The first official Kansas State Fair was held Sept. 13-20, 1913 – making the 2012 event the fair’s 100th. We needed to celebrate the now-100-year-old tradition of the event; continue the upward trend in attendance and revenue growth; attract a younger demographic; and further strengthen the fair’s image as the premier entertainment event in Kansas. Challenges included urban perceptions of and sometimes apathy toward agriculture; rising gas prices and a not-yet-ideal economic climate; increasing competition in the entertainment industry; and ever-changing, unpredictable Kansas weather.
The advertising message needed to be outrageous and fun, while speaking to the history of the fair and good times that bring fairgoers back year after year. We needed to focus on our primary audience of teens and young adults (18-24), while ensuring we meet the needs of our secondary audiences of adults with families (25-54) and traditional fairgoers (55-plus). We needed to honor the fair’s roots while keeping the creative fresh and bold. Our target audience – teens and young adults – goes to the fair to hang out with friends, have fun on the midway and ride the rides. The secondary audiences of families and traditional fairgoers want a place for family memories and experiences they can’t get from any other Kansas event or trip. The centennial celebration campaign created must bring all these elements together to appeal to the diverse audiences.
We created new messaging – the tagline “Never Gets Old” – that celebrates the 100-year milestone. A boater-hat-wearing, party-horn-blowing, cowboy-boot-kicking barker welcomes one and all. The centennial event’s fun-loving mascot sports a blue-ribbon tie and a vintage look that’s oddly modern and classic all at the same time. A ferris wheel adorned in colorful lights, carney game and shooting-gallery duck reflect the energy and thrill offered by the midway, and a starry night sky serves as a beckoning backdrop. A retro design gives the artwork a vintage look, while a playful graphic style and wild textures add life and whimsy.
The campaign launched summer 2012 via TV, radio and outdoor advertising. The TV spot was promoted via social media channels, receiving nearly 8,000 YouTube views in a month’s time. Trade partnerships with 21 statewide radio stations provided on-air promotions at no monetary cost. A Twitter account and Kansas State Fair Facebook page – connected to more than 14,000 fans who have “liked” the page – provided an outlet to engage fairgoers. Volunteers took to the streets to distribute the campaign posters to businesses in their communities.
The Kansas State Fair ran Sept. 7-16. The event brought 343,007 attendees through the gates, an increase of nearly 4,000 from 2011 – and a $200,000 boost in gate receipts. The event also netted the fair $1.79 million in sales, up from $1.77 million the previous year. The midway reported its second highest gross ever at $1.219 million. Food sales were up, too. Throughout the event, food vendors sold commemorative 100-year cups and exhibitors jumped on the opportunity to incorporate the creative into their materials. The fair sold Never Gets Old T-shirts, sweatshirts, posters and cookbooks at its merchandise booth. Representatives from nearly 50 media outlets visited the fair to cover the event, including national media BBC News U.S. and Newsweek. We’ll continue the party in 2013 – the official centennial year.
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