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The 2022 Poppy Awards Finalists Dazzle with Creativity, Ingenuity

By Gohar Manukyan 02/22/2022

The 2022 Poppy Awards received a record number of submissions that showed a staggering breadth of creative solutions to promoting tourism and solving stewardship challenges through a pandemic. This impressive body of submissions gave the judges of Visit California’s biennial awards the imposing task of selecting finalists.

After extensive deliberation, they selected the best of the best tourism businesses and DMOs in 16 categories. Winners were announced and honored at the Poppy Awards gala during Outlook Forum in San Francisco. 

View photos from the gala and read about the finalists and winners below.


Best Overall Destination Brand Identity - $1 Million & Up

Palisades Tahoe - WINNER
The “Legends of Tahoe” campaign was born out of a need to change the resort’s name from “Squaw Valley,” which had alienated local tribes and American Indians broadly. With input from Olympians, professional skiers, resort employees, local historians, and members of the Washo Tribe, the resort created a brand that the resort’s far-reaching, diverse community was able to feel proud of and invested in.

San Diego Tourism Authority
The brand platform “Happiness is Calling” was created in 2014 to give the destination an instantly recognizable identity — something it had struggled with in the past. A brand update and new activations created with the objective of boosting hotel revenues have driven an impressive number of room nights in the City of San Diego Tourism Marketing District hotels.

Visit Greater Palm Springs
Visit Greater Palm Springs adopted its new name and developed a new brand to reflect its long-term effort to create a welcoming, contemporary identity. The consumer-friendly brand has been propelled by a robust mix of media, led by the creation of an original song and accompanying music video.


Best Overall Destination Brand Identity - Under $1 Million

North Lake Tahoe Marketing Cooperative - WINNER
A comprehensive identity relaunch was created that began with North Lake Tahoe’s brand platform and branding. This work led to the “It’s Human Nature” campaign, which was executed as four distinct seasonal campaigns with creatives targeting key personas: “Winter WOW,” spring’s “Twice the Fun”, “Summer’s Official Playground” and fall’s “Secret Season.”

Visit Eureka, Eddy Alexander
Eddy Alexander partnered with the city to help define who they are as a community and create a brand that conveyed this essence to residents and visitors. A campaign with a heavy emphasis on out-of-home branding in airports and on regional signage presented a cohesive message that fostered pride of place and immersed visitors in the region’s culture.

Visit Grover Beach
Visit Grover Beach and a comprehensive brand for the destination were launched in July 2021 to support local businesses and tourism. The launch included innovative creatives such as a soundtrack and itineraries that provided an insider’s experience of the area.


Best Content Marketing - Business

Palisades Tahoe
After changing its name from Squaw Valley, this Tahoe ski resort ran the “Legends of Tahoe'' campaign to remind visitors and the local community of the area’s rich history of winter sports athletes and the mountains they grew up on. The campaign featured inspiring written stories and striking historic images published as blogs, website features, social media posts and consumer emails.

The Pines Resort - WINNER
The Pines kept rooms booked and its 200 staff employed through a creative content strategy showcasing how the resort had adapted to the pandemic. In addition, the campaign significantly grew the resort’s social web, social and email following.

River Fox Train
This Sacramento entertainment train rebranded during the pandemic to become a must-do for locals, with a focus on families. The brand refresh included a refreshed website design, updates to collateral and organic social media that drove significant engagement with their target audiences.


Best Content Marketing - Destination

Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau - WINNER
The “Long Beach Days & Getaways” campaign inspired summer visitation by sharing listicle-style itineraries. Each itinerary featured local insights and was accompanied by a two-minute video illustrating diverse target demographics, inviting the viewer to imagine themselves making the same trip to Long Beach. 

San Diego Tourism Authority
San Diego went all in on the Instagram platform, effectively transforming @VisitSanDiego into a digital planning guide where they could engage with visitors along every step of the travel journey, from inspiration to booking. Interactive posts such as Foodie Friday and tourism-themed polls drove interest among visitors and locals alike.

Visit Tuolumne County
A mix of timely and evergreen content kept visitors feeling safe and excited about visiting Tuolumne County, while encouraging local pride and support of local businesses. This included launching a podcast, expanding to new social media channels and a “Wander Wednesday” series highlighting hidden gems and COVID-19 safety.


Best Cooperative Marketing - Business

Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground
The “Harbor Walk” is an opportunity for local businesses to promote their proximity to Disneyland while providing safe trick-or-treating to guests. Thirteen hotels and one restaurant participated, with the event being so successful they are expanding to additional activities.

Santa Barbara Sailing Center
The SailingCenter partnered with the local restaurants to create a dining at sea a experience – a three-hour dinner and sail for small groups. Collaboration with Visit Santa Barbara and local hotels drove an overwhelming response that supported many local tourism businesses during the pandemic.

South Coast Plaza - WINNER
South Coast Plaza partnered with 36 art institutions to create uniquely decorated trees for auction to support the participating institutions. Close to 6,000 people visited the exhibit during its three-week run,.


Best Cooperative Marketing - Destination

San Francisco Travel Association - WINNER
To support the city’s diverse art and culture institutions following the pandemic, San Francisco Travel partnered with Marriott, United Airlines, and San Francisco’s Grants for the Arts to develop the Arts Are Open campaign. a first-of-its kind effort to attract visitors from within the state of California by illustrating the breadth and depth of arts offerings in San Francisco. Video and advertising content showcased outdoor and indoor artistic experiences safely open to visitors such as murals, mosaics, sculptures, and nature-inspired installations in multiple San Francisco neighborhoods.

Visit Modesto, Cultivar Strategies
The creation and launch of a newsworthy, first-mover destination experience cannabis travel guide was developed to attract the active leisure travel audience.The multi-pronged strategy included partnerships with local dispensaries, hotels and cannabis websites.

Visit Visalia
Visit Visalia became a Certified Autism Center, the first Destination Marketing Organization in California to do so. The destination launched a campaign to provide travel resources for those with autism and other disabilities by working with many local tourism partners as well as expanding the campaign to tourism attractions and destinations across the state.


Best Influencer Campaign - Business

Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground
Howard Johnson has cultivated a pool of more than 600 influencers that represent their diverse guests: families, solo travelers, couples, and children or adults with disabilities--showing that anyone can have . Every day, a different influencer posts their entire stay to the hotel’s Instagram Story and sends their followers over to our page to watch them do their takeover.

Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
In partnership with Mad Dogs and Englishmen Bike Shop, Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa put together a giveaway package that was promoted by Krista Horton (@krista.horton) and Lauren Webb (@lolo_webb). This giveaway was incredibly popular and substantially increased follower counts and engagement for all three businesses.

Terranea Resort - WINNER
In August 2020, Terranea Resort conducted its eighth annual Social Media Ambassador program over the course of one month, welcoming back and seeking new digital influencers with a passion for Terranea Resort and to inspire travel heading into the fall season. Terranea hand-selected prior guests to experience all the resort has to offer to share with their followers.


Best Influencer Campaign - Destination

Travel Costa Mesa
Travel Coast Mesa joined forces with the country's No. 1 food influencer blog, Foodbeast, to create an " Eatcation® in Costa Mesa.”.The destination developed a relationship with Foodbeast’s influencer partners by inviting them to experiential events in the city including grand openings and pop-up culinary experiences.

Visit Concord - WINNER
The Concord Taco Trail debuted as a promotion at the height of the pandemic in September 2020 to support struggling local businesses and to spotlight Concord’s nearly 40 authentic, family-run Mexican restaurants & taquerias. To promote the 2021 event, Concord created an all-new campaign featuring Concord native and Comedy Central star Blake Anderson.

Visit SLO CAL partnered with Alaska Airlines to host five diverse Portland-based influencers on the inaugural June 2021 direct Portland-to-San Luis Obispo direct flight to showcase the ease and accessibility of travel to SLO CAL. This was a targeted regional campaign featuring five diverse influencers representing the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities.


Best Paid Social Media Campaign - Business

Choice Hotels International, MMGY Global
Choice Hotels used sophisticated interest- and behavioral-based targeting to increase bookings with social media users with interests such as road trips, adventure travel, vacations, family vacations, and in competing hotel and vacation rental services. The campaign has driven more than $1 million in incremental reservations.

A 2021 summer social  media campaign engaged the attraction’s target audience of individuals and families with calls to action to visit. A series of seven ads offered incentives for early bird ticket buyers, with a focus on regional travelers.

Terranea Resort - WINNER
Terranea Resort deployed a paid social media campaign on Facebook and Instagram to capture the growing momentum from travel consumers to once again take part in leisure experiences. The paid social campaign highlighted key resort offerings including scenic, award-winning dining, exploring our natural landscape and trails, and the resort’s many compelling leisure experiences.


Best Paid Social Media Campaign - Destination

Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau and Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, Noble Studios - WINNER
New non-stop service to the region's largest airport prompted Lake Tahoe regional DMOs to create the "Texas to Tahoe" recovery campaign. The "Texas to Tahoe" concept juxtaposes things stereotypically found in Texas with those in Lake Tahoe during the winter, suggesting they should trade destinations for the winter. 

Visit Anaheim
Visit Anaheim partnered with over 50 Disneyland Resort Good Neighbor Hotels on a spring 2021 promotion that included a special offer from each participating hotel ranging from 20% off room night to $50 in F&B gift cards. A three-month social campaign promoted opportunities for families to save money and still spend quality time together in Anaheim and on vacation.

Visit Morgan Hill, Noble Studios
The tongue-in-cheek #MorganChill campaign showcased the destination as an off--the-beaten-path destination where urbanites can escape their day-to-day and dip their toes in an idyllic, rural setting and chill. Social ads showed that in contrast to the destination’s reputation as a suburb, it boasts fabulous amenities like wine tasting, outdoor activities and fine dining.

Visit Palm Springs, JNS Next
The “We Are, Palm Springs” campaign inspired locals to participate in the tourism economy and understand its importance. Multimedia and influencer-driven social posts across social media platforms increased awareness of the jobs that are supported by tourism, and the local community during this time of need.


Best Public Relations Campaign - Business

AutoCamp built language around the accommodation’s “natural social distancing” that emphasized private units ideal for staying isolated from other guests, as well as new contactless amenities. They successfully pitched these angles to journalists, many of whom had put travel coverage on hold as the country grappled with shelter-in-place orders and travel restrictions.

Hilton Santa Monica Hotel & Suites
The relaunch of the Hilton Santa Monica Hotel & Suites presented a prime opportunity to reintroduce media and travelers to the destination from a fresh perspective. A proactive and creative public relations campaign brought in top journalists and influencers to help position the hotel as one of the destination’s best new escapes and the perfect home base for families and leisure and business travelers.

Napa Valley Wine Train
The Napa Valley Wine Train announced a new partnership with The Murder Mystery Company for its popular Murder Mystery Tour, which allowed passengers to participate in period dramas. An effective, multi-channel public relations campaign promoted the partnership in top-tier media, resulting in exponential ticket sales month-over-month.

Palisades Tahoe - WINNER
In changing its name from Squaw Valley to Palisades Tahoe, the resort faced a serious messaging challenge. A carefully coordinated public relations effort kept control of the message, and helped retain the resort’s brand awareness and storied history. Of note, Palisades Tahoe collaborated with the Washoe Tribe to develop a platform to educate the public about their culture and the valley’s origins as their ancestral land.


Best Public Relations Campaign - Destination

Sonoma County Tourism
To promote overall wellbeing for pandemic-weary travelers and to support local businesses, Sonoma County Tourism launched our recovery campaign with wellbeing at its heart. Journalists followed an itinerary that showcased innovative local luminaries, authentic experiences, and educational opportunities focused on sustainable, responsible travel.

Travel Paso
Travel Paso launched its Sustain + Rebound public relations program to ensure the core focus of relationships and storytelling continued to strengthen momentum gained with national media as a top wine destination amid the COVID downturn. The added focus of drive-market media was developed to inspire more in-state tourists to road trip to Paso Robles by positioning the destination as a safe, outdoor place to visit amid the pandemic.

Visit Eureka, Eddy Alexander - WINNER
The city of Eureka faced the challenge of promoting the grand opening of the Redwood Sky Walk – the longest sky walk in the Western U.S. – amid a pandemic. Eddy Alexander worked with the city to stage small, customized events that writers, bloggers and photographers felt comfortable attending and that offered the opportunity to showcase other Eureka outdoor and cultural attractions,.


Best Recovery Campaign - Business

Boreal Mountain California & Woodward Tahoe - WINNER (tie)
An alternative to typical “all-you-can-ski” season passes that allowed for scheduled day visits, Go Time Tickets™, were created to provide more affordable day visits while helping staff plan around crowds. The approach significantly boosted revenue while providing a safer environment for staff and guests.

Disneyland Resort
Disneyland developed a breakthrough campaign to inspire travel and welcome guests “home” with memory-invoking sights, sounds and tastes, while reassuring them they can enjoy travel safely. . The platform was simple, yet powerful: “To all who have been longing for this Happy Place, we’re thrilled to say “Magic is here.”

Mulvaney’s B&L - WINNER (tie)
Faced with gifted chefs but few options to cook for patrons, Mulvaney’s partnered with Sacramento restaurants to cook free meals for those in need. The program drew state and federal support, leading to the creation of Great Plates Delivered, a program that has delivered more than 25 million restaurant quality meals to seniors throughout the state.

Terranea Resort
With the growing momentum from travel consumers to once again take part in leisure experiences, Terranea sought to remind previous guests of the extraordinary memories they have made at the resort and encourage new guests to choose to travel to Southern California and rediscover with Terranea. The integrated campaign highlighted key resort offerings including scenic, award-winning dining, exploring the natural landscape and trails, adventures on land and at sea, oceanfront golf at The Links, and The Spa and overall wellness.


Best Recovery Campaign - Destination

Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Building on MCCVB’s tagline “Grab Life by the Moments”, Monterey County launched a recovery campaign titled “Now is the Moment.” A multi-channel campaign featured people bored at home and dreaming of traveling to beautiful, iconic destinations in Monterey County like Big Sur, Pebble Beach, Cannery Row and Carmel-by-the-Sea.

San Diego Tourism Authority - WINNER
A multi-faceted recovery program educated and energized the city’s industry members while restoring leisure travel through a paid campaign. The “Happiness is Calling You Back” campaign spoke to the desire for the kind of positivity that only a visit to San Diego can inspire.

Visit Palm Springs, JNS Next
The “Hello, Palm Springs” campaign showcased consumers enjoying experiences in Palm Springs and welcoming those visitors back following the pandemic..An accompanying “We Are, Palm Springs” campaign came to life featuring more than 30 local business owners talking directly to locals to inspire civic pride and participation in local tourism


Destination Stewardship & Sustainable Travel Award - Business

Disneyland Resort - WINNER
Disneyland set out to create communication and engagement plans that super-served highly vulnerable audiences – diverse families in highly-impacted communities. The park leaned into powerful Disney storytelling by creating a PSA campaign that promoted health, wellness, and community recovery across Southern California, which was later expanded to promote responsible visitation throughout California as travel returned.

Terranea Resort
The majority of the resort is natural landscape and cared for by the business. Terranea hosts educational experiences for guests to better understand the environment and engages in numerous community outreach initiatives with organizations such as Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy, Marine Mammal Care Center, Chefs to End Hunger, Midnight Mission and Algalita Marine Research Foundation.

The Ranch at Laguna Beach
The Ranch has saved what few realize is an increasingly scarce resource by limiting the importation of sand by making it themselves. By using 70 tons of sand produced locally each year to replenish golf course sand bunkers, they have significantly lowered their carbon footprint.


Destination Stewardship & Sustainable Travel Award - Destination

Sonoma County Tourism
Throughout the pandemic, Sonoma County’s outdoor spaces received an influx of new day and overnight visitors. To prevent environmental degradation and safety issues, the “destination stewardship organization” developed a broad breadth of programming that centers on encouraging responsible travel and giving visitors ways to enhance rather than harm local resources.

Visit Big Bear - WINNER (tie)
“Care for Big Bear” is a multi-channel campaign that unifies locals and loyal visitors through advertising and content, a dedicated website, merchandise, signage and community projects. The inclusive messaging encourages all who love Big Bear to work together to protect the community for future generations.

Visit Truckee-Tahoe - WINNER (tie)
Visit Truckee-Tahoe launched Sustainable Truckee, an ongoing project to mitigate issues such as wildfire and crowding, especially during the peak summer months. The project has created new infrastructure, coordinated local tourism businesses and created programs such as trail hosts, who patrol for litter and safety issues.


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