Sin City is adding some suds to its tourism marketing. The agency behind the "What Happens Here, Stays Here" campaign for Las Vegas has created a beer brand as part of an effort to keep the 13-year-old effort fresh and frothy.
The black-labeled brew is called #WHHSH, a social-media geared acronym for the famous tagline introduced late last year by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and its agency R&R Partners. The new beer won't be available for sale to the general public. Instead it will be offered at promotional events, starting April 16 at a party the authority is hosting near the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif. Other campaign-branded products could follow, including a unisex perfume/cologne.
The goal is to extend the campaign's "adult freedom" ethos into something tangible, said Caroline Coyle, VP of brand strategy at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. "It's a really unique way for us to extend the appeal of Las Vegas beyond just a regular campaign," she said.
The visitors authority has been increasing its emphasis on digital and event marketing, as well as virtual reality. A new app called "Vegas VR" takes viewers through virtual experiences like a gondola ride at the Venetian or a helicopter ride over the Vegas strip. It can be used along with Google Cardboard and Oculus Rift. The authority will include a "virtual reality bar" at an April 11 event in New York City's Bryant Park where guests will be able to don headsets and experience Vegas virtually. The event is meant to promote a new Southwest Airlines direct flight from Newark to Las Vegas.
"When we do these activations, our resort partners always come to create a sense of Vegas right in whatever destination we are at," Ms. Coyle said.
The Coachella event, to take place over two days at the Ingleside Inn in Palm Springs, represents the first time the authority has staged a promotional event in conjunction with the music festival. Invitations were sent to people via email and social media. The guest list targets "everyone from celebrities, influencers and every-day festival goers," according to R&R Partners. Organizers are expecting 600-800 people to attend each day.
A DJ from Palms Casino Resort will provide music as the visitors authority recreates the Vegas spa experience via facials and massages.
The #WHHSH beer will be given out for free. The beer -- described as a mix between a pale ale and an IPA -- is brewed by Tenaya Creek Brewery of Las Vegas, a craft brewer whose regular brands include Bonanza Brown Ale.
"There is going to be a bunch of people walking around with #WHHSH beer hopefully imagining what they might do in Vegas the weekend after Coachella," said Arnie DiGeorge, executive creative director at R&R Partners. The agency is considering making limited quantities of the beer available for sale on Postmates, the on-demand delivery service.
The party comes as Las Vegas transitions from winter convention season to the summer tourism period. February visitor volume climbed by 5.3% to 3.3 million people, according to the authority. Convention attendance for the month was up by 10.5% to 607,787, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. For the year, Vegas is projecting 42.5 million visitors, which would be an increase from last year's 42.3 million, Ms. Coyle said.
Factors aiding Vegas include low gas prices as well as new attractions such as The Park by MGM Resorts International, she said. The venue, which provides a gateway to the new 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena, is described as an "outdoor oasis inspired by the iconic plazas, promenades and squares that have served as important public gathering destinations within the world's great cities."
The visitors authority will hold its TV investment steady, even as it experiments with virtual reality and campaign-themed products, Ms. Coyle said. New spots are being shot this month. One spot currently running nationally is called "Trophy."
R&R Partners and the authority rely on regular research to guide the campaign, including testing whether or not the "What Happens Here, Stays Here" tagline still works. The short answer: It does.
In consumer testing a couple years ago, the team presented the idea that the tagline would be killed. "The overall sentiment was one of disappointment, shock," Ms. Coyle said. "They just couldn't believe that we would get rid of this campaign that they had grown up with and come to love and really related to," she added. "There is no chance it is going to be put on the shelf anytime soon."