Municipal Association of South Carolina honors Fort Mill with Achievement Award

The Town of Fort Mill received a Municipal Achievement Award for the marketing plan for its South Carolina Strawberry Festival. Officials were presented with the award during the Municipal Association of South Carolina’s 72nd Annual Meeting on June 30. The town won in the communications category. Thirty-three cities and towns submitted their projects and initiatives.

Fort Mill had enjoyed both success and failure through the years with local annual festivals operated by independent organizations; however, the festivals never attracted more than a few thousand attendees and did not draw visitors from the larger regional market surrounding Fort Mill.

After a two-year break to reorganize, rebrand and revitalize the festival, town officials transformed the local event into the South Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2010. The town formed a marketing team to develop a comprehensive strategy to pursue new promotional opportunities, develop partnerships, and engage local businesses and organizations.

With greater regional appeal and revitalized activities, festival organizers marketed the four-day festival beyond the local Fort Mill-Rock Hill area to the major metropolitan market of Charlotte, NC.

The town began with a new festival website listing all of the festival events and contests. The site received more than 30,000 hits from all 50 states. Festival organizers connected with online visitors with a Strawberry Festival Facebook page. Friends of the festival participated in photo contests, received updates on the strawberry crop and learned more about the festival strawberry recipe contest.

The marketing team also used more traditional advertising tools to reach York County and the Charlotte metro area. Organizers relied on direct mail, billboards, display posters, brochures, festival merchandise, and newspaper, magazine, television and radio ads to spread awareness of the event.

Thanks to a comprehensive marketing plan, the festival has grown from a small community event into a major regional attraction drawing nearly 50,000 visitors.

“The marketing plan for the Strawberry Festival is a great example of how cities and towns use local resources and innovative ideas to bring in visitors and increase economic success for residents and businesses,” said Miriam Hair, executive director for the Municipal Association.

These winning entries represent innovative projects undertaken by Municipal Association member cities and towns. More information and a video about the project are available on the Association’s website.

The Municipal Association of South Carolina initiated the Achievement Awards in 1987 to recognize and encourage innovations and excellence in local government.

By Casey Fields, Published in the MASC July 2012 Newsletter