Sending out an SOS

A Movement Is Born

On Friday, November 6th, 2020, Robin Craigen and Sarah Bradford sat in a local public health meeting in Steamboat Springs, CO. With virus cases rising steeply in the community, what they were hearing from the County Commissioners was very alarming. Phrases like, “this is a dire situation and it’s getting really scary,” and “we need to do something, fast,” turned worry into dread, and then panic.

Robin and Sarah both operate vacation lodging companies in Steamboat Springs, and dozens of families depend on them for employment. Like so many other local businesses, COVID-19 threatens their ability to continue operating at a sustainable level. With the possibility of the state or county forcing a shutdown, the livelihoods of so many people hang in the balance. To protect their community, Robin and Sarah began to form a plan. They would create a battle cry to rally their mountain community, a symbol to represent our shared commitment to do our part in this fight against the coronavirus, and save our season from a shutdown. This would be a grassroots effort asking for community-wide support.

Acting quickly, they reached out to a local branding and marketing firm, Strategic Design + Advertising (SDA) with their concerns, and asked for help with creating branding and messaging that would resonate with the Steamboat community. SDA was already responsible for supporting the brands of Steamboat Lodging Company (Sarah’s business) and Moving Mountains (Robin’s business), so they both knew that SDA was the perfect partner to pull this off as quickly as possible.

On Monday morning, the SDA team cleared their plates and within an hour developed the name and messaging. SOS was born - an emergency call-out for help and a dual acronym for the thoughts we all share: Save Our Season / Stop Our Spread. The next step was to develop the creative branding. Our goal was to find a way to positively communicate what needs to change in our community with social behavior - beyond telling people to wash their hands and wear masks, which we all know by now. We also needed to connect these changes with the goal to save the ski season, which would in turn save jobs and businesses.

By the end of the day, the brand was set and a plan was being made to get the message out to the Steamboat community. Initial assets took the form of stickers - drawing inspiration from the ‘I Voted’ stickers and their ability to foster civic engagement - as well as bumper stickers, window clings to put up in local businesses, and print and digital ads. For those ready to take action, a website would be developed where people would go to Take The Pledge to Save Our Season. Pledges commit to limiting their social circles to immediate family members, social distancing and working from home if possible. With enough pledges, it could create a catalyst to bring about change in our social behaviors. Social media engagement was also a key component to spread the word by asking followers to change their profile photos to the SOS icon and share, share, share!

The SOS campaign launched in record time on Friday, November 13th, as saveourseason.org went live, stickers and window clings were being distributed, social media was active, print and digital ads were developed, radio spots were recorded and the movement was being noticed by news media -  the word was spreading quickly! We now had an SOS movement.

The Message Achieves Community Spread

As the story was picked up by newspapers, TV and radio, it became clear that the SOS message was not just meant for one small resort town. The SOS movement started growing in Steamboat, and at the same time Winter Park and Grand County became the first communities to join the SOS movement.

In a single week we welcomed municipalities in Fraser, Grand County, Roaring Fork Valley, Summit County and Vail Valley. We invite all communities across Colorado and beyond to join us in standing together by staying apart. We are being contacted daily by other resort communities asking how they can join the SOS movement. SOS Toolkits were created for each community that joined our movement to make it easy for them to get the SOS message out.

How SOS Will Move Forward

The initial focus was on getting our message out before the Thanksgiving holiday celebrations. Now we are looking to the rest of the holiday and winter season to encourage people to keep their social gatherings small and only include immediate family in their celebrations. We are meeting with our public health officials and commissioners to show them what we are doing to stop the spread and together move the dial back so we can Save Our Season. We are also encouraging all of our SOS partner communities to do the same. Our goal is to take the SOS message to our state government, show them how the movement has grown, and enlist their help in making the right decisions to save our businesses and communities. If you haven’t already, please commit to doing your part by taking the SOS pledge. Share our movement on social media, show your support with the SOS badge in your profile picture, and use #saveourseason. But most of all, limit contact to your family or household unit.

Together, we can Stop Our Spread and Save Our Season!

Branding, marketing, and website by Strategic Design + Advertising

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