Late last year, to celebrate the relaunch of my blog with a new design and improved city guides, I reached out to Germany Tourism, Visit Berlin and airBerlin to sponsor a sweepstakes giveaway to win a trip to Berlin. The idea was to promote travel to Berlin and with my updated Berlin city guide, there was a newsworthy and interesting event to tie the sweepstakes into. All three companies were interested and generally happy to support my proposal. Ultimately, the sweepstakes promotion was supported by airBerlin and Visit Berlin—two partners that I’d hardly ever worked with previously. Here’s what I learned.
Getting Travel Companies On Board
My proposal was a strong one. I was able to prove through hard data that readers and visitors of travelsofadam.com were already highly interested in Berlin and making changes to their itinerary based on recommendations from the blog. At the time, the travel blog had over 80,000 views per month with almost half of those views on content exclusively about Berlin or Germany. To me, this looked like a clear win for any company interested in that market.
To get both airBerlin and Visit Berlin to agree to the promotion, there was a lot of back-and-forth. The timeline was tight for each company but thanks to their effort, it was able to happen.
What I learned, though, is that working with previous partners is not always a given. I had hoped for Germany Tourism’s support but due to internal staff changes and budget constraints, they weren’t able to support the promotion on any level. The opposite was true of working with airBerlin, however. I especially sought them out for this sweepstakes, believing it to be a perfect match for the sweepstakes. My struggle, however, was the fact that we’d previously never worked together before and our communication in the past had been rather tense—I might even go so far as to say they actively were uninterested in working with my blog. And yet we made it happen.
Sometimes your sponsorship partners are the least expected.
Running & Marketing the Sweepstakes
To gain maximum for the sweepstakes, I researched the best contest apps for websites. After a recommendation from a friend, Andrea of rearviewmirror.tv, I was sold on the KingSumo WordPress plugin. Setting up the contest page was quick and easy.
I launched the sweepstakes hidden in a single blogpost and put up banner advertisements across my website. My email list also received an initial blast 12 hours before the contest was officially announced on the blog.
From then on out, it was a matter of informing and notifying all previous press partners of the sweepstakes. Some of that communication had happened before the sweepstakes was officially put together, in an effort to get media partners on board. All total, the contest was featured by Out Traveler, Gay Star News, My Destination, the Apex (Airline Passenger Experience) blog, Details.com as well as some podcasts (Travel Writing 2.0, The Barefoot Journal, others) and plenty of social media exposure (including Lonely Planet, AFAR and Yahoo Travel). The sweepstakes was also mentioned in presentations at the WTM travel conference in London and a November Travel Massive event in Berlin.
Surprisingly, the only people to not share about the contest were the very same partners I was working with!
What I Learned
I learned quite a few things from running this sweepstakes.
- Don’t try to force a partnership. If a company doesn’t seem to want to work with you, there’s little point in suggesting to them otherwise.
- Start marketing as early as possible — before anything even happens. It took weeks to get some media partners to agree to promote the sweepstakes, and even then, some of it happened in the last weeks of the promotion. The sooner you get media on board, the better.
- Include cross-promotion as a requirement. It hurts to work so long on promoting a partner or brand only to be returned with little social support or recognition.
- You don’t have to work with bloggers for social media awareness. I promoted this sweepstakes 100% to media outside of travel bloggers and still managed to receive over 16,000 entries, using only my own public relations network and social media. I can count on one hand the number of my blogger friends who shared this sweepstakes on their own social media.
- Press releases work and they work well. I sent a single press release out to all previous blog partners and media announcing the sweepstakes which led to several media leads, social media mentions and even some offers for future work.
- It’s important to already have the targeted audience. I credit the massive success of this campaign (almost 4x more entries than a contest that airBerlin ran on their own the weeks before this one) to the fact that the travelsofadam.com audience was already closely engaged and interested in Berlin as a destination. This meant the conversion from website visitor to contest entrant was relatively high.
For more data points and additional information about this sweepstakes, please read the case study from my blog’s media kit.