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Customer Stories How Killington used Inntopia to navigate the marketing hurdles of hosting a World Cup during a pandemic.

photo of band playing at killington world cup

photo of the author Gregg Blanchard

 Feb 8, 2022

Hosting a World Cup ski race was nothing new for Killington. They’d done so nearly every November for half a decade. Hosting a World Cup race during a pandemic, on the other hand, was. Especially when it came to communicating with spectators.

The marketing team had an app with push notifications, they were great at email, social media had always been a key tool, and skiers were used to visiting their website for up-to-date information, but when you add vaccine requirements, check-in instructions, and indoor mask rules to an event already heavily dependent on the whims of mother nature, they knew they needed something more.

As long-time users of Inntopia Marketing Cloud, they’d recently begun to take advantage of new integrations between SMS platforms and their guest database. Killington’s marketing team soon realized that text messaging might be their answer.

SMS / Text-Messaging

David Young, Killington’s Marketing Manager put it this way.

“SMS is the most deliverable way to reach someone. There’s nothing to install like a mobile app. You have to subscribe like email, but there aren’t spam filters in the way of someone receiving your message. It’s easy for someone to opt in to text messages, and if they’ve opted in, they’ll get what you send them.”

As the event approached, Killington’s Email and Digital Marketing specialist, Kaitlyn Zink started to map out the most likely messages they’d need during the 2-day event. At the same time, the team began to encourage attendees to subscribe to SMS alerts by including a link to the opt-in form in confirmation emails sent when someone booked tickets to the races.

screenshot of opt in form killington used for this campaign that asks for phone number and name

Given the option, guests jumped at the chance to receive event updates via SMS and the list grew rapidly. At one point roughly 3,500 people had subscribed; a huge number considering daily attendance was around 10,000 people.

Event Specific Opt-In

One of the most important aspects of this strategy was that race spectators were not subscribing to a general alert list, but text alerts specific to this event and nothing more. This gave attendees extra confidence to hand over their phone number. It also gave Kaitlyn the green light to send as many texts as were needed.

“This SMS segment was valuable because it was a really intentional audience with a very explicit opt in. We’re not just targeting them based on recent usage or where they are, but a specific request to know when important things happen in or around the races.”

With Kaitlyn standing by at a computer and Dave on the ground at the mountain, they were ready for action. Unfortunately, heavy snowfall forced the cancellation of the first day’s races. As a result, the duo sent 9 messages in a six-hour span mixing pre-written updates with last-minute notifications. The weather held the following day and 7 messages were sent. Instead of guests feeling overwhelmed, the number of subscribers grew as attendees passed the word that the SMS list was the best way to stay up to date.

Over the course of the weekend and supported by other channels, Kaitlyn and Dave used SMS to effectively accomplish everything from moving crowds and highlighting entertainment to reminding attendees when races began and celebrating the winners.

graphic of killington text messages sent during event including:  Killington Cup Reminder - Covid-19 vaccine card or negative test required for entry. Killington.com/wcinfo for details.  Killington Resort: Welcome to HomeLight Killington Cup Weekend! The vendor village is open and Giant Slalom run 1 begins at 10AM.    Killington Resort: Slalom run 1 starts in 15 minutes. Make your way to the viewing area.  Killington Resort: Congratulations to Mikaela Shiffrin on winning first place in today's Slalom race!

Success, Lessons, and Moving Forward

As the event wound down the team sent one last update encouraging these subscribers to opt-in to Killington’s main SMS alert list for more general updates around the resort. While the uptake was less than they hoped, it aligned with what Dave had learned about this channel.

“Originally I viewed SMS the same way as email. Something to be guarded and maintained. But I now see it’s strength as something more short-lived around smaller moments. It’s easy to subscribe to SMS and it’s easy to opt-out, but it’s extremely effective in-between.”

Kaitlyn agreed and has already taken those lessons and applied them to new situations.

“I see it as a topical channel. Build up a targeted list around a specific event or topic, use it, and then don’t be afraid to let that list go. Right now a lot of people are asking about some of our summer products that we haven’t nailed down yet. So we’re using SMS to capture that group so we can really effectively communicate to them once we’re ready.”

With a growing database, more refined strategy, and lots of use cases coming down the road, Killington sees a lot of potential for SMS in their marketing. And, based on the success of this campaign around the world cup races, it’s easy to see why.

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