For the first time ever this year, Baltimore was featured in a TV ad during the Super Bowl.
The 30-second spot invited viewers to visit Baltimore during the second annual Light City Baltimore festival, scheduled from March 31 to April 8. It ran during the fourth quarter, at 10:34 p.m., just as the game was about to go into overtime and viewers were focused on their TV screens.
According to Dionne Joyner-Weems, vice president of marketing for Visit Baltimore, it was the first display of an ad that will be used many more times over the next few weeks to draw people to Light City.
“The most exciting new festival of 2016 is back,” says a female voice in the spot, which features nighttime footage of light art and waterfront performances from last year’s event.
“This spring, Baltimore once again transforms into a Wonderland of Light,” she continues. “Now, nine days and nine nights. It’s a free, epic celebration of innovation, creativity and community. Light City Baltimore. The magic is back at LightCity.org.”
Baltimoreans who watched the Super Bowl on Fox45 may have missed the ad, since it didn’t run on that station. It was a regional spot that aired on Fox5, the network’s affiliate station that serves Washington, D.C.
The ad was produced by Visit Baltimore, the city’s convention and visitors bureau and its ad agency, TBC. It featured footage from last year’s Light City festival, organized by the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts. Besides a 1.5-mile-long “light art walk,” it touted free concerts and performances throughout the event.
What made the ad so unusual was that it wasn’t expected to run during the Super Bowl, the most-watched sports event in the country, until the last minute. According to Joyner-Weems, it was being prepared to run in the Washington, Philadelphia and Baltimore TV markets, starting about three weeks before this year’s Light City festival.
But shortly before the Super Bowl, she said, Visit Baltimore learned there was an opportunity for it to run in the Washington TV market that night.
Joyner-Weems said she didn’t know if someone else’s ad had fallen through; she knew only that a spot opened up at the last minute, so Visit Baltimore decided to take it.
“It was a really great opportunity,” she said. “It was a last-minute opportunity. It was an opportunity we couldn’t refuse.”
Joyner-Weems said she can’t disclose exactly how much it cost to run the Light City ad on Fox5, but she can say Baltimore got a “discounted rate” and city officials are ecstatic with the results. She said the station estimated the spot was seen by up to 1.2 million people, including a high percentage of viewers in the coveted 25-to-54 age range.
“To have an opportunity for Baltimore to shine before an audience like that is just tremendous,” she said.
Joyner-Weems admitted she was growing concerned when the ad hadn’t run late in the game, but the timing turned out to be fortuitous because the score was tied and people were still watching.
For a city, having an ad debut during the Super Bowl is different than any other time, she said.
“It’s a blessing to get the Super Bowl, “she said. “It took us to a whole new level. We’ve had phone calls, text messages, numerous shares of the video online. It’s different when you are part of that. It shows that you really are a premier destination.”
Now that the spot has aired once, she said, Visit Baltimore plans to run it closer to the event in Washington and Philadelphia stations and on social media, CharmTV and other stations in Baltimore. Tracy Baskerville of BOPA decides how to use it locally, Joyner-Weems said.
Visit Baltimore also is working with Southwest Airlines to promote Light City in the February and March issues of its in-flight magazine. According to Joyner-Weems, the February issue announced a contest in which two people will win free trips to Baltimore to see the festival, and the March issue will announce the contest winners and include a spread about the city and the event.
She noted that Visit Baltimore couldn’t have produced a similar ad for last year’s Super Bowl because the first Light City festival had not taken place and there was no footage to show. Having colorful images from last year’s event, she said, helps to convey what it’s all about.
“It’s hard to explain something that hasn’t happened yet,” she said. “The first year was a promise. But this year we’re able to show it.”