Mower: A Campaign That Revitalized Travel When It Didn't Seem Possible

By Mower InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Mower: A Campaign That Revitalized Travel When It Didn't Seem Possible

After a year of quarantine, people were ready to travel in 2021. Some even started calling it "revenge travel." But that proved difficult as international and state border opening and closings were unpredictable; COVID testing was required for air travel, and general pandemic mandates varied by state.

These factors, coupled with the need to help local businesses get back on their feet, sparked an idea for the New York State Tourism Industry Association (NYSTIA). What if they could bring together the state's highly competitive tourism partners to encourage New Yorkers to vacation in their home state? Little did they know that the idea would grow into an award-winning campaign, with massive results for New York's tourism economy, under the creative direction of Mower, an agency with deep roots in the state.

In 2020, the tourism industry saw the loss of over 330,000 jobs -- nearly three times the employment impact of any other major category. There was an estimated loss of 56% in travel revenue to New York State businesses, which corresponded to a $1.2 billion drop in state and local tax revenues.

The industry needed help. The idea NYSTIA sparked turned into a kernel of a cause campaign: New Yorkers for New York.

NYSTIA put out a pro-bono request for proposals. Mower answered the call. It developed the idea for "Roam the Empire," a rallying cry to celebrate loud and proud all the splendor of New York. The campaign extolled to residents that New York was not only back open but also offered an endless array of adventures -- from Lake George to Central Park it invited locals to visit and support the destinations right in their backyard. And then visit another. And another.

"When you think of New York State there's really nothing that it lacks," said Mary Gendron, Senior Vice President, Managing Director of Mower.

Unlike typical tourism campaigns, it didn't just focus on aspirational adventures. It also called on New Yorkers to support each other. As one Instagram post shared, "Why #RoamTheEmpire? Well, to keep things local! With 62 unique counties in New York State, there's always something fun to do all while supporting and recovering our great state's local businesses."

The agency's passion for the state made sourcing content seamless. "It was such a feel-good opportunity. There was no hesitation," said Gendron of how agency employees from all five New York offices raised their hands to get involved.

Mower helped to empower local tourism agencies to participate in the campaign by creating a branded logo, look and language as well as usage guidelines to ensure a consistent approach. "We created the logo so that you could put the destination or tourism partner logo with the 'Roam the Empire' logo," Gendron explained.

Mower also created a dedicated landing page on NYSTIA's website where a robust campaign toolkit gave the state's tourism industry partners everything they needed.

An ongoing content strategy, consisting of original, easy-to-deploy assets, user-generated content and gamification of adventures, allowed regions to promote destinations. While they were normally competitive, the destinations joined together to provide content, cross promotion and a unified voice.

The effort was conceived as a B2B campaign, but Mower felt passionately that it could also be geared towards travelers themselves. The agency went beyond the initial requirements to develop, launch and maintain custom "Roam The Empire" Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Planned with no paid media budget, "Roam The Empire" caught fire with statewide media groups, which provided advertising grants, earned media and pro bono press services to amplify the program's reach.

NYSTIA's goal was for 50 tourism partners to sign on and participate in the campaign. In the first 90-days, that goal was shattered when over 100 tourism partners signed on, coming together in an unprecedented coalition.

Anointed the most successful single initiative in NYSTIA's history, it is being institutionalized with campaign assets available to members and anyone else interested in using them on an ongoing basis. The theme is being considered as a rebrand of the organization's scholarship program.

By the end of 2021, 170,000 of the jobs lost had been recovered. Travel spending increased 84% year-over-year during the first nine months of the campaign. That led to a tax revenue lift that was nearly 5% of 2019, pre-COVID numbers. While these stats are not specifically tied to "Roam The Empire," the campaign certainly buoyed the recovery.

Mower has been pleased with the results as well. "We've really had fun entering it into award programs. It's been our biggest winner in 2022," said Gendron. Most notably, a first-of-its-kind "New Yorker Award" is being presented to Mower by NYSTIA at its Tourism Excellence Awards. The award serves as a special acknowledgement for Mower's unique contribution to pandemic recovery in support of one of New York State's most vital and heavily impacted industries during the pandemic. The campaign also won five ANA Ace Awards as well as others.

While there are no plans for Mower to develop a "Roam The Empire"2.0 campaign, Mower continues to do a variety of pro bono work for New York causes including One Hundred Black Men of New York, an organization of youth-focused leaders who advocate for improvement in conditions in their communities.

Click the social buttons to share this story with colleagues and friends.
The opinions expressed here are the author's views and do not necessarily represent the views of

Copyright ©2024 MediaVillage, Inc. All rights reserved. By using this site you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.