Case Study: Turning Stone Resort & Casino, Verona, NYThe case study demonstrates Bodden Partners’ and Hamilton PR’s understanding ofcasino marketing, hotel marketing, cultural marketing, golf marketing and food andbeverage marketing and the ability to synthesize all of those attractions into onesuccessful campaign.Situation & Objective Turning Stone Resort & Casino is located 30 minutes east of Syracuse, NY, and is a large resort located on sovereign Oneida Nation Land. The resort includes several hotels, a casino, restaurants, a spa, a night club, and five golf courses, three of which are championship-level and one of which hosts a PGA Tour tournament, called the Turning Stone Resort Championship. Turning Stone’s property included high-end offerings that were not attracting the type of consumer who would spend enough money to make the resort profitable. By our analysis the average Turning Stone Customer was spending $100 on each visit. Bodden’s goal was to increase the per-customer spend dramatically by drawing customers from major metropolitan areas and away from significant competition that included well-known gaming destinations like Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods, and those in Atlantic City, NJ. We needed to give people a reason to visit Turning Stone that would make them believe the resort was attractive and different, and would provide the resort with an umbrella brand and story that would build the perception of Turning Stone as a highly desirable resort and destination.The Process Our research process began with 13 one-hour interviews by Bodden principals with key Oneida tribe members and Turning Stone property division managers. The engagement began with no preconceived notions of what the resulting brand identity would be, but with an open-minded approach to what the key tribe members and managers were saying about their people and their resort. In addition to the interviews, Bodden principals spent two full days in upstate New York Indian museums and libraries to learn the real history of the Oneida people. Additionally, Bodden commissioned research among the target audience in the footprint of the Iroquois Nation, which extends beyond and also includes the Oneida tribe. Finally, Bodden Partners engaged in over 100 one-on-one interviews with Turning Stone management and target audience adults. The results gave us the information we needed for the brand genesis, which we was exemplified in two
key ideas: 1) The spirit of the Oneida Nation enhances Turning Stone’s identity and 2) The Oneida Nation had a long history of hospitality, which served as a perfect backdrop for positioning Turning Stone as an open and welcoming resort.The Story This Oneida Nation spirit turned into the foundation of our marketing campaign, which centered on the spirit of being at peace with nature and an openness and hospitality. It was this quality of the Oneida people that inspired the spectacular Turning Stone Lodge and the outstanding restaurants on the property. Additionally, this spirit is what inspired the building of the spa, which is run according to the Oneida principles of herbal relaxation. The golf courses were also inspired by this principle of preserving nature and hospitality, and Turning Stone insisted on one that would be friendly on the environment and visitors would be entranced by its beauty. Indeed, all of the golf courses at Turning Stone are certified by the Audubon Society as environmentally friendly. That same spirit of hospitality extended to the expansive, 120,000 square foot casino.Creative Execution The communications program focused on today’s benchmark of hospitality excellence—the AAA Diamond Ratings. Turning Stone’s properties had received numerous Four Diamond ratings. Bodden determined and the client agreed these awards supported the modern interpretation of their hospitality heritage. Bodden Partners utilized that in its “Diamond” ad campaign, producing three television commercials (enclosed) and numerous print ads.Advertising & Media Tactics Bodden Partners utilized a pin-point media program to make the most of Turning Stone’s advertising budget, particularly in the New York City DMA, where Turning Stone was virtually unknown. The program hyper-localized advertising based on zip codes, even down to the block and used individual cable systems. This strategy enabled us to zero in on the most suitable areas for our target market so that very little advertising was wasted on those who would not be interested in visiting Turning Stone. We were seeking to find those who wanted an upscale experience that provided numerous entertainment and activity options. For print advertising, we focused on the New York DMA, golf and spa magazines that were distributed in the Northeast, along with a few small national specialty publications. Other advertising tactics included an online remarketing program that showed ads to users who had already seem them or been to the Turning Stone web site.
Bodden Partners also worked with Cablevision to negotiate “bonus” spots on thatcable system and spots that would appear on Video-on-Demand.ResultsIn addition to the ROI as explained in the earlier section, the branding andmarketing efforts resulted in a 253% increase in travel agent recognition of an“outstanding vacation experience,” according to Questex Media Research.The following are examples of the “Diamond” advertising campaign that BoddenPartners developed on behalf of Turning Stone, and which helped lead to asignificant increase in high-end visitors to the resort.
Public RelationsAs part of the marketing campaign to build the Turning Stone brand, Hamilton PublicRelations was retained to broaden awareness and help build the brand and the reach ofthe campaign. Our effort focused on key media and consumer groups that TurningStone was trying to reach.In getting visitors to Turning Stone, we focused on the numerous offerings to be had,differentiating the property from local competition, such as Foxwoods and Mohegan Sunin Connecticut and the numerous options in Atlantic City, NJ. All of those destinationshave gambling at the center of their offerings, with every other attraction being ancillary.We focused on Turning Stone’s numerous offerings, any of which individually wouldmake the resort attractive, but taken together make it a more compelling destination.There were three levels of consumers we wanted to reach with our public relationscampaign: local, regional and national. Local efforts focused on a two hour drivingradius of the resort and promoted the resort’s entertainment, special events as well asweekend promotions in order to entice more frequent visits. Regionally, Hamiltonfocused on those higher-end visitors who would likely stay more than one night and takeadvantage of the hotel, the restaurants, golf, gambling and the spa. This group includedtravelers within a six-hour drive, including those from New York City, Buffalo, Ottawa,Montreal, and Boston. Canadian visitors were a key target since, at the time, theCanadian currency was as strong as it has ever been against the dollar, and TurningStone offered Canadian travelers extra value.We also placed particular emphasis on New York City to support the advertisingcampaign and build awareness of the resort and its proximity. This produced severalmedia hits, including a Sunday feature in the NY Daily News (see below). Nationally, wetargeted audiences who would most likely visit the resort based on their interests andthose that lived in markets that offered direct flights to Syracuse. So we reached out toand had success with specialty media including food, weddings, spas, and golf.One of the most effective means of introducing members of target media to the propertywas through familiarization trips, a tactic we specialize in. We ran several trips with fiveor six members of the media and offered them organized access to all the facilities,including golf outings, spa sessions, dinners at the restaurants and other amenities. Forselect media who could not attend group trips, we provided access on a one-off basis.These trips resulted in the media having a better understanding of what Turning Stonehad to offer and how easy it was to get there and, most importantly, favorable mediacoverage, some of which is documented below, along with other press materialsproduced by Hamilton.