Marketing, Branding & Tourism Strategy

Our firm has made great impact in assisting communities with their branding, marketing, and strategic planning efforts.  Our approach is research driven as well as highly inclusive.  SAG has successfully repositioned both private and public entities.  Our clients have utilized the new positioning to increase their results and solidify common messaging to be used for a broad base of economic development and local community activities.  SAG professionals have the breadth and depth of experience in providing branding, marketing, tourism strategic planning services as well as a full range of advisory services that enhance the destinations in which we work.

“It’s so exciting to go to the DMAI Convention and hear that everything we have been doing with SAG is ahead of the curve. Reading how important a unified brand and marketing platform is in communicating who we are is something SAG did for us and is a part of their core system.” – Cori Day, Tourism Director, Independence Missouri, on working with SAG on both Destination Strategic Planning and Tourism Branding.

“Presenting with Dan Fenton and SAG about the work we have done to reinvent and reinvigorate the Atlantic City tourism market for leisure and group business was exciting for us as a DMO. Knowing we have this stage because of our joint efforts is rewarding.” – Jeff Guaracino on presenting with SAG at DMAI about the efforts to create a new sales organization and new direction in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

SAG Client Case Studies

New Orleans CVB & Convention Center

NeworleansConvCenterpicSAG developed a new integrated sales and marketing approach in conjunction with the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and the New Orleans Convention Center. This was an extensive collaborative process that included meeting with the New Orleans hotel and business community. SAG conducted sessions to understand where the opportunities were to increase effectiveness in the overall sales and marketing functionality.

SAG’s recommendations included:

  • New Sales Deployment
  • A streamlined booking process
  • Agreed upon joint metrics
  • Collaborative annual goal setting process that includes, room nights, convention center revenue and overall economic impact
  • A new approach to training city wide group sales managers
  • A new account management approach that unified all services for meeting planners

SAG recommended improvements to the current booking process showing coordination between the CVB and the Convention orleans booking process pic

Houston First Corporation



The Boards of Directors of Houston First Corporation and the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau engaged SAG to help them reengineer their overall organizational and governance approach to improve their sales and marketing efforts.

HFC new org

Prior to this engagement, citywide event sales and marketing was accomplished through the CVB and the George R. Brown Convention Center in a somewhat independent, inefficient, and at times less than effective approach. SAG assisted the Boards of each organization create a new collaborative sales and marketing process for the convention center district.

Our recommendations addressed a new governing body, staffing, success measures, marketing plan process, marketing plan components, booking processes, goal setting procedures, training, and budgeting. The resulting new organizational structure assures collaboration, provides for a higher performing sales team and regular communication between all members and stakeholders.   The two Boards adopted SAG’s recommendations and we were retained to assist with implementation.

SAG also assisted Houston First in convention district planning. SAG functioned as the development Project Managers for the two current headquarter hotels in adjacent to the Convention Center. SAG led the process to determine the size and attracted developers for the Hilton America’s and the new Marriot Marquis. The Hilton is a highly successful publicly owned hotel and the Marriott is due to open in the first quarter of 2016.

Houston Conv Ctr District feat image  Welcome to Hilton Americas - Houston

Avondale, Arizona

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When you are a suburb of one of the largest cities in the country how do you stand out? How do you tell your residents you support their day-to-day lives? How do you show others that this place is a great place to live and work? How do you attract businesses to notice you as an opportunity?

These are all questions SAG asked ourselves when we went to work in Avondale, Arizona.

SAG created a brand that accurately represented those thoughts and feelings for residents, business owners, parents, kids and visitors alike to recognize and take pride in. SAG set out on an inclusive research-based branding initiative to understand the community and its wants and needs for the future. The research completed by the SAG team was record breaking and the creative vision was unanimously supported.

SAG personally spoke to more than 150 members of the community and reached over 30,000 residents, regional businesses and past visitors through quantitative surveys and focus groups. Through that research and community interaction SAG created a brand and story to deploy to residents, businesses city departments and more.

Avondale Community Video

Avondale Full Case Study Link

Independence, Missouri


The community leaders in Independence determined that they wanted to reposition this historic Midwest City for the future of community development and tourism. The SAG team completed an extensive research process that is inclusive of a large cross section of community leaders and stakeholders. Well over 1,000 people were involved in this historic effort to rebrand a historic place with a new look a feel that fit this community.

Through in-depth community engagement, SAG has produced the “top ten” words to describe the character of Independence and has created a brand and tagline that is derived from the community feedback. These words were the essence of the Independence community and became the driving principles behind all future marketing and economic development.

This stimulated the creative process and developed a meaningful brand for Independence. Following successful brand launch and adoption, SAG is now engaged in creating a long term strategic and marketing plan for the City of Independence Department of Tourism.

 Independence Full Case Study Link

Broward County, Florida

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SAG recently completed a study on cultural tourism and planning in Broward County and greater Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  SAG worked with the County administrators, economic development corporations, individual businesses as well as hotels, restaurants and attraction owners in the area to work on a plan to integrate the arts and culture community into the tourism landscape.

SAG met with over 50 tourism and cultural stakeholders to ensure comprehensive input and support for the recommended plan. The analysis included sales and marketing recommendations, the preparation of a budget to support a new direction for cultural tourism, and a new innovative plan for a major signature event for Broward County.

The Cultural Tourism Committee and the Tourism Development Council approved recommendations and SAG is now engaged with the County to implement the annual signature event that will take place in October 2015.

Broward County Florida Case Study


Volusia County, Florida

Volusia Report occupany graphicTourism Strategy & Marketing

SAG completed in an extensive tourism review in Volusia County, Florida. SAG has met with over 200 stakeholders in the process and presented a series of preliminary recommendations. SAG also conducted an extensive PRIZM analysis to create a focus for future marketing efforts. SAG has recommended new approaches in leisure sales and marketing. The CVB leadership and broader stakeholder community have supported the recommendations.

SAG reviewed all past and current tourism plans to evaluate the effectiveness of tourism marketing. The SAG Team conducted internal review and an external comparison analysis to evaluate Volusia County’s effectiveness in the tourism market as well as how their competitors have deployed their resources.

SAG worked with the Volusia County officials to determine key stakeholders within the industry. SAG spoke with small business owners, chamber members, county staff and many others to get a pulse on the current status of overall functionality in the community.

SAG also researched industry-wide trends in the regional Volusia County area as part of the tourism analysis and consequent plan. SAG’s external comparison analysis was a key contributor to the tourism plan as it brought insight into competing markets and how those communities were executing their respective tourism initiatives.

Organizational Review

The SAG Team worked with Volusia County to create a new organizational structure for the recommended tourism strategic plan. SAG worked with Volusia County to create a shared services model for the Volusia County authorities to have effective success in the new strategies. SAG worked with the entities to create a model where the community groups and key stakeholders would have centralized support. SAG worked with the County to provide this new, shared services model for increase the effectiveness of the County’s assets and deployed resources. SAG also worked with Volusia County Officials to recommend improved governance structures to effectively monitor and maintain the brand standard of tourism within Volusia County.Volusia new article with Dan image

SAG researched current methods and established practices with the Council. SAG met with members of the Volusia County Council, the authority boards, Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau Board and others to establish the process of oversight and ultimately governance of the Volusia County Tourism Industry initiatives. SAG helped recommend and navigate new waters for the Board of Directors.

Atlantic City, New Jersey

“We booked more convention room nights in 2014 than we had in the previous 15 years. So we have very positive momentum. We’re seeing growth in multiple segments, including corporate, regional association and sports, so that’s very encouraging for us.” Jim Wood, Meet AC CEO.

In developing strategic recommendations for the Atlantic City destination, SAG evaluated the current organization’s structure and funding sources. SAG reworked the current organization to create a new private, nonprofit corporation to effectively sell the destination. SAG worked to create new bylaws, mission statements, new budget processes and staffing levels to best suit Atlantic City. SAG worked to create a balanced industry based nimble board of directors in order to be effective in the industry and specifically this unique market. SAG’s work involved reorganizing the structure and creating a new leadership model. SAG also completed extensive benchmarking research.

SAG’s extensive research, analysis and input from stakeholders, yielded the Meet AC organization. Meet AC is the new group sales focused organization in Atlantic City to drive the industry with a targeted approach and to unite the hotel and casino properties within.   In this instance, SAG recommended the sales staff transition from a geographic model to a vertical industry model of segmentation. This recommendation has been supported and SAG is currently working with the new organization to retool the group sales effort through market prioritization and industry targeting.

SAG collaborated with SearchWide to recruit and select the new Meet AC CEO as well as several other key positions. The new staff at Meet AC has gotten very positive reviews from the Board of Directors and Industry Stakeholders. SAG has instituted new accountability and monitoring of Meet AC’s success both internally and for the governing body. This has enhanced stakeholder confidence in the efforts and transparency of the newly formed organization.

Project Outcome/Success

Since the completion of SAG’s analysis in 2014, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority reports that in the last two years, non-gaming revenues have increased by more than $160 million and are now nearing $1 billion annually. Group bookings at the city’s primary meeting facilities also have been on the rise, increasing by more than 22 percent since 2009.

The new Meet AC organization has seen results; with 8 percent more group bookings and 15percent more convention-related room nights, in 2014 than in 2013. Meet AC indicates the city is on track to realize a 20 percent increase over 2014 in its meetings business in 2015. During the first quarter of 2015, the Meet AC sales team brought 30 conventions and meetings to the Atlantic City Convention Center and another 19 to the city’s hotel properties. That’s an increase of more than 25 percent from the first quarter of 2014. In addition, attendee spending rose 32.7 percent from the same quarter as last year, to approximately $73.1 million.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte NC skyline-wikimedia commonsCurrent Engagement

SAG was recently engaged to revisit the prior plan to further develop the City’s goals for tourism facility development.

Prior Engagement

SAG facilitated the development of a ten-year tourism strategic plan to help Charlotte maximize its tourism, entertainment and quality of life opportunities. The six-month initiative included hosting various community forums to generate a list of potential projects that would help the Committee fulfill its mission.

Best practices in other communities were studied to learn from other’s successes. SAG then facilitated a MindMapping exercise with the committee and community to develop a consensus on the top five projects. The outcome focused on creating a downtown destination that added a new professional basketball arena, minor league baseball stadium, an urban entertainment center, a motor sports museum and expanding and relocating the existing arts museum. Funding strategies and an implementation plan were prepared.

Denver Brand Development

SAG provided brand-development services for Denver Colorado as part of a larger visioning project for Visit Denver, Denver Arts & Venues and the Western Stock Show Association.   Being progressive, the City of Denver, Visit Denver, and the convention center engaged SAG to help create a long-term strategic plan for their convention center, downtown accommodations, and stockyards area. Our goal was to help Denver envision the meeting and event environment over the next 20 years with the larger destination story in mind.Denver report graphic describe brand

The Branding portion of this project focused on combining the best of Colorado’s historic western heritage and culture (“old west”) with the modern pioneering spirit (“new west”, “Rocky Mountain west”). SAG’s research indicated that the Western culture “brand” ranked very low in brand priorities for Denver as a destination. While devoting the entire site to this “old west” brand/theme is certainly an option, it would be limiting since much of the event activity in the arenas and exhibition hall will not be livestock or agriculturally related. As such, the new Arena, the new Exposition Hall, and the new Livestock Stadium Arena may be best positioned without the (old) Western culture brand/theme that is too dominant in order to afford these facilities their best opportunity to attract a wide variety of state, regional, national and international events throughout the year. To that end, Denver and the Rocky Mountain West is well positioned to celebrate the idea of the “new west”, showcasing health, recreation and the over-arching pioneering spirit through cutting edge science, education and research that is emerging in this region of the United States. In this way, the best of both worlds (a celebration of the historic Western culture and the modern pioneering spirit) might be realized. Respondents were clear in their perception of Denver as a destination with air and water quality and a general propensity to live healthy.

Our approach was a collaborative effort with the client and community. As part of the process, we facilitated focus groups with both existing and target market clients. SAG interviewed key users and clients individually. We surveyed clients and facility users via the web. We researched and benchmarked the competition and we have had numerous client sessions to debate and discuss findings.

“We heard from some meeting planners that when they are in the Colorado Convention Center they feel like they are in a big space in a big building that could be anywhere,” says Daniel Fenton, principal of the Northern California Office of Strategic Advisory Group. “We recommended that the center create spaces where it’s possible to see the Rockies. It should take advantage of its environment.” The words that planners most frequently associated with Denver were Rocky Mountains, clean air, and health. These attributes should be incorporated into the convention center, says Fenton. “The study encouraged us to creatively diversify our facilities in order to remain competitive,” says Executive Director of Denver Arts & Venues Kent Rice. “Without changes, the study suggests we could run the risk of losing business to other cities that are staying relevant and modifying and expanding their convention and event facilities.” Successful Meetings, May 2014.

Carlsbad, California

SAG has recently completed a Tourism Industry Study and a Strategic Action Plan for tourism efforts City of Carlsbad, California. The goal of the project was to provide City leadership with a long-range plan to boost Carlsbad’s performance as a coastal California destination. The project involved both an external and internal tourism analysis as well as extensive industry outreach to develop a tourism marketing plan that the stakeholders would support.Carlsbad top attractions pic

SAG has conducted extensive stakeholder outreach and spoke with over 50 hoteliers, sales managers, business owners, attractions and restaurants that have a vested interested in the tourism developments. SAG’s stakeholder engagement is key to understanding the aspirations and goals of the collective industry. SAG conducted a Lifestyle Segmentation Analysis to understand and develop target markets by segment. This research will allow Carlsbad to develop key feeder markets and target segments in both the regional, drive-in market and fly-in markets. SAG has also helped develop specific packages and experiences on behalf of Visit Carlsbad and will begin testing new campaigns to these target markets in the coming months.

SAG has recommended a plan to develop a measurement and monitoring process that focuses on how the sales and marketing efforts are driving respective target markets to make the decision to come to Carlsbad. These include tracking data in conjunction with online activity and in collaboration with the hospitality community.

Carlsbad pic1


Miami Beach CVB

CVB Marketing Plan

SAG is immersed in the Miami Beach tourism market working with City officials, the Miami Beach Visitors and Convention Authority, clients, industry experts, building staff, architects, and developers to create a market-based solution to increase Miami Beach’s market share.  Meetings, focus groups, public forums, and surveys have all been utilized to arrive at the master plan.  For the improved district to succeed, a number of marketing initiatives will need to be developed, and the center will need to target a select group of events.  Miami Beach is a unique convention market with a strong international brand and high hotel rates and occupancies.   SAG is working with City to modify booking policies, marketing practices, and the contract with the CVB.Miami Beach CVB chart pic

Comparable research has influenced Miami Beach’s path.  Domestic and international venues were analyzed for this project from both a physical and market perspective.  Best practices related to booking policies, target marketing and event mix are currently being incorporated. Our deliverables for this project often took the form of presentations, not only to City leadership, but more importantly communicating the long-range vision to various community groups that are key to the success of the plan.

CVB Accountability Plan

SAG is developing a new accountability plan for the contract with the City of Miami Beach and the Greater Miami Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau. This has included metrics for the leisure sales and marketing efforts that include room night conversion.   SAG’s Dan Fenton, performed a comprehensive analysis of the current agreement, the Miami Beach hotel market, hotel industry trends and provided recommendations on revisions to the agreement.

SAG’s primary recommendation was to change the overall direction of the proposed terms for the GMCVB contract with the City to a performance based agreement from a fee for services approach. This new direction focuses on the achievement of key metrics and the overall measureable success of GMCVB in their contractual relationship with the City. As part of this recommendation, the City would establish a base fee and establish an incentive fee to be paid based on the overall achievement of agreed-upon annual performance goals.

Los Angeles – Greek Theatre

New Agreement & Capital Improvements

SAG was engaged by the City of Los Angeles, Department of Recreation and Parks to reposition the Greek Theater through the development of a new vision and facilitating a new agreement between the LA Greek Theatre and a new operator and promoter.   The Greek Theatre is one of many venues managed by Department, which has an annual budget of $200 million dollars.   The goal of this project was to determine how to best position the theatre to compete for top revenue shows among larger venues in the area.Greek Theatre-300x205

SAG services for the City of Los Angeles has included developing and overseeing the creation of the RFP that will solicit a new operator/promoter. SAG also led in the community and stakeholder engagement process. We completed over 100 interviews and surveys and met with individuals in the surrounding neighborhoods and park area.   SAG also worked with the finance department in the creation and administration of the RFP process.

In addition to overall project management, SAG managed the subcontractor assigned to the project that was responsible for analyzing, budgeting and recommending the necessary capital improvements for the theatre. The potential improvements are estimated at between $10-$20 million dollars.

Performance & Profitability

SAG also provided the City with a market study of the live music industry and current trends. Part of this analysis involved understanding the promoter landscape and what company would best fit their venue. Having information about the right promoter would help contribute to a more successful and profitable venue.LA Greek-report chart pic

In addition to industry trends and analysis, SAG also evaluated the Greek Theatre’s performance and profitability for the City. SAG presented this material to the City staff to help them understand the value of the venue and how it was pacing.   SAG continued to evaluate the performance of the Greek Theatre and how individual operations of the venue were trending over the last several years. SAG, is currently working with the City of Los Angeles to implement a new operational model that maximizes venue functionality and profitability.

SAG’s work at the Greek Theatre not only supported the City through a process of updating the venue through capital improvements, but also repositioned the venue for major performances including Lorde, Maroon 5, Ariana Grande, Justin Timberlake and other top grossing header performances that previously would not have played there

Rochester, Minnesota

Mayo Civic Center pic logoSAG was engaged by the City of Rochester, Minnesota to complete a benchmarking, management and operations analysis of the Mayo Civic Center and the Rochester Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Detailed benchmark data was gathered from a number of comparable and competitive destinations. The conclusions and recommendations were based on benchmarking against other destinations, staffing and oversight, food and beverage operations, standard operating procedures, booking policies, marketing resources, processes and governance.

Based upon the conclusions of the study, the City retained SAG to assist in implementing the recommendations. SAG is currently overseeing the implementation of the agreed upon plan including sales, governance, marketing, capital and overall operations.

A cornerstone of SAG’s recommendations was the creation and implementation of a new Governance Structure that created new industry oversight of the Convention Center and a permanent structural partnership with the Rochester Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. The new governance model has been in place for six months with significant success.

City of Rochester LogoRochester CVB logo-460x300


Hawai’i Tourism Authority

From 2011 to 2013, SAG worked with the Hawaii Tourism Authority to create a group sales platform that included domestic and international contractors. This included a new approach to managing results and determining unified metrics that focused on conversion. SAG worked with the HTA and the International Contractors to develop a plan to drive new group business with increased accountability for HTA and all domestic and international contractors involved.

Through this process, SAG helped develop the “Meet Hawaii” brand, which not only united the tourism community, but also united the sales staff at the CVB and the collective domestic and international assets to sell the destination cohesively.

HTA as well as the Convention Center and Visitors and Convention Bureau accepted SAG’s recommendations. SAG was retained to implement the recommendations and has completed extensive market research and a comprehensive redeployment effort. The implementation effort created a comprehensive document that is currently used as the roadmap for the new direction.

The evolution of the focus of group sales efforts being based on measureable definite bookings and not focused on lead generation is an example of instituting new accountability. The other development was SAG’s recommendation and support of the implementation of the TAP report that serves as a new effective tool for understanding current Meet Hawaii results.  SAG created new practices for Hawaii Tourism Authority in the following areas:

  • ResearchHawaii Convention center
  • Market Prioritization and New Deployment
  • Singular Public Relations Approach
  • Singular Advertising Plan
  • Unified Group Database
  • Singular CRM Platform
  • Singular Web Presence
  • Common Metrics
  • New Goal Setting Process
  • New Holistic Incentive Plan
  • Centralized Monthly ReportingMeet Hawaii & other groups pic
  • Singular Annual Marketing Plan
  • Seamless Booking Process
  • Institution of Joint Pace Report
  • Creation of a Holistic Sales and Marketing Budget
  • New Stakeholder Communication Plan
  • Creation of a New Organizational Structure
  • Creating a Unified Brand

Lake County, California

SAG was retained to produce a three-year Strategic Plan for Lake County, California. SAG led a stakeholder-supported effort to re-think all aspects of Lake County’s Tourism marketing and asset development. This included working with potential private developers and investors to uncover new large project opportunities. SAG conducted extensive stakeholder outreach and the client group and community endorsed our recommendations. The conclusion was a unanimous vote of approval by the County Supervisors in a session that was attended by over 50 tourism stakeholders.Lake County-report cover pic

SAG’s research led to the analysis of the current state of Lake County Tourism and the challenges that hindered potential opportunities. SAG worked with the County to set appropriate goals to help increase tourism revenue. SAG helped develop packages as part of the Tourism Strategic Plan to increase tourism in the area. SAG worked with the County and reached out to industry stakeholders to develop packages that would bring in additional tourism revenue to the community. Part of the Tourism Strategic Plan in Lake County was a recommendation to create a new governance model for the Lake County Tourism Organization. SAG’s recommendation for governance was to focus on a board to improve marketing campaigns and resources the county had to circulate on behalf of the industry.

Marketing Focused around Lake County’s two main demand generators, Clear Lake and the wineries.

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