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Branson invests $6M in Chiefs partnership

City an early adopter of the NFL deal

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Last edited 8:41 a.m., Feb. 26, 2024 [Editor's note: A five-year partnership signed by officials with the city of Branson, Branson/Lakes Area Tourism Community Enhancement District and the Kansas City Chiefs is an investment of over $6.6 million. Tourism district officials incorrectly said the deal would cost the city and tourism district $1.25 million annually over the five years.]

A multiyear partnership inked last summer between Branson and the Kansas City Chiefs is an investment of $6.25 million from two of the city’s entities over a five-year period, officials say.

Through the deal signed by officials with the city of Branson, Branson/Lakes Area Tourism Community Enhancement District and the Chiefs, Branson became the official vacation destination of the defending Super Bowl champions. The Chiefs are returning to the Super Bowl Feb. 11 to take on the San Francisco 49ers, seeking their third NFL championship in the past five seasons.

Kirk Elmquist, executive director for the tourism district, which collects tax revenue used to market Branson and the lakes area, said the organization and city are investing over $1.3 million annually. He said being associated with an in-state sports organization, which is amid an unprecedented run of success on the field in its 64-year history, seemed like a natural partnership to strike for exposure with the team’s fanbase, dubbed Chiefs Kingdom.

“We are here to enhance tourism, and that’s what this is all about – enhancing tourism for our market, the number one industry in the Branson and lakes area,” he said. “You’ve got to serve a lot of different levels of people. This package seems to line right up with trying to fill up hotel rooms, all the attractions and all the live music show theaters. We’re very excited about it.”

Chiefs President Mark Donovan said at the August 2023 news conference announcing the deal that Branson is the first-ever vacation partner for the sports franchise. Financial terms weren’t disclosed at the time of the announcement.

“We’re excited about a new opportunity to really maximize that,” he said. “When you think about the opportunity to bring those visitors to this region and experience what makes this place so special, that’s mutually beneficial, and that’s the way we like to do our partnerships.”

When reached for additional comment, Chiefs officials were unavailable to respond by press time.

City of Branson spokesperson Lisa Rau said a portion of tax revenues designated for marketing is providing the local funds for the deal. The tax district assesses a 1% sales tax in Stone and Taney counties. The tax was first approved by voters in 2005 and renewed in 2014, extending it until 2025. The city’s tourism tax, started in 1997, which applies a 4% rate for admissions and lodging and a 0.5% rate on food and beverage sales, was renewed by voters in 2021.

“These dollars were earmarked for marketing, and our out-of-the-box thinking has always been to generate big ideas, and when you have a big idea with a whole community of leadership standing behind it, you’ve undoubtedly created something that’s worth paying attention to,” she said of the Chiefs deal.

Additionally, Rau said the city is dedicating another $250,000 this year of the city’s annual $2.75 million marketing budget it has in its contract with the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & Convention and Visitors Bureau for promotion of the Chiefs partnership.

The city’s tourism tax revenue broke its annual record for the third straight year in 2023, finishing above $18.3 million, a nearly 4% increase over 2022, according to city data. The district sales tax revenue took in $11.7 million in 2022. While the 2023 total is yet to be tabulated, the most recent tax receipts were roughly $9.5 million through October.

Elmquist said it was a multiyear conversation involving himself and other Branson city officials with the Chiefs organization that led to the deal.

“It’s an enormous amount of tangibles for marketing our brand,” he said.

Gathering assets
As part of the deal, Branson has access to experiential and digital activation assets, such as the team’s logos, including one acknowledging last year’s Super Bowl championship.

“We can use that in marketing; we can use that in programs, whether it be digital media, TV – we can use it audibly on radio programs and such here,” he said, noting the partnership allows for marketing efforts throughout Missouri, as well as Kansas and Nebraska. “This isn’t just during football season. This is a 12-month comprehensive marketing program that we have. So, there’s a lot more to come.”

While he said an in-market season kickoff rally was planned in September, per the agreement, it didn’t go off as scheduled.

“We had a fun plan scheduled last year, but it got rained out, as we were going to do it outside,” he said. “But we’re going to really ramp it up for this coming season.”

The Branson lakes area also is the title partner of the Chiefs’ Hometown Hero program, which at each home game spotlights first responders or former or current military members making a difference in the lives of others.

“There’s branding that goes with that. Our logo is up on the main scoreboard where these hometown heroes are being honored,” Elmquist said, adding it also is on other signage and televisions inside Arrowhead Stadium.

The Branson partnership also will get spotlighted by the Chiefs during the annual NFL Draft, which includes the organization’s social media, website and emails.

“We’ll also have the rookie draft class come and spend a day in Branson to indoctrinate them into the Branson area and welcome them to the Chiefs’ official vacation destination,” Elmquist said.

Digital assets from the city also are shown during Chiefs preseason game broadcasts, on social media and on stadium signage.

Measuring metrics
“At the end of each season, we’ll have a brand awareness survey and research package to justify return on investment,” Elmquist said, noting both the Chiefs organization and CVB are involved in tracking metrics. “That’ll help us even greater on how to market to bring more people to the Branson lakes area.”

Pamela Yancey, chamber president and CEO, said the CVB’s social media campaign launched in late summer with encouraging results, earning 22,000 impressions for the partnership announcement post. She said by the end of the year, the CVB tallied over 792,000 social media impressions related to Branson’s affiliation with the Chiefs.

Officials expect greater results will come when its strongest visitor season ramps up beginning with spring break in March.

“What’s so special about it is it goes all year long,” Elmquist said of the deal with the Chiefs, adding it will take some time to determine the best marketing to maximize impact to Chiefs Kingdom.

Rau agreed.

“We’re still learning to better understand how we can utilize this partnership,” she said. “It’s a big idea and we don’t have another one like it. So, we have to merge together, which we are doing very, very well to step forward and make this all it can be.”

Branson’s deal with the Chiefs is part of a growing trend of tourism-related partnerships in the NFL. In early August of last year, the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism announced a multiyear partnership with the New York Jets to be its official Caribbean destination partner, according to the team’s website.

Additionally, the Port Aransas Tourism Bureau & Chamber of Commerce in November inked a partnership with the Dallas Cowboys that makes the Texas town the official vacation destination of the team, according to media reports. 

One unexpected component of Branson being affiliated with the Chiefs now is the team’s expanding fanbase thanks to one of its standout players, Travis Kelce, being the boyfriend of music superstar Taylor Swift. St. Clair, Michigan-based Apex Marketing Group Inc. estimated the brand value that Swift has generated for the Chiefs and the NFL is $331 million. Radio, TV and social media exposures were tracked since September, with hits including any mention or photo of Swift tied to the NFL or the Chiefs.

“There’s the relevancy not just with football fans and Chiefs fans, but now you’ve almost cross-sectioned into the music industry,” Elmquist said, noting Branson has a long history tied to the live music scene. “It’s just been such a nice gift and an add-on to what’s going on with this partnership.”

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