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In late 2012, cable network AMC announced that 2013 would be the final season of “Breaking Bad.” The show averaged 5.9 million viewers/episode in the final season, and prominently featured the city of Albuquerque to such a degree that the destination was considered a central character. The tourism office, however, was faced with a unique challenge in tapping into the popular momentum: the show’s central themes were the production and distribution of illegal drugs.
After careful deliberation, the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) decided to embrace its unexpected spotlight, and leverage film tourism to drive national and international tourism awareness and, ultimately, drive visitation.
Campaign preparation elements included:
- Case studies of successful film tourism campaigns were gathered and reviewed by the team
- A strategic media relations plan was built by ACVB and Turner Public Relations
- Filming details were gathered, including the air timing of key episodes of the show
- Media lists were created that traditionally did not cover travel (but were apt to cover film tourism)
- ACVB liaised with film offices of both the state of New Mexico and the city of Albuquerque on protocols and opportunities
- The teams collected a comprehensive database of every business in Albuquerque that had created unique services and offerings directly related to show
Once the first tourism offering was available (from the ABQ Trolley Co.), ACVB’s PR team started working with tourism partners to develop “Breaking Bad” offerings for visitors. Everything from “Breaking Bad” inspired candy and frozen yogurt to “Biking Bad” bike tours and Walter White hotel packages were created by Albuquerque businesses and used in Turner PR/ACVB pitches to media.
The AVCB and Turner PR targeted entertainment and travel publications, bloggers, and influencers and pitched the story idea in advance of and throughout the final season to emphasize the story’s timeliness.
Themes included highlighting local businesses visitors could experience, from The Candy Lady, who made the original ‘meth’ for the first two seasons of the show (blue rock candy); to bike tours of famous sites; and locally-produced items fans could order from afar, including “blue sky” donuts, crystal bath salts, and spice rubs inspired by a fictional restaurant chain on the show. In anticipation of the final episode, a “Breaking Bad” withdrawal pitch garnered coverage in a number of outlets; once the show had wrapped, an Emmy Award Party pitch landed Albuquerque in Wine Enthusiast.
The ACVB created and distributed several press releases to promote tourism products, as well as drive SEO value for the online content. The releases included quotes from the show’s creators, tourism officials, and details on “Breaking Bad” offerings in Albuquerque.
Targeted national media were invited to visit the destination on a “Breaking Bad” themed press trip in advance of the premiere of the show’s final season, leaving enough time for short- and mid-lead editorial coverage to appear, as well as long-lead coverage for fans to get their ‘fix’ of “Breaking Bad” after the show was finished.
The itinerary focused on a variety of angles, giving media a full business and tourism perspective on the impact of the show. They visited filming sites, favorite local hangouts of the cast and crew, film office representatives, and businesses that had a cheeky approach to welcoming tourists and fans of the show to the city. An additional press tour of journalists from the UK came as guests of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (UK) to garner publicity around the DVD release of the show in Europe.
The ACVB also created a self-guided “Breaking Bad” tour on its website, complete with a Google map and a listing of filming sites and must-visit businesses in the city. Due to the page’s success, ACVB was also able to create a citywide event around the final season, with watch parties at local businesses, a very successful Twitter feed (which ran on the page they had set up with the tour), and a continuing interest in “Breaking Bad” tourism.
“Breaking Bad” was the primary tourism marketing campaign of the year. Demand for hotels for calendar year 2013 was up 2.3% from 2012 as indicated by the percentage in change rooms sold by Smith Travel Research (STR). The average daily rate (ADR) was up 1.3% and the occupancy was up 2.5% according to STR.
More than 740 articles promoting Albuquerque in relationship to “Breaking Bad” appeared in 2013 alone, including print, online, and broadcast mediums. The total reach of the articles was estimated at more than 1.4 billion.
Coverage in top-tier outlets with ideal audiences for the campaign included People, Budget Travel, Hollywood Reporter, MSN.com, USA TODAY, and many more. Additionally, significant international media coverage was garnered including German Public Radio, which did three entire broadcasts on “Breaking Bad.” Total visits to the “Breaking Bad” website during 2013 was 87,959, with an average duration of 2:24 minutes per visit.
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