It’s become common to see celebrities repping tourism campaigns for big states like California and New York. But North Dakota? Not so much. That’s all changed with the launch of North Dakota Tourism Division’s campaign starring state native and ruggedly handsome actor Josh Duhamel. It was his pronounced love of the state—apparent everywhere from talk show interviews and social media to the North Dakota gear he’d often sport and the local events he’d plug—that first sparked the CVB’s interest. (Duhamel even planned a benefit concert with his wife, singer Fergie, in his hometown of Minot after the city was flooded in 2011.)
“It started with a meeting in Minot, where he was the grand marshal of the State Fair parade, and I asked him about the possibility of a partnership,” says North Dakota Tourism Director Sara Otte Coleman. “He was very willing and became the voice of our television ads for our 2014-15 campaign.” The campaign was so successful in attracting more attention for the state that they approached him last summer about being the face for the 2016-17 campaign. He agreed, subsequently spending eight days shooting film and photos across the state.
Coleman believes the improved awareness and image for North Dakota Tourism will help the state’s individual CVBs be more successful in their efforts to attract meetings to the region. And when it comes to lessons learned? “Scripts are necessary—but being spontaneous is more fun,” she says.
Though North Dakota has one of the lowest tourism marketing budgets in the country, Coleman says the opportunity to showcase Duhamel’s love for North Dakota, along with his celebrity status, allowed them to generate a campaign that drew a maximum level of engagement and interest.