Tees Valley Combined Authority details how it successfully launched a new destination marketing organisation with a website, tourism service and brand through an innovative and low-cost campaign which won hearts and awards throughout the region. This case study forms part of our devolution communications toolkit.
Tees Valley Combined Authority was created in April 2016. A partnership of five local authorities: Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees, the Combined Authority, which has been led since May 2017 by the elected Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, works closely with the Local Enterprise Partnership, wider business community and other partners to attract investment, drive economic growth and job creation in the region.
Under the devolution deal with Government, two of the areas that Tees Valley took on were culture and tourism. With ambitions to attract 20million people to the region by 2021 and promote Tees Valley as a new destination, the newly appointed Head of Communications & Marketing was tasked with launching a regional tourism brand in time to capitalise on National Tourism Week in March 2018. The challenge was to develop and sign off a brand, and coordinate and implement an impactful campaign with a limited budget and with only a few weeks until the launch.
Tees Valley hadn’t had a regional tourism brand for nearly seven years before launching Enjoy Tees Valley as a destination and marketing website, tourism service and brand.
The launch campaign – with a budget of just £1,000 – involved the creation of large letters spelling ENJOY, in the style of the famous ‘Hollywood’ sign. These went on a tour of each of the partner local authorities over a period of five days and were used by each of the region’s five local authorities in social media activity promoting their cultural and tourist offering on separate and coordinated days to create a series of localised launches and build collateral, communications activities and momentum for the campaign.
The letters enabled each local authority communications team to be creative and bring in the community and stakeholders to take part in marketing and public engagement opportunities. The ‘Enjoy’ letters and other brand activations subsequently went on to feature in a range of media activity during 2019 including forming part of a ‘flower wall’ used firstly as a backdrop for consumer/ social media engagements and media interviews for BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend in May 2019 (Stewart Park, Middlesbrough) and then the Great North CityGames in September 2019 (Stockton).
Outcomes and lessons learned
Enjoy Tees Valley is now a well-established tourism brand which helps directly support the economy of each of the Combined Authority’s members through supporting the domestic and international profile of the region. After Mayor Houchen and the Combined Authority brought Teesside International Airport into public ownership in early 2019, the Enjoy Tees Valley brand has had a large role to play in driving tourism, supported by the website and marketing (via social media and broadcast media, sporting events and consumer shows).
The launch campaign idea helped create an innovative and versatile platform which could be adapted by different authorities and stakeholders for use in different circumstances, including its use within the visually impactful ‘flower wall’.
The social media aspect of the Enjoy launch also gained a lot of attention, with digital channels including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, performing exceptionally well. One Facebook post’s reach was 306k, almost half of Tees Valley’s population, attracting 1.4k page likes and 2.2k engagements. In week one, there were 1.5k visits to the site, resulting in 4.7k page views.
The campaign won a Gold Award at the CIPR North East PRide Awards 2018 for Low Budget Campaign (due to its suitability for sharing across platforms like Instagram and Facebook). The subsequent flower wall campaign in May 2019 won a further CIPR PRide Gold award in for Best Use of Social Media, and also achieved the CIPR’s Mark of Excellence in June 2020 in the Best UK Public Sector Campaign category. The success of this initiative, with a very limited budget and timeframe, was facilitated by strong partnership working between Mayor Houchen and the Combined Authority’s Communications & Marketing Team, and the five local authorities and their communications teams.