended on opening weekend, the highest number they’ve seen in years. In total, an estimated 458,379 people attended the fair in 2014. This reflects the highest attendance under the 12-day format implemented several years ago.
State Fair General manager Dan Mourning attributed the recent success and increased attendance to “better promotion, better advertising, better word on how and what to get to the fair and what to expect at the fair.” RK Venture is proud to be a part of the resurgence of a great, New Mexico tradition.