San Francisco Travel Association: Promoting the Inclusivity of San Francisco’s Hospitality Industry with a U.K. Drag Contest


Campaign Summary

The San Francisco Travel Association promoted the diversity and inclusivity of its city as a travel destination for Britons though a contest celebrating drag queens.



The objective of the San Francisco Travel Association (SFTA) was to highlight San Francisco's vast diversity in terms of product, geography, entertainment, culinary offerings, and attractions, while shining a particular light on LGBTQ+ and inclusivity.

Other goals were to showcase SFO airport as California's leading gateway airport, improve in-destination partners' market share, and ultimately drive passenger seat and room night bookings in San Francisco.

SFTA highlighted the unique diversity and inclusivity of San Francisco by partnering with Virgin Atlantic to find the U.K.'s next undiscovered drag star. The organization did this by running a competition in which entrants performed the Virgin Atlantic safety demonstration while in drag, with the winner joining established drag queens on a once-of-a-lifetime content creation trip to San Francisco.

One of the hurdles the undertaking faced was the initially slow trickle of entries to the competition. SFTA overcame this obstacle by reaching out to several organizations around the U.K. with ties to the drag and LGBTQ+ community in the country, including the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), to push the campaign's messaging out to a large, but still relevant, audience.

Following the content-creation stage of the trip, SFTA created a tactical campaign, which featured the content captured on the trip, to drive San Francisco intenders to SFTA's carefully selected tour operator partners, including Virgin Atlantic Holidays, Flight Centre, and Trailfinders.

Target Audience:

SFTA targeted a large and diverse audience with its campaign. To promote its competition and San Francisco, the organization targeted the LGBTQ+ audience by partnering with established U.K. drag queens through publications such as Attitude, Pink News, Gay Times.

Through the digital campaign, the SFTA targeted San Francisco intenders based on travel search behavioral data, interest, and demographic data.

Overall, the target audience skewed slightly male with an audience of 54 percent male versus 46 percent female.

The primary age range was 35 to 44 years old, closely followed by 25 to 34 years old and 45 to 54 years old.

Creative Strategy:

The SFTA worked with video production company Pensara to create a bank of stills and video content for campaign promotion and ongoing promotional use, and with three key tour operators to build "A Royal Welcome" packages and drive conversion, facilitated by a dedicated media plan.

Attitude, Pink News, and Gay Times were invited to participate in the campaign's content creation. They were chosen due to their presence and reach within the LGBTQ+ community. Their participation was important due to the aim of the campaign, namely, to highlight the inclusivity on offer in San Francisco. Similar reasoning went into the selection of the influencers to attend the trip, both of whom were established drag stars in the U.K.

Programmatic media retargeted people who had engaged with social and press coverage generated during the trip.

The SFTA adjusted who was targeted with each ad, so that those who sat under Virgin Holidays target market were served ads branded to Virgin Holidays, with the same approach used for Trailfinders and Flight Centre.


The SFTA has not undertaken a comparable campaign with similar budgets in the past.

As video content had great engagement throughout the campaign, The SFTA plans to adjust any future campaigns/iterations of this campaign by amplifying on other video channels including video-on-demand platforms (YouTube) and TikTok (specifically for short-form content).


Overall Campaign Execution:

The campaign budget was approximately $160,000, with $60,000 of this going into the SFTA's media distribution plan. The SFTA targeted San Francisco intenders as a primary audience, rather than primarily targeting by device type. At the conclusion of the campaign, the dominant device was narrowly desktop at 48 percent, versus secondary mobile devices at 46 percent and the rest on tablets.

Mobile Execution:

Based on the figures above, 17.25 percent of the total campaign budget went to mobile.

Business Impact (including context, evaluation, and market impact)

The campaign achieved and exceeded all KPIs:

  • The PR reach was impressive, with over 46,251,826 impressions being generated.
  • The SFTA's talent provided extensive reach, with over 12,000 engagements, 151,055 impressions on Instagram grid posts, and a further reach of 201,749 people through their Instagram Stories.
  • The digital campaign generated 16,387,749 impressions, exceeding the KPI by 4,566,416.
  • The campaign achieved a unique reach of 6,135,193 (versus the target reach of 2,364,267).
  • Following a set of optimizations, video performed exceptionally well, delivering 1,246,751 views (versus a target of 559,286).
  • 4,889 room nights and 3,143 passenger seats were sold by the participating tour operators.
  • The SFTA's hotel partner for the campaign, Hilton Union Square, gained market share with the SFTA's chosen tour operator partners, with a particularly impressive jump from 12th to 6th for Virgin Holidays.

Categories: | Industries: | Objectives: Diversity and Inclusion | Awards: X Global Finalist