Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Sun Valley—Kick Ass, FOMO Free and Inspiringly Fit
Those branding Sun Valley recognized it as a place where people love to dress up, as illustrated by Kilee Kindred and Adam, Finley, Matthew and Sawyer Crow during Halloween Hoopla.
Monday, November 12, 2018


When publicist Steve Hannigan embarked on Sun Valley’s first marketing campaign, he keyed in on Sun keyed in on skiing, dog sledding, sleigh rides and ski joring “under a summer sun.”

It didn’t take much more, as there was no competition in those days. Sun Valley was America’s first destination ski resort.

Times have changed. There are dozens of destination ski resorts trying to attract America’s adventuresome.  And simply advertising that you have a ski lift, a river to fish in and a mountain biking trail is no longer enough.

The branding notes that locals are an active bunch who don’t let any moss grow under their feet—or horse’s hooves.

That’s why Visit Sun Valley and local business people, arts leaders and others have been crafting a narrative that defines what makes Sun Valley unique.

They came up with a variety of attributes, including that of Sun Valley as a “quietly kick-ass yet cultured place” and that of Sun Valley as a “FOMO-free zone that’s born from its lack of crowds, lineups or wait times.”

And they’ll attempt to expand on those narratives during four more branding workshops Wednesday and Thursday, with each sector focusing on how to apply those narratives.

The first, for municipalities and community leaders will be held from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the Ketchum Innovation Center. It will be followed by one for restaurateurs and retailers from 1 to 4:30 p.m. that day at the Limelight Hotel.

Sun Valley is family friendly, the branding notes.

One for the lodging community will follow from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, at the Ketchum Innovation Center. And the final one, targeted at non-profits and event producers, will be held from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Ketchum Innovation Center.

The workshops will be led by Origin, the Whistler, B.C. creative agency that has been working on the project with Visit Sun Valley. Those who wish to participate should contact Aly Swindley at

Participants in earlier branding workshops determined there are four ideal guests Sun Valley want to target, said Scott Fortner, executive director of Visit Sun Valley.

They are: The active fun-loving family. The affluent outdoorsy traveler. The avid activity participant. And the culture seeker.

Sun Valley has a sophisticated art culture—no velvet Elvis here!

The branding designed to hook those people isn’t a logo or campaign but, rather, involves tapping into the emotional connections that will reel in people looking for experiences and looking to spend their money on things that will change their lives, Fortner said.

It’s intended to sell them on Sun Valley’s natural environment, its culture and heritage, its built environment and product and its people, said  Fortner.

“This is not the story of a boom-and busted American mining town,” the Brand Story starts. “Nor is it the story of America’s first ski resort. This is the story of a destination that has curated from its history the best of both worlds—a picturesque, western mountain town with a rugged wilderness and adventurers to match and the grand dame of ski locales that drew our last century’s celebrities to its winter wonderland.

“It is a story unique to Sun Valley,” the narrative continues.  “And one that has made it what it is today—a self-described quietly kick-ass yet cultured place with a modest, unpretentious down-to-earth feel that is reflected in how it embraces both its residents and guests as the same, regardless of their age, income or social status.”

  • One narrative calls Sun Valley “a place with a laid-back and easy-going vibe…a FOMO-free zone that’s born from its lack of crowds, lineups or wait times, from its massive expanses of wilderness and quiettrails and from its long sunny days and star-filled nights. It’s this easy-going attitude that has created a community that is missing the hype and competition of other mountain towns.”
  • One addressing culture seekers touts Sun Valley as “a place where arts and culture is woven into its very fabric. In fact, its locals insist that Sun Valley doesn’t have an arts community. It is an arts community....It is, at once, sophisticated and refined and rootsy and homegrown. It’s the kind of place that combines symphony concerts with outdoor picnics and sheep herding demonstrations with culinary expos….

    “It’s this cultural priority that has made Sun Valley a magnet for thought leaders, artistic icons, philanthropists, entrepreneurs and the occasional movie star. It is a melting pot of intellectual, cultural and social contributors who embrace a symbiotic relationship where they give back to the place that provides them with both an audience and a community,” that narrative concludes.

  • A third, targeting the active, fun loving family holds forth that “this is a place that loves a good time. You’ll sense it in its event lineups, feel it in its festivals, hear it in its concerts and see it in the costumes that emerge from its thrift shops onto its slopes and sidewalks. It’s a community united by its desire to get out and celebrate and its willingness to welcome everyone in to the party. While the events may feature world-class performers, athletes or intellectuals, Sun Valley never takes itself too seriously and, instead, takes every opportunity to make good ol’ fashioned fun the priority.
  • The final one targeting the adventurous spirit touts that “this is a place that is home to the inspiringly fit and the aspiringly adventurous. It is the place where 70-year-old trail runners will cheerfully greet you as they pass you going uphill. Where Nordic Olympians are born, raised, made and returned. Where freeskiers, splitboarders and alpine racers humbly wear their pro status like base layer—comfortably but under cover.
It’s also a place with an enduring pioneering spirit that has, throughout its history, forged innovations through its entrepreneurial community. A destination-wide commitment to stay chain-free and locally committed provides Sun Valley with its true and authentic feel and a future that is diverse and sustainable.

All this culminates in a people who passionately pursue the vision of a vibrant, diverse and sustainable community that meets the needs of not just its guests and second-homeowners but also its year-round residents,” the branding concludes. “Sun Valley is not immune from the challenges of resort towns but its community understands the inextricable link between its people and its tourism and the need to create a place where both will thrive harmoniously.

“Sun Valley has a unique culture born from its rich history and the contributions of the people who have called it home. The result is a destination that isn’t driven by the trends of the day but instead is defined by its innovators, adventurers, creators and entrepreneurs. IT’S WHAT WE’RE MADE OF.”


FOMO is the anxiety inspired by social media that an exciting or interesting event may be happening elsewhere.


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