Big White Hold's it's Own 2010 Games

Special to the Globe and Mail
Mia Wedgebury

Imagine you're the owner and operator of a ski resort in Kelowna, B.C. You're not that far from Vancouver, but far enough to be outside the main Olympics action in the Whistler-Vancouver corridor. Still, you want to tap into that Olympics spirit, and offer your guests something unique during their stay.

What do you do?

This is the challenge that faced Big White and Silver Star Mountain resorts in Kelowna. Fortunately, they had a few things going for them, most important being a link to Canadian Olympic athletes, and a willingness to get creative when it came to entertaining guests. “Silver Star Mountain Resort had eight Olympic teams training at the resort leading into the Games, and together they earned a total of 50 medals in Vancouver. Other athletes took notice of that, and it helped get our name out there,” says Michael J. Ballingall, the company's senior vice-president.

Inspired by their own Olympic training legacy, the resorts got inspired and launched a unique marketing campaign that ensured guests became part of the Olympic spirit. They hosted the first-ever Big White Games, consisting of family-themed competition. Guests competed with one another, and each day concluded with a “medal” ceremony. Photos and videos of the events were posted to Flickr and YouTube to raise the event's profile, while the resort provided real-time updates on Twitter and Facebook.

Everything possible was done to mirror the Olympic experience. “We kicked things off with our own torch and flag-bearing parade, and from there we focused on family events, ranging from ice hockey, biathlon, human curling, ski and boarder cross and ski racing,” Mr. Ballingall adds.

The benefits went far beyond guest satisfaction – the events were covered in the local media, and were picked up on the Tourism BC website. Plans are already in the works for a 2011 version of the Big White Games.

We can all learn from the example of Big White and Silver Star. It pays to stand back, look at what you do, and tie it into something bigger. Play to your strengths, but also try to make dealing with your business more than just pleasant. Make it unique, maybe even fun. And don't be afraid to experiment.

You may not be able build your own mini-Olympics, but you will make an impression your customers won't soon forget.

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