CHARLESTON, S.C. — They might be considered the newest attractions in South Carolina’s $14 billion tourism industry: linebackers in Carolina garnet and wide receivers in Clemson orange.
Building on the success of the football teams at the University of South Carolina and Clemson University, the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism targeted promotional messages last fall to Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference fans in five nearby states within relatively easy driving distance.
Officials used news releases and social media, and contacted both sports and lifestyle reporters in the media. The message to fans coming to the state for games was to get off the interstate and see other South Carolina attractions.
“I don’t know if other states are doing it or not, but we are,” said Duane Parrish, the department’s director.
It helped that both South Carolina and Clemson were having success on the field. Both teams were nationally ranked. Clemson won the ACC title and a trip to the Orange Bowl, while South Carolina, of the SEC, had the best football season in school history.
“They were already in the news, and we just capitalized on that,” said Dawn Dawson-House, a spokeswoman for the tourism agency. “We said since you’re on the interstate, here are some must-see things that would be great for you to see while you’re here and spend another night here.”
The campaign promoted everything from the Beacon Drive-In off Interstate 26 in Spartanburg to the waterfalls and historic homes near Clemson to Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia.
Thousands of fans from out of state will come to South Carolina and Clemson games, following their own home team on the road. Parrish said that’s a target market most people don’t necessarily think about.
He added that the success of the teams also encourages in-state fans to spend a bit more when they head to the games. He also noted the success of South Carolina’s baseball team, which has won the past two national championships.