Sarasota County tourism receives boost from partnership with O's

Sarasota, Florida - The Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau (SCVB) has seen a significant increase in requests for destination information and visitation from the Mid-Atlantic region, largely due to the continued relationship between Sarasota County and the Baltimore Orioles. Over the last three years, inquiries from the Mid-Atlantic region grew 2.2 percent in 2009, 6.4 percent in 2010, and 7.3 percent for 2011 during the January through March time period. The visitor intercept statistics for the same time period show a 44% increase in visitation from 2009 to 2010 and a 6.9 percent increase from 2010 to 2011.

"The scope and value of the marketing partnership between the Orioles and Sarasota County is unprecedented among Major League Baseball's spring training communities," said Greg Bader, Orioles' communications director. "We are thrilled to see such positive results already. The numbers indicate that the SCVB's message is resonating with the audiences we are reaching in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond."

When the Baltimore Orioles made Sarasota County their Spring Training Home in 2009, the SCVB and the Orioles partnered together to promote Sarasota County's tourism message to audiences from the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond in a variety of formats. The estimated value of the partnership exceeds $1 million annually.

This year, the partnership includes the promotion of Sarasota County during radio and television broadcasts of spring training games played at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota as well as during all 162 regular season Major League Baseball games. Commercials featuring Sarasota County as a tourism destination will air during a variety of MASN programming, including not only MLB broadcasts but also during the more than 225 live MASN broadcasts of college football, basketball, and lacrosse this year. SCVB advertising will also be featured year-round on masnsports.com.

In addition to the promotion of Sarasota County during MLB broadcasts and the various other MASN programming and outlets, the benefits of the partnership between the Orioles and Sarasota County involve a variety of other promotional opportunities including: a presence for Sarasota County at the Annual Orioles Fan Fest event in Baltimore; a presence for Sarasota County at the Greater Baltimore Committee Annual Luncheon; and the ability to host travel agents, meeting planners, and travel media at baseball games in the MASN suite at both Camden Yards and Nationals Park. The SCVB also receives year round exposure at Camden Yards with "Behind the home plate signage" as well as one day set aside each year for a "Sarasota County Day" at Camden Yards.

The partnership involves many print advertising promotional opportunities for Sarasota County, as well. First, SCVB print advertising is featured in Orioles Magazine publications, including all four issues of the game program--one in Sarasota and three in Baltimore--as well as in the Orioles Team Yearbook. Distribution for each edition averages over 15,000.

Second, SCVB advertisements are featured on the back of over 300,000 regular season pocket schedules distributed throughout the Baltimore/Washington area.

Third, all Oriole Park at Camden Yards season plan holders receive with their ticket invoice a special offer for free spring training tickets (courtesy of the Orioles), featuring an advertisement promoting the SCVB and several area Orioles Preferred Hotels. The promotion is designed to encourage Mid-Atlantic Region-based fans to travel to Sarasota by providing them with complimentary tickets to Ed Smith Stadium if they make the trip.

Lastly, at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, the Orioles will provide a Visitor Welcome Center in the concourse, directly across from the Fan Information desk and near both the Orioles Team Store and Café 54, by the main ballpark entrance. This prime location allows SCVB staff and volunteers to interact with visitors seeking information about the incredible tourism and hospitality offerings in Sarasota County. A nearby partner wall, first established in 2011, will help promote several local cultural offerings for fans visiting the area.

The Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau is the sales and marketing organization contracted by the Sarasota County Tourist Development Council (TDC) to champion the growth of business and leisure tourism in Sarasota County. For more information, contact Erin M. Duggan at (941) 955-0991, ext. 108, or eduggan@sarasotafl.org.