Skico steps up climate battle | AspenTimes.com

Skico steps up climate battle

The Aspen Skiing Co.'s advertising campaign this season features local athletes, such as Gretchen Bleiler, building awareness about global warming. (Contributed photo)

ASPEN – The Aspen Skiing Co. is stepping up its crusade against global warming and enlisting some star athletes for the effort.

The Skico’s entire advertising campaign for the 2007-08 winter will focus on climate change and ways to fight it. The company took a similar but smaller-scale tack last season.

In addition, a portion of the Skico’s direct-mail campaign also is geared toward getting the message out about global warming. It will send compact florescent light bulbs to 40,000 households of its most loyal customers and make a direct appeal to them to reduce their carbon production. Those light bulbs, called CFLs, use significantly less energy than standard bulbs.

“Our goal with these programs, both the advertising campaign and loyalty program, is to create heightened awareness of global climate change, to provide information and to encourage people to act,” said Jeanne Mackowski, the Skico’s vice president of marketing.

Even if the marketing efforts don’t draw more customers to Aspen and Snowmass, the Skico will consider them a success if they inspire people to take action on global warming, Mackowski said. If they happen to attract more business, that’s gravy.

Ads in Powder, Ski, Outside, Freeskier, Snowboarder and TransWorld Snowboarding magazines that have either hit the newsstands or are about to will carry the Skico’s “save snow” message, Mackowski said. Last year the global warming ads ran in just Outside and Ski. Now the Skico is aiming for a broader audience ” one that it hopes to reach via big-time athletes from the Roaring Fork Valley.

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The ads feature snowboarding star Gretchen Bleiler, freeskier Peter Olenick and extreme skier Chris Davenport. The backgrounds of the ads show them performing their particular type of winter magic. The athletes are featured dressed in street clothes, and each ad has a quote related to global warming.

“I’m proud to have grown up at a resort that is doing something to fight global warming,” Olenick says in one version.

Bleiler says: “Aspen/Snowmass has fought climate change since 1997; now it’s time for you to get involved.”

Davenport’s message is, “Aspen/Snowmass is dedicated to preserving the skiing experience and that’s why I live here.” The background shot shows him hiking up a majestic peak with skis strapped to his pack.

Each ad includes a blurb about each athlete’s accomplishments and an invitation to go to the Skico’s special spinoff website, http://www.savesnow.org, to learn more about climate change and actions individuals can take.

The ads are a call to action that will reach a broader audience than just potential customers of Aspen and Snowmass, Mackowski said. Last year, there were 64,000 visits to the “savesnow” website during the first two months the ads ran, she said. The Skico isn’t trying to measure whether the ads translate into lift ticket sales.

But there is reason to suspect that promoting green practices can benefit the company’s bottom line. An annul survey of Skico customers during the 2005-06 season showed that 35.6 percent were more likely to return because of the company’s environmental practices. Last season, the number increased to 38.8 percent, Mackowski said.

That likely means that environmental policies are important to nearly 40 percent of other ski resorts’ customers as well, she said. The implication is simple: If the Skico is recognized for its green stance, it could lure prospective customers as well as satisfy many of the existing ones.

The goal of the light bulb mailing program is to have direct appeal to customers. Mackowski said the Skico has done something the past few seasons to show its most loyal customers that it appreciates them. Most loyal is defined as those who have visited at least twice in the past five seasons. There are roughly 100,000 people who fit that category.

The Skico sent them a special notebook the past two years that otherwise is unavailable. They also receive a message from company brass telling them how much they are appreciated. There was a “great response” in terms of personal messages from recipients, Mackowski said.

This season, the Skico wanted to do something other than the notebooks. The marketing team came up with the idea of the CFLs: “They’re kind of representative of what an individual can do,” Mackowski said.

The Skico will ship out packages containing the light bulbs in late October along with a message about climate change from Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan. The package will include information about what the Skico is doing to promote global cooling and about the “savesnow” website.

Again, the main thrust is education and inspiring action, Mackowski said. The Skico also will be able to measure whether the loyal guests return this season, although that might or might not have anything to do with the light bulb program.

Mackowski said she believes the environmentally oriented marketing programs are unique in the ski industry. The Skico aims to be a leader, particularly with its ads, and “break through the clutter,” she said.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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