Explore Minnesota Tourism REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL Advertising Agency Services SWIFT

Event #2-13923

Due date: 4:00 pm Central Time, March 20, 2023

Project Overview and Goals.

Explore Minnesota Tourism (EMT), the state agency responsible for marketing and promoting Minnesota’s leisure travel opportunities to potential travel consumers, is requesting proposals from advertising agencies for the Explore Minnesota Tourism advertising/marketing services contract.

Explore Minnesota Background

• EMT has been the brand responsible for promoting Minnesota tourism since the early 1980’s.

• The economic impact of Tourism in MN in 2021: $15.7 billion annually (down 5.5% from 2019); $998 million generated in leisure & hospitality state sales tax (down 6.9% from 2019) – approximately 14% of total state sales tax.

o Jobs in the leisure & hospitality sector: more than 229,000 (down 17% from 2019)

o Annual visitors to Minnesota in 2021: 70.3 million person-trips (including over night and day trips)

o Every $1 invested in tourism marketing returned $14 in state & local taxes and $145 in traveler spending.

o Sales by Region: The Metro region makes up 67% percent of Leisure and Hospitality sales, followed by

Southern: 11%, Central: 10%, NE: 7% and NW: 5%. Annual Travel Indicators.

• Tourism is a vital sector to Minnesota’s economy. Relative to other private sector industry, Leisure and

Hospitality ranks 4th for employment, 6th for the number of businesses, and 11th for GDP. Tourism touches every county in the state.

• EMT has had a flat budget since fiscal year 2014. Currently, a budget increase is included in the Governor’s budget recommendations for FY24-25, however, it will not be confirmed until the end of the legislative session in May.

• EMT’s FY23 budget ranks approximately 27th (among 40 states reporting through the U.S. Travel Association’s State Budget Survey, 2021/22 provisional budgets) among state travel and tourism offices. Most of our direct competitor states have higher promotional budgets.

• The FY23 advertising contract budget (general funds only) is just over $7 million.

• EMT marketing efforts include broadcast advertising, online/interactive marketing, social media marketing, outof-home and experiential tactics, printed promotional materials, public relations, domestic group and international travel trade advertising.

• EMT has identified two main audience segments as high-value opportunities to grow tourism to Minnesota: Cultural Travel Gurus and Aspirational Explorers.

• EMT strives to present Minnesota as a four-season destination, however the Spring/Summer season is peak and offers the best opportunity draw out-of-state visitors. In the most recent year, seasonal media budgets have been allocated as: Winter: 18%, Spring/Summer: 61%, Fall: 13%., SEM (annual): 8%.

• EMT continues to increase dedicated budget to support diversity marketing is an increasing focus to create a welcoming travel experience for all visitors. Current audience focus is on African Americans, Latinx and LGBTQIA.

Currently 34% of our media reaches diversity-specific audiences, with a minimum of 10% of media budgets dedicated to support initiatives, including buys with diversity-owned media and partnerships underrepresented communities/groups.

• Recent media budget allocations are 25% in Minnesota and 75% outside of the state; 62.5% regional and 37.5% national.

• Significant collaboration exists between internal work units and the advertising and PR agencies of record on strategy related to Influencers and content strategy.

• On social media, EMT leverages its popular hashtag #OnlyinMN. Over the years, the hashtag has attracted residents, travelers, media and influencers with a platform to showcase their Minnesota experiences. The Minnesota tourism industry has embraced it as a way to successfully promote their areas and tourism products.

It’s an effective source of inspiration and call to action with over 1.5 million uses from its launch. An ongoing challenge has been encouraging usage amongst visitors from other states.

• ExploreMinnesota.com website launched in 2020. It is a vital component in fulfilling marketing strategy and inspiring consumers through the vacation planning journey.

• Local marketing partnerships within the fabric of the community are important to extend the EMT advertising budget and maintain visibility. Current media partners include Minnesota Broadcasters Association, Minnesota Public Radio, and Bally Sports North. Other partners include Minnesota sports teams including Gopher Sports, St. Paul Saints, Minnesota Aurora FC, Iowa Wild (farm team to Minnesota Wild), as well as associations such as Minnesota Ski Areas Association, and Minnesota Golf Association and others including Mall of America and MSP


• Cross-agency collaborations have extended the EMT budget further, including partnerships with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Lottery, the Department of Employment and Economic Development, Minnesota Grown, the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minnesota Zoo.

• EMT’s co-op marketing program allows tourism industry partners to opt into joint advertising with Explore Minnesota with discounts ranging from 25% to 70% off regular rates. The number of participants and breadth of the program both have consistently grown year-over-year with the goal of increasing exposure and ultimately growing overall revenue for the MN tourism industry.

• A vital component of to the health and growth of Minnesota’s tourism economy is international tourism, which is only now starting to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. EMT is active in the U.K., Scandinavian countries, Germany, France, and Japan. China has been a target country in the past but is currently paused. Canada is considered a domestic market. EMT often participates in co-operative marketing opportunities or leverages events or activities (e.g. Vikings game in London, new direct flights, Ryder Cup, etc.) in order to efficiently reach international travelers.

• Looking ahead, EMT is becoming more involved Minnesota’s efforts to attract talent, promote economic opportunities and the high quality of life in Minnesota. With appropriate funding, this could become a new focus area that may or may not impact the work of the selected vendor.

More background information and resources:

• Explore Minnesota’s industry website

• Annual Report- (2021)

• Traveler Profile (2019)

Advertising/Marketing Goals

EMT’s overarching advertising goal is to promote Minnesota as a travel destination and to advance the agency’s strategic goals by achieving measurable results in the following marketing areas:

– Maintain or grow brand/campaign effectiveness as measured by annual return-on-investment research. Current tax ROI is $14 return for every $1 invested.

– Increase quality consumer targeting and engagement as measured by website traffic, referrals to tourism businesses, social interaction and sharing, sweepstakes entries, publication requests, e-newsletter subscriptions, mobile app downloads, etc.

– Achieve a minimum of 25% added value from media buys and/or partnership opportunities with brands in alignment with EMT that contribute cash or in-kind value, advancing EMT’s marketing goals.

Primary Marketing KPIs for 2023

● Lift Minnesota’s brand (Awareness) by 3%

● Deliver engaged website traffic (Consideration)

○ Pageviews: increase by 10.6% to 13,296,942 pages

○ Sessions: increase by 13.4% to 7,733,749 sessions

● Drive e-newsletter sign-ups (Conversion): increase by 23.7% for 19,429 new subscribers Secondary Marketing KPIs

● Generate social engagement and hashtag use (#OnlyInMN + any additional hashtags)

o Facebook: increase by .07% to 272,184 Likes

o Instagram: increase by 1.6% to 229,197 Followers

o Twitter: increase by 7.7% to 76,990 Followers

o Instagram #OnlyinMN engagement: down 29% to 45,664 impressions

• Travel Guide interactions (downloads, orders, view online): increase by 8.7% to 46,469 engagements

• Partner Referrals: increase by 17% to 875,430 website business referrals

Sample Tasks and Deliverables.

EMT places a very high value on our agency partnership. The contracted agency of record will demonstrate a high degree of expertise in the following advertising and marketing communications areas through agency staff or subcontracted services:

• Leadership: Provide EMT expert recommendations and thought leadership related to best practices, marketing trends, and consumer behaviors.

• Account Services: Provide a day-to-day point of contact for EMT staff who is responsible for overall management of the account, including contracts, budgets/billing, quality control, project coordination with client and agency team, presentation of opportunities, and lead strategist.

• Strategic Planning: Prepare seasonal, annual and multi-year plans for advertising Minnesota’s tourism products, services and resources.

• Media Planning: Research, plan and place advertising in print, broadcast, online/interactive marketing, social media, out-of-home, and other media, consistent with strategic plans. Provide expertise in recommending and executing intermittent international consumer-facing media campaign. This includes review and payment of all charges on behalf of the State.

• Creative Services: Provide creative services for the development of television, radio, online/interactive, social media, out-of-home, and print advertising, as well as other advertising as needed. This includes all art direction, copywriting, and scripting. (Does not include website design.)

• Production Services: Prepare and purchase all materials and services necessary to complete advertising assignments for distribution.

• Other Marketing Needs: Prepare and purchase marketing services including, but not limited to, printed

collateral, public relations, AV presentations, sales promotions, research, social media and marketing


• Proof of Service: Check and verify all advertising identified above for accuracy, appearance, and quality.

• Evaluation: Evaluate key advertising placements and all other promotional activities using appropriate measurement tools.

• Reporting: Prepare and present regular reports on the effectiveness of the campaign, media strategies and insights or opportunities increase overall success.

• Collaboration: Consultation and/or collaboration with other relevant EMT vendors, including, but not limited to website development and public relations vendors.


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