Sterling Resorts Receives Award for Innovative Marketing

Last summer, in response to the BP Oil Spill and the lull in tourism, Sterling Resorts began a “Happy Hour” promotional campaign.  This campaign countered the increasing number of cancellations and led them to win the Flagler Award, which recognizes outstanding tourism marketing on behalf of the Florida Commission on Tourism.

About the Award

A competition for the Flagler award is held in conjunction with the Annual Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism  This award is based on the pillars of creativity, innovation, vision, and commitment. The standout entry in the Flagler Awards is also awarded The Henry Award, which Sterling Resorts received.  They were awarded top scores by five judges in the Direct Marketing segment.  Sterling Resorts was competing against top competitors in areas like The Keys/Key West and St. Pete/Clearwater.  The awards are open to all individuals, private businesses and not-for-profit organizations offering a product or service that promotes tourism to or within the state of Florida.

The Happy Hour Sale

The campaign involved a weekly email sent on Friday afternoons to offer exclusive savings to regional subscribers with time-sensitive offers.  These offers were available at select Sterling properties located in Panama City Beach, 30-A, and Destin.  They also used weekly Gulf updates and offered a ‘100% Clean Beach’ guarantee.  The promotion was aimed at reassuring travelers and combating cancellations, similarly; it produced more then 2,600 inquiries and 300 reservations.  This campaign generated $212,000 in revenue and provided for many vacation relationships to be built.  The Happy Hour Sale was brought back this summer by popular demand.

About Sterling Resorts

Sterling Resorts is one of the leading vacation rental companies in the Southeast, a division of Encore Enterprises.  They have over 20 condominium resorts in Panama City Beach, Destin, and 30-A.  In Panama City Beach, they manage Laketown Wharf, Calypso Resort and Towers, Celadon Beach Resort, Emerald Beach Resort, Emerald Isle, Grand Panama, Ocean Villa, Majestic Beach Towers, Ocean Ritz Resort, Splash, Southwind, Reflections at Bay Point, Sterling Beach, Sterling Breeze, Sterling Reef, Sunrise Beach, Tropic Winds, Tidewater Beach Resort, and Twin Palms Resort.

Congratulations to Sterling Resorts and all of those involved in the Happy Hour Sale!

TDC/CVB Meeting- 2011 Marketing Plans

TDC/CVB Feb 8 meeting offered an in-depth look into the 2011 marketing strategies as well as an opportunity to check out the newest TV Commercials.

The Real. Fun. Beach commercials were created to hit specific markets and have two versions in rotation, aimed at targeting Couples and Families.

More Info Below

Continue reading “TDC/CVB Meeting- 2011 Marketing Plans”

Florida League Of Cities to BOOST NWFL Marketing

The dust is finally settling around the Panhandle, bringing with it the need to do a little image enhancing.

During the oil spill, misinformation regarding the impact the spill had on our beaches prompted many to choose other destinations for their vacations. Thankfully, our beaches were spared and the brunt of the spill never touched the snow-white sands of our shores.

Continue reading “Florida League Of Cities to BOOST NWFL Marketing”

Free Clint Black Concert in Pier Park Draws Thousands

The crowd was standing or sitting in their chairs and blankets, cuddled up into each other’s arms Friday night at Pier Park. All waiting and trying to see the stage where Clint Black would perform. The lights went down and at the sound of a guitar the audience jumped up with enthusiastic screams.  Clint Black, with his signature black cowboy hat, brought some heat into the cold night air.

Continue reading “Free Clint Black Concert in Pier Park Draws Thousands”

TDC Marketing Meeting – New Web Site Update, Summer Marketing Talk

Tuesday’s Marketing Committee meeting should bring joy and laughter as we all dance around a silly little hat singing kumbaya.  Wait, scratch that, what?!

On the agenda is discussion (or updates, rather) of the new destination web site and discussion of the summer marketing campaign.  With last year’s failure of the Summer White Sale, I’m sure very anxious to see what they’ve come up with this year.  The nature of the Summer White Sale had promises of creative success, perhaps the way it was carried out and the essence of the body was what failed.  Anyway, I digress, it’s in the past.

Agenda can be downloaded here, or observed below:


Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc.
Panama City Beach
Tuesday, January 27, 2009           2:00 p.m.            Board Room, Visitor
Information Center




IV.    UPDATE ON DESTINATION WEBSITE, Ms. Susan Estler, VP of Marketing

V.    DISCUSSION OF 2009 SUMMER MARKETING CAMPAIGN, Ms. Susan Estler, VP of Marketing, and Ms. Kathy Fordham, YPartnership



How to sell your home during the Holidays

The holiday season offers the perfect opportunity to showcase your home at its sparkling best, especially if you follow a few simple tips.

You only have one opportunity to make a first impression; so, of course, this first impression starts as the potential buyer drives up to your home.  Twinkling lights hung neatly on doorways and trees are very attractive and festive, but don’t overdo it.  Less is generally more!  Leave those inflatable lawn displays in the box this year.  Giant bobbing snowmen or Santas on the roof are very cute for the kids, but do nothing to entice buyers to your front door.  Opt for a simple, attractive wreath for your door and perhaps some white lights strategically placed on shrubbery in the yard.

Don’t let your Christmas tree take over the living area.  The smaller the square feet of the home, the fewer decorations you should use.  Keep it simple, not cluttered, with a few decorations and some fresh greenery, like poinsettias and fresh garland.  A larger home can handle more decorations and the décor should be a little more elaborate.  Most importantly, subtle, yet attractive décor allows the potential buyer to see the warmth of your lovely home during the holiday season.

Enhance that special holiday feeling by playing soft, seasonal background music to set the stage for a showing.  Although Jingle Bell Rock and Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer may be holiday favorites of yours, soothing music will make that potential buyer think that your home is comfortable and desirable.

Finally, allow the aroma of the holidays to fill your home with delicious scents that make your visitors want to sit at the kitchen table and share a glass of cider.  Bake a cake or cookies before a showing so the savory smell lingers in the air…or simply leave a pot boiling with cider or packaged Christmas spices.  Place cinnamon sticks in an open jar or include them in a decorative design.

Remember, even though there may be fewer buyers actively looking at this time of year, there are still buyers looking.  It only takes one!  Use this opportunity to showcase your home at its festive best…and that’s a wrap.

If you have any questions about Staging for the Season, I’d love to hear from you.  Let’s look forward to a great 2009!

For more information, please contact Sandy at 850-303-1825 or You can also visit her websites @ and

TDC Approves working with MTVu for Spring Break

The Tourist Development Council approved moving forward with MTVu for promoting Spring Break 2009.  I guess at this point, it is too late to “go back to the drawing board.”

Here is the evolution of how it all went down.

The original MTVu proposal included a 10 day village with 8 concerts over 4 days, 300 30 second TV ad spots, 10 million online impressions, a database by which to collect user contact info (mobile numbers, email addresses, etc.), and a few more things.

The whole proposal was discussed during a marketing committee meeting and overall a motion was made to approve moving forward, but with the stipulation that the TDC wanted the price to be lowered to $200,000 (stemmed from what some believe as an effort to come up with less co-op money).

When MTVu heard about this, they weren’t that happy and came back with a proposal that was just more than half of their initial proposal for 20% less money.  Of course, that wasn’t gonna work for the TDC.  After calming MTVu down, Dan Rowe, was able to negotiate 250 30 second TV ad spots, 10 million online impressions, database collection, a 10 campus kick-off tour featuring Panama City Beach as a spring break vacation destination, featured premium placement on the MTVu hub page (what does that mean??), and a link back to the micro site (from where???).

Dan explained that some of the benefits of working with MTVu include that they are regulated by the FCC, they have a brand to protect, that they do NOT advertising any alcoholic products, will not publish any film/pictures of alcoholic related activity or drunk students, and that they are good for our image and our initiative to vacation responsibility.

The board stressed their desire to not spend more than $150,000, and that the rest MUST come from co-op sponsors.  Staff (Dan and co.) have so far received commitments for co-op in the amount of $50,500 and anticipates that number to grow as we come closer to spring break.  All additional funds generated will go first to operational costs associated (costs can be up to $90,000 above and beyond the $150,000 – someone correct me if I’m wrong here), then go to paying the TDC back for the initial $150,000 investment.

This year, compared to last year, there are actually three categories for co-op sponsors:

  • Lodging – hotels, condos, resorts, etc.
    • There will be two levels of sponsorship opportunities, premium and all the others.  Premium will be limited to 6 advertisers and will have premium placement on the main lodging page, and all the others will be on a page linked to through an “all offers”, or “all other offers” text or graphic link from the main lodging page.
  • Food/entertainment – restaurants, bars, clubs, etc. For this category, there are unlimited opportunities available, for premium and otherwise.  The premium sponsors will have the opportunity to have their specials, etc. broadcasted to the TDC database via text messages (that is supposed to be geo-targeted).
  • Retail/attractions – the new element (can’t beleive this never existed before), includes retails stores or services such as Victoria Secrets or California Cycles.  This category will have the same premium “text message” opportunity as the food/entertainment category.

There are a lot of cool things that can be done with text messaging marketing.  I’m not sure the geo-targeting aspects are all they are cracked up to be as they require to user to have an application up and running on their phone in order to receive messages, and I’m not sure that students will be walking around with their phones open and an app running, or if they’d even start the app in the first place.

Also, with doing just plain text message advertisements are still limited to 160 characters per messasge, which can get used up pretty quick.

Can this be done without MTVu, I’m sure of it.  However, at this point, what are the alternatives?  I don’t know, and neither does the TDC.  I’m sure they would be open to suggestions of anyone that could come in, set up a whole online marketing campaign with millions of impressions, put on a fairly large scale show with several concerts, incorporating a variety of web and tv posibilities and do it all for a package price.  Anyone?

TDC's $52 million improvement iniative

Wednesday, the TDC’s Revenue Enhancement Committee (fancy for bed tax committee) met to discuss improvement ideas for Panama City Beach and how to fund it all.

The ideas range from a new beach trash disposal system to a grass amphitheatre with bathroom and concessions facilities at Aaron Bessant Park.

The ideas stem from the Strategic Plan and include:

  • TDC Marketing and Awareness
    • Welcome to the Beach campaign which would include welcome signs west of the Hathaway Bridge and along Highway 79, and replacing existing signs.
    • New beach trash disposal system to replace the existing blue refuse containers.
    • Beach safety campaign to increase public awareness about the flag warning system and fund additional flag poles. (THIS ISN’T ENOUGH, PEOPLE, AND YOU KNOW IT!)
    • Estimated total cost of $500,000 per year.
  • Special Events Marketing
    • Construct a permanent stage suitable for concerts and theatrical performances at Aaron Bessant Park, at Pier Park.
    • Build an amphitheatre ‘bowl’ with a grass covered berm with restroom and concession space on the back/underside of the grass ‘bowl’.  Should be capable of a 5,000 capacity.
    • Create space for tents, vendor areas, or other festival support areas in the flat areas of the park.
    • Estimated total coast of $5 million

I think this is a really neat idea, and definitely worth looking into, but we need to be planning for 25,000 people, not 5,000 people.  Aaron Bessant Park needs some renovation, but will never have the capability to have anything much larger than the summer Concerts in the Park series.  We need to be looking at improving larger capacity facilities, like Frank Brown Park.

  • Sports Marketing – Frank Brown Park
    • Develop two additional ‘pinwheels’ of softball/youth baseball fields with the appropriate infrastructure.
    • Make two of the fields in the new ‘pinwheels’ the ‘marquee’ fields with additional seating, dugouts, press boxes, etc., one for baseball, one for softball.
    • Look at building a warm-up pool and permanent seating at the aquatic center to enhance potential at attracting regional swimming competitions.
    • Enhance the equestrian facilities
    • Estimated total cost is $7.5 to $10 million
  • Sports Marketing – Sports Village Complex (in addition to Frank Brown Park, would need to acquire additional land)
    • Develop indoor field house to expand offerings to include court and mat sports.
    • Develop 8 to 12 rectangular fields for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, flag football, etc. Some would have grass, others artificial turf
    • Develop 8 full-sized baseball fields for additional tournaments and practicing facilities.
    • Estimated total cost is $33 to $35 million
  • Destination Marketing
    • Begin international marketing efforts when the new airport comes online and our area becomes more easily accessed.
    • Increase domestic advertising – more money is needed in order to fully penetrate our core markets and expand outside the southeast (or we could just use the $500k that was wasted on the Summer White Sale campaign for something that is more innovative, creative, and effective)
    • Enhance the Visitor Center with new technology and look and feel
    • Estimated total cost is $1 to $2 million

Now, where did all these numbers come from?  That is an unknown as of now, just estimations.  The committee requested of Dan and Staff to ‘zero-base’ the numbers and give details to how much each aspect of these improvements will cost, ideally to have everything spelled out by the December TDC meeting.  The goal is to have everything in order to request an additional 2cents be added to the bed tax first part of the year.

Staff counsel, Doug Sale said that from implementation to actual collection could be up to 90 days, so if they could get the tax implemented first of the year, collections could start rolling in for the new season in spring break.

I’m in total agreement that we need to collect additional bed tax in order to keep up with the competition.  I’ve not been too impressed with the way the money has been spent in the past, however.  I will give kudos to TDC Chair Andy Phillips for staying on everyone to be sure the numbers included will have some specificity in the near future.

TDC to Discuss MTVu and New Web Site Presentations

The TDC meeting scheduled for Thursday at 2pm in the council room should be very interesting to say the least. On the agenda will be to discuss the MTVu program and hear from the interactive agencies bidding to build the new “Panama City Beach” web site.  I fully expect the meeting to be long and arduous and some tough decisions to be made.

I also assume there will be tons in attendance, so come early.

I will be making live updates from my cell phone using the lovely Twitter service, so be sure to sign up and follow pcbdaily.  And be sure to set up your mobile devices if you don’t want to keep checking our twitter page.



Bay County Tourist Development Council
Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc.
Panama City Beach
Thursday, November 6, 2008                 2:00 p.m.        Council Room, PCB City Hall



A.    Invocation
B.    Pledge of Allegiance


IV.    UPDATE ON BED TAX COLLECTIONS, Ms. Charlene Honnen, Tourist Development Tax Specialist


A.    Discuss and Consider for Approval Coastal Planning & Engineering Invoice #81029, Invoice #81030, and Invoice #81032, Mr. Dan Rowe, President


A.    Review and Discuss mtvU Program, Mr. Dan Rowe, President


A.    JB, Inc.
Presentation by Ms. Jennifer A. Barbee, Ms. Annette Gilespie, Ms. Kim Powers, and Ms. Marianne Cushing
B.    Miles Media
Presentation by Mr. Roger Miles, Mr. Ryan Nance, Ms. Elena Prostova, and Mr. Scott Templeton
C.    SimpleView
Presentation by Mr. Kevin Bate and Ms. Cara Scholke



Should We 'Kick' MTV 'to the curb'?

Well, should we?  It would seem to me that we aren’t good enough for them.  Maybe we should take our $250k (read $200k) and do something more productive with it, rather than waste it on some antediluvian has-been.  I mean, seriously, who watches MTV anymore anyway.  Sure, all the left-wing east west coasters that are too concerned about the color of their hair than what is actually happening in the real world may still watch it but the ‘kids’ that vacation here during their college spring break spend their free time working, partying, or hanging out with friends, not watching the melodrama unfold between Paris Hilton and her new BFF.

Not to mention that we aren’t even talking about MTV, we are taking about MTVu, a trifle subsidiary of the Bid Dawg.  Sure it is college specific, but again, what does that mean today?

So what are these snobs up to now?  Well, the last marketing committee meeting, the committee motioned to reduce the amount paid to MTVu from $250k to $200k.  When confronted with this issue, MTVu basically cut what they were willing to bring to the table in half.

As per the MTVu Program Recap, the $250k vs. $200k:

  • In-market, main stage for 5 days instead of 10
  • Village for 7 days instead of 10
  • 2 concert days with 4 performances instead of 4 concert days with 8 performances
  • 225 :30 TV spots instead of 300
  • 5 million online impressions instead of 10 million
  • No database
  • No sweepstakes
  • No opt-in opportunity onsite

What?  They’re basically cutting their offering in half, for only $50,000 less.  What’s their deal?  Well, apparently, we aren’t good enough for them.  Apparently $200k is small potatoes for very little on their part.  I say we ditch the Brand and do it ourselves.  For $200k, we can hire someone else to put on a good show and do a lot of marketing, a-lot-of-marketing.  MTVu isn’t the only game in town.

I don’t like to criticize unless I have a good solution, but in this case, I’m doing just that.  There are others being paid to find a solution to this, and they’ve come up with MTVu.  I suggest we find an alternative.  The reality is, if we throw a big enough party (and for $200k, we can throw a pretty big party) MTV will be here anyway, because that is where the action will be.

Now, to you tourism leaders, resort owners and the like:  what are you afraid of?  What happened to good ‘ol fashioned marketing.  Most of you big guys are paying a salaried marketing person to come up with great ideas to get your brand out there.  Why have we become so reliant on the Government to supply us with our business?  Furthermore, the sky will not fall if the beloved MTVu brand turns their pink nose up at us.  The reality is that college kids still love to come here, others can organize huge shows to keep the crowds busy and the party will still be in Panama City Beach during Spring Break 2009.