The Bucks County Ale Trail, launched by Visit Bucks County (VBC) in May 2019, was a strategic initiative aimed at elevating the vibrant craft beer scene in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The program was designed not just to showcase the local breweries but also to create an engaging experience for visitors, leveraging a gamification aspect with a reward system.
The inspiration for the Bucks County Ale Trail came from observing the success of other destinations and Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) that incorporated gamification into their branded trails. The trail already existed as a content-based feature on the Visit Bucks County website but lacked the interactive and rewarding elements.
With a large concentration of craft breweries in Bucks County as well as there being an emergence of beer tourism; branding the Bucks County Ale Trail and adding a paper and digital passport allowed Visit Bucks County to further capitalize on visitors that were basing travel decisions around food and drink.
The primary goal was to increase visitation to Bucks County and provide additional tourism product resulting in brewery visits, foot traffic, tastings, beer sales, and event opportunities for the Ale Trail breweries. The economic impact was not limited to the breweries alone; the evenly distributed locations encouraged visitors to explore the entire county, fostering economic growth for the region.
The spirit of camaraderie among the breweries played a crucial role in the success of the Ale Trail, promoting cross-collaboration and mutual support.
The launch of the Ale Trail marked the first time an interactive gaming aspect and reward system were introduced to one of VBC's trails. All breweries and tasting rooms in Bucks County were invited to participate. Collaboration and enthusiasm among brewery staff, combined with the support from all participating locations, created a positive and engaging atmosphere.
Unique Advertising & Marketing:
Beer Collaborations: The Bucks County Ale Trail's innovative beer collaborations, notably highlighted by the 2024 "Expedition Bucks County," marked a significant departure from traditional trail experiences. By uniting all participating breweries in crafting a signature beer, the initiative not only fostered camaraderie among the local brewing community but also provided visitors with a distinct and exclusive trail experience. These collaborative brews, showcased on Visit Bucks County.com, became emblematic of the Ale Trail, creating a unique identity and generating widespread interest and media coverage.
In-house Video Content: The Bucks County Ale Trail's video content strategy, exemplified by engaging brewery tours and YouTube shorts, Instagram Reels, and TikToks transforms the trail experience into a dynamic and visually captivating journey. The in-house video content not only serves as a promotional tool but also demonstrates VBC's dedication to creating a comprehensive and enticing narrative, fostering greater interest and participation in the Ale Trail.
Attractive and Changing Prizes: Periodic updates to prize offerings, such as new shirt designs, and the addition of hoodies, hats, etc. helped maintain interest among passholders.
Google AdWords: Included search terms related to the Ale Trail in paid search strategies.
YouTube and Meta Ads: Utilized YouTube and Meta (Instagram and Facebook) ads to reach a wider audience.
Featured in NBC Sports Philly’s "What's Brewing" episodes and local news segments, including collaborations with breweries and extensive coverage in various media outlets.
Bandwango's technology played a crucial role in the success of the Ale Trail. VBC could track passport downloads, check-ins, and prize redemptions effortlessly. The platform's user-friendly nature ensured that participants, regardless of their tech-savviness, could navigate the Trail seamlessly.
From 2019 to 2023, the Ale Trail achieved impressive results:
16,906 passport downloads
More than 6,000 shipped t-shirts
More than 190,000 pageviews to the passport page
For October to December 2023 (gamification pass):
3,547 passport downloads
More than 250 prizes shipped in less than 2 months
More than 20,000 pageviews to the passport page since re-launch
VBC recently conducted a Bucks County Ale Trail Visitation Analysis. The insights derived from these metrics offered an understanding of visitor trends from the past 5 years. It was interesting that over half of those visiting breweries using the Ale Trail passport were traveling from outside of Bucks County.
The Bucks County Ale Trail, fueled by Bandwango's technology, exceeded its goals. The collaboration among breweries, innovative promotions, and strategic use of advertising channels contributed to its remarkable success. The Ale Trail not only boosted the local craft beer scene but also had a significant positive economic impact on Bucks County, showcasing the power of creative destination marketing and gamification.