Experience Kissimmee Uses Invictus Games for Global Branding

If the Invictus Games awarded a medal in marketing, Experience Kissimmee would surely win. When Prince Harry’s brainchild, a 10-sport competition featuring wounded veteran athletes, announced it would take place at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando May 8-12, 2016, Kissimmee’s team saw a golden opportunity. John Poole, director of sports marketing and development at Experience Kissimmee, reached out to the global organization quickly and proved adept at negotiations. The proof: Kissimmee is the sole DMO partner for an event attracting 500 athletes from 15 countries, reaching a global audience on ESPN and BBC. This is the second Invictus Games. In March, Toronto won the 2017 competition. The television aspect is what captures Poole’s imagination, as it presents an unusual chance to bring worldwide attention to the destination. He guesses the event will bring about 30 million media impressions. “When I cut a deal for an amateur sporting event, I’m looking at the metrics from a room night and economic impact perspective,” Poole says. “With Invictus, I’m looking at exposure—how can we generate awareness and elevate our brand?” Simply being in the same company as the celebrated guests and corporate sponsors is an accomplishment. In addition to Prince Harry, luminaries affiliated with the Games include Michelle Obama, George W. Bush, actors Morgan Freeman and Mike Myers, and Olympic swimming legend Ian Thorpe. [inlinead align="left"]"To be able to say the Invictus Games were held in Kissimmee is a point of distinction."[/inlinead] Jaguar Land Rover, Coca-Cola and host Walt Disney World Resort are among the official partners, along with Kissimmee. “This is a world-class event in a world-class destination and it was important we partnered with them,” says Poole, noting the ties to military personnel is a way to give back to wounded warriors and strike an emotional connection with audiences. Adds Larry White, vice president of communications at Experience Kissimmee: “To be able to say the Invictus Games were held in Kissimmee is a point of distinction.” Invictus falls into a larger branding strategy Kissimmee began adopting in recent years to use sports as a way to raise the city’s profile. It partners with Orlando City Soccer Club, a Major League Soccer team starring Brazilian midfielder Kaka, to reach out to Latin American audiences. Also, the DMO in sponsoring a racing team adorned with the destination’s marketing material in this year’s United Kingdom-based P1 Superstock powerboat series, an effort to reach European travelers. At Invictus, the spotlight will be on Kissimmee during the swimming competition it is sponsoring. While Poole didn’t target swimming per se in his pursuit of a deal, he says the pairing is natural given the preponderance of hotels with pools in the city and state. Think of it as another subtle reminder to vacation there, he says. Poole and his team have been strategic in how Kissimmee is using its branding during the competition. For instance, the idea of putting the Experience Kissimmee logo at the bottom of the swimming venue sounded cool, but it would only be seen in one television frame per race. Instead, the branding will adorn the touch pads the cameras will focus on as each athlete completes a lap, generating multiple views per heat. Outside the pool, the DMO will hand out fans with its logo and social media information to the 2,500 spectators the pool seats. Commercials will air on ESPN3 and ESPN2, and signage will be all over the Disney facility. “This gives us a great platform,” says Poole. “With events like this, they remember it for years.” Photo Credit: Invictusgames2016.org