Taking Charge of a Shoulder Season to Reposition Winter for Locals & Visitors

How this Case Study may be relevant to you: This campaign used the PESO model to develop a holistic approach to marketing, driving visitation and hotel occupancy within a destination.

We earned 5.61 million media impressions in just four months, created video content that received 18,038 YouTube views, and 52,036 Facebook views. The campaign was covered by Huffington Post and The Weather Channel, and won 6 industry awards.

Note: Visit Syracuse is the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) for Syracuse, New York and Onondaga County’s official Tourism Promotion Agency (TPA).

Photo Credit: Visit Syracuse

Situational Analysis

In Syracuse & Central New York, winter is off-season for tourism. With the region’s snowy reputation, hotel occupancies fall to nearly 40% in January from highs of 80% in August (functionally sold out). Yet, top attractions operate all year. For growth to occur, it must be in winter. 

With a need to generate higher levels of hotel occupancy during the winter season, Visit Syracuse was looking to change the perception of winter vacations in Syracuse and Central New York. 

The Challenge

To succeed, Visit Syracuse needed to overcome negative perceptions—both internal & external. In addition, they couldn’t rely on typical advertising and promotions which historically showed little return. 

Photo Credit: Visit Syracuse
Photo Credit: Visit Syracuse


  • Position Syracuse and CNY as the “Official Home of Winter”
  • Prioritize spending to the most lucrative target markets
  • Communicate with stakeholders
  • Build social media and video content

Strategic Insight

Syracuse and Central NY doesn’t just handle winter – they embrace it. ​

Messaging and positioning are extremely important for influencing and, in this case, changing a visitor’s perception of the destination. This multi-faceted campaign created awareness of Syracuse as a winter destination as groundwork for moving the needle on shoulder season visitation. 

Photo Credit: Visit Syracuse

Strategic Approach

  • Create a simple message: Syracuse owns winter, has fun with it and is proud of it.
  • Permeate Visit Syracuse’s channels with positive winter messaging for locals, visitors and stakeholders. 
  • Humorously position CNY as a fun destination in all seasons.
Photo Credit: Visit Syracuse
Photo Credit: Visit Syracuse

Destiny USA Street Team

Winter Welcome Rally

Winter Welcome Rally

Winter Welcome Rally

Winter Welcome Rally

Six More Weeks!

Winter is interviewed by Jim Cantore, The Weather Channel, at Punxsutawney's Groundhog Day


  • Destiny USA Installation & Street Team: Created and installed a wall display for shoppers to take & post winter-themed photos with 6 fun characters. A street team and video crew on Dec. 10 encouraged visitors to use the photo wall and collect testimonials for use in future videos. 
  • Meet “Winter” Video Series:  An actor in seasonal makeup, “Winter” became the spokesperson for the overall campaign, showing the season as fun-loving, irreverent and always interesting. Meet Winter video series launched twice weekly on social media. 
  • Winter Welcome Rally: In a “fake news” press conference, timed for the quietest news week of the year, “Winter” was welcomed to his official hometown. State, county & municipal officials took part in the good-natured event, along with several reporters. 
  • Visit Syracuse FAM Trip: A familiarization tour for 8 travel journalists visited Syracuse in conjunction with the Winter Welcome Rally.
  • Six More Weeks: The team “hacked” America’s #1 annual weather story, Punxsutawney’s Groundhog Day, with a PR stunt built on a creative news hook. The team bucked common desire for early spring and “protested” for 6 more weeks of winter. The team used social media/streaming video to amplify the message, trailed by an imbedded video crew hired to draw attention & capture B-roll.
  • Blog: Continued Winter’s exploration of his home with a blog written in his voice, posted on the Visit Syracuse website, Facebook & Twitter.


The campaign generated goodwill and support from local elected officials and piqued the interest of tourism partners who re-evaluated winter as a viable market​.

Photo Credit: Visit Syracuse

Result Highlights

  • Over the course of 5 weeks, 9 videos featuring Winter were released, receiving 18,038 total views on YouTube and 52,036 total views on Facebook 
  • Generated significant media attention with 561,442,540 total impressions in just four months from 38 placements, including stories ​on Huffington Post and The Weather Channel.
  • Hosted 11 writers on media fams. Collectively, they posted 156 times in addition to Retweeting VisitSyracuse posts.

Award Recognition

  • Ragan's PR Daily, Publicity Stunt
  • Gold HSMAI Adrian, Integrated Marketing Campaign
  • Gold Davey, Promotional/Branding
  • Gold MarCom, Public Relations Program
  • Bronze Telly, Video/Shows/Segments
  • PRSA PRism, Creative Tactics