"We are thrilled to see the growing impact of the marketing partnership between VSC and the Orioles," said Greg Bader, vice president of communications and marketing for the Orioles. "To our knowledge, this is the most robust effort of its kind in Major League Baseball, demonstrating the Orioles' commitment to energizing Sarasota County's economy."
Since the Orioles arrived in Sarasota just before the 2010 spring training season, the partnership has resulted in significant increases in Maryland-based visitors. The total number of visitors from Maryland to Sarasota more than doubled from 5,000 in 2009 to 10,300 in 2012. Sarasota inquiries from Maryland more than quadrupled, rising from 365 in 2009 to 1,569 in 2012.
"It is exciting to see so many new visitors from the Baltimore, Md. and Washington, D.C. area visiting Sarasota County," said Virginia Haley, president of VSC. "Once they discover our beautiful landscape, they are likely to return not only for spring training games but also for vacations throughout the year. This influx is wonderful for our local economy."
Many strategic factors contributed to this spike. For one, the Orioles provide a visitor welcome center in Sarasota's Ed Smith Stadium concourse, where VSC staff and volunteers continually interact with spring training baseball fans seeking information about Sarasota County tourism.
A nearby partner wall, first established in 2011, also touts local, cultural offerings for fans visiting the area.
Millions of households are hearing and reading about Sarasota County because of the Orioles-VSC partnership, too. MASN, the Orioles' TV rights holder, will air six spring training games this season from Ed Smith Stadium to homes throughout the mid-Atlantic region. MASN's exclusive TV territory covers more than 7-million households in six states, and VSC advertising is featured year-round on MASNsports.com.
The MLB Network, which reaches more than 70-million households, will air five MASN-produced spring training games from Sarasota, as well as two additional spring training road games to a national audience. Visiting teams, including the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, may also air games from Sarasota to their respective TV markets.
The Orioles' radio flagship, WBAL on 1090 AM (a 50,000-watt station covering Maryland and neighboring states), will broadcast 16 spring training games, 10 of which will be played in Sarasota.
Each year, the Orioles hold a FanFest celebration in Baltimore, Md., drawing about 18,500 people who seize the opportunity to interact with players, coaches and front office personnel. VSC serves as the presenting sponsor of this event, and the staff helps book spring training trips for visitors seeking February or March getaways to Sarasota.
In early April, Visit Sarasota County will host the annual Greater Baltimore Committee's "Lunch with the Orioles." It is the perfect platform for VSC to reinforce Sarasota's "sister city" and the Orioles' "home away from home" status in front of about 1,000 influential attendees.
For two months in the fall, VSC is featured for a half inning on high-profile signage behind home plate at Oriole Park, which is broadcast on MASN, as well as on all visiting team TV broadcasts into markets such as New York and Boston.
VSC print advertising is featured as part of all Orioles Publications, including four issues of the game program (one in Sarasota and three in Baltimore) as well as the Orioles Team Yearbook. Each edition is distributed to more than 15,000 readers. A VSC advertisement is printed on the back of more than 200,000 regular season pocket schedules that are distributed throughout the Baltimore, Md. and Washington, D.C. areas.
All Oriole Park at Camden Yards season plan holders receive a special offer for free spring training tickets - a promotion designed to encourage mid-Atlantic-based fans to travel to Sarasota County. As Haley put it, "The exposure Sarasota County has experienced from the Orioles partnership has been invaluable."