Brand USA and Kentucky have teamed up for a two-year partnership to promote the state’s bourbon whiskey heritage and increase international visitor numbers.
The partnership will cover trade education including webinars and insider guides in addition to consumer marketing such as features on Brand USA’s GoUSA TV channel and content created by influencers and media.
It will see Kentucky tripling its current contribution to Brand USA, with the national marketing organisation “amplifying the destination’s storytelling on bourbon focusing on craftsmanship and heritage while also showcasing how the spirit infuses every aspect of Kentuckian life from arts and culture to sports and music”.
Speaking at the IPW Conference in Orlando, Kentucky Department of Tourism commissioner Mike Mangeot said he hoped the partnership would make the state synonymous with bourbon and increase its international share of visitors from around 3% currently to around 5 or 6%. It was unveiled on Tuesday, which is National Bourbon Day.
Mangeot also hopes to host agents and suppliers with a view to boosting awareness and raising the profile of the state in tour operator programmes and with custom bourbon-focused packages.
He said: “We have our own representation firms in key markets such as the UK, Germany and Canada but this partnership will allow us to elevate awareness of Kentucky in those markets through the story of bourbon, which is officially designated by Congress as America’s native spirit.
“This is a significant investment in addition to our usual contribution (to Brand USA) but Brand USA has always over-performed and we see incredible value in our partnership.”
Mangeot said the focus was “not just on the consumption of bourbon” and explained the state had taken inspiration from California’s Napa Valley, where an entire tourist ecosystem has developed around its wine production.
He added: “We have all our distilleries supporting the partnership as they are accelerating their own visitor experiences, and I can see hotel and restaurant developments emerging to support the demand. We are only scratching the surface.”
Chris Thompson, chief executive of Brand USA, said the partnership was a good example of how US destinations could use the organisation’s reach and input to extend their own activity well beyond the value of their financial contribution.
He said: “The three letters USA are one of the most powerful brands in the world and the recognition of bourbon globally allows us to bring two iconic brands together.
“The partnerships that work the best layer destination management organisations and state representatives with us on top as we all offer different things to the activity.”
He added: “Mike planted the idea and we got on board straight away, we believe this will be an incredible partnership.”
Photo: Beautiful Destinations