With the help of a generous sponsor, the National Apartment Association is using a new marketing tool to promote its annual conference this summer in Boston—radio ads.
“It’s definitely not part of our normal campaign,” says Jeremy Figoten, vice president of meetings and expositions at NAA, Arlington, Va. But thanks to one of the conference sponsors, ARS Restoration Specialists, NAA is using the Boston airwaves to get the word out about its Education Conference and Exposition, June 28–30 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
Newton, Mass.–based ARS purchased a series of advertising spots on WEEI in Boston, a 24-hour sports talk radio station with both AM and FM signals. As one of the Gold sponsors of the NAA show, ARS asked NAA leaders if they’d like to use one of its spots to run a commercial for the upcoming conference. NAA President and Chief Executive Officer Doug Culkin liked the idea and flew up to Boston to cut the ad that aired on WEEI in March. In the commercial, Culkin promoted the conference and welcomed apartment building owners, developers, and property management companies in the Boston area to attend.
ARS offered the ad to NAA to help the association get the word out about the conference in hopes of boosting attendance. The company didn’t ask to be mentioned in the spot, but Culkin and NAA were appreciative of the opportunity and cited ARS as one of the event’s major sponsors, Figoten says.
ARS has promoted the NAA conference in its own radio spots as well. The company cited its sponsorship of the general session at NAA, which will feature keynote speakers Nomar Garciaparra, formerly of the Red Sox, and his wife, soccer star Mia Hamm.
The radio ad strategy is not common in Boston, says Larry Meehan, vice president of media relations and tourism sales at the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, who can’t recall other associations that have used radio to promote an annual conference. And it appears to be working. As a direct result of the ads, NAA can point to at least 10 inquiries about the convention, including several from non-members, says Figoten. Some 15 weeks out from the meeting, registrations are up 57 percent over the 2011 meeting in Las Vegas, which had near-record attendance.
NAA hopes to cut one more commercial for the 2012 conference and expects to get back on the air to promote future events. “I can definitely see us following this model and maybe do more next year—maybe a series of ads,” Figoten says.