Intrepid Travel, an Australian travel tour company dedicated to "responsible and experiential travel", has announced a long-term partnership with sustainable food filmmakers The Perennial Plate.
The partnership will last 21 months and take Perennial Plate co-conspirators Mirra Fine and Daniel Fine around the world to 13 different countries.
They will spend two months in each country, creating videos in each country that reflect the local food culture. From interviews with chefs to tasting tours of sustainable farms, the duo will document what food means to each individual culture.
In the two previous seasons of the Perennial Plate, Mirra and Zach traveled through Minnesota and around America, showcasing sustainable farming practices, locavore chefs and other inspirational foodie stories while crisscrossing the country.
The relationship with Intrepid was forged after The Perennial Plate traveled in January 2012 on a press trip to Vietnam and produced the video below, which quickly became the most viewed and shared video on the site to date.
The partnership also marks one of the most ambitious collaborations between online travel content creators and a travel brand, marking a watershed moment for travel marketers.
With a traveler base of 100,000 spread over 100 countries, Intrepid is in an ideal position to capitalize on a unique approach to travel marketing.
How this partnership succeeds - and where it fails - should be something all travel marketeres are keenly watching, as it could point the way to a future of fruitful partnerships that both provide a remuneration to travel content creators for their work and gives travel brands authentic, compelling content that drives brand awareness and delivers an engaged, interested audience to their brand.
Eliza Anderson, global PR manager for Intrepid, elaborated on this approach in an interview:
Why Perennial Plate?
First, we look for a great brand fit. It's not just reach, numbers, traffic and eyeballs - first we have to get someone who is a right brand fit. If there's a great brand fit it maintains the integrity of the brand and makes the content more interesting to those who read it.
We knew that they produced quality content and that they had great existing viewership within their market - which happens to be ours: [primarily] females ages 25-40.
We were also able to test the relationship with a tour to Vietnam as part of our initial food campaign. We were expecting 20,000 views, but it's gone on to receive 300,000 views! We weren't expecting that, but it was delightful. Things like getting picked up on HuffPo, NYTimes food blog, Vimeo...all of that well and truly exceeded our expectations. So that's when we started talking to them about a long-term partnership.
Based on those views, it was quite an easy sell internally.
What about ROI? How will you be measuring the success and return on your investment throughout the 21 months of this campaign?
We've separated it out looking at the brand value and then the lead generation value. We want to give both the beancounters and the marketers something to be happy about.
In addition to the web series, we will get acces to the raw footage - so we're able to get an actual value on that footage if we were to send a production company around the world to do that. There's a real dollar amount attached to the PR value of this footage.
We know as a business how much money we make for every newsletter sign-up, so then we estimate how many newsletter signups we get from this partnership and thus a dollar value for the partnership.
We'll also measure video views, traffic to the website, sales via a Perennial Plate promo code, lead generation from source of traffic, brochure downloads, newsletter pieces and all related marketing materials. We're also looking at engagements on our own channels, like Facebook likes and shares, and have put targets against those.
It's important for us to track all of these different areas, from their website to ours to 3rd party coverage. We have very specific numbers that we've attached to the different activities, and we've written a list of target media that we'd like to engage as it would give us the opportunity to reach a different community - the food community.
It's quite involved in terms of the reporting, but we've done a lot of upfront work to really track the value of the partnership.
[We have] a dedicated person to go through and track everything over the long-term relationship. By tracking continuously, we have the chance to change things in real-time.
That's the beauty of having the long-term relationship: We're able to rally build our brand value in an ongoing way with the Perennial Plate.
How will this partnership be activated throughout the time they are traveling?
We're working very closely with the Perennial Plate on the strategy for each country, where there will be both online and offline activities. It's hard to share too much yet as we haven't launched the first episode, but we will be looking for ways to hook people in beyond the website.
Each video will have it's own distribution strategy, and we're looking to support it via traditional PR, paid online advertising, traditional broadcast media, and basically making the story relevant to multiple parties. It's not just going to be putting up the video on their site and hoping that people will see it and share it.
We liked the Perennial Plate's established network and distribution strategies.
How important is compelling, authentic content to your brand?
We are very aware of the integrity of the content.
One of the values of this relationship to us is the third-party endorsement, and if we heavily brand we lose it. The branding is in partnership with Intrepid; [ultimately] it's Perennial Plate's content. [Over-branding] will not only limit the integrity of the content but also the sharability of it.
We'll need to work hard to talk about the relationship with traditional media to strengthen the association.
Content has been something that we've been building and is still in development. We've made a lot of efforts over the last year or two, particularly from a social media POV, to build our value there. We've been building up our own worth and reputation in those areas so we offer people something of value.
We've matured in terms of our activity from a social media perspetive, and now we will be able to get more value from the Perennial Plate content as a result.
You learn something everyday, and we're onstantly evolving. This is the biggest step to date in this direction, and it's really exciting to us to see what we learn and how it shifts our content strategy as a result.
What lessons can other travel brands learn from what you're doing?
On a whole, we're still feeling it out. We know there will be loads of lessons that come from this partnership, but it has definitely given us more of an understanding about what we could get from people in terms of content.
With a traditional media relationship, you've got information that they need for their story and the transaction can be very one off - it's based on that particular story. Whereas with bloggers, and this partnerhsip, it's much more holistic and ongoing.
The moment, for me, was the ability to assess the worth and value of the blogger, and to really understand the potential.
The big thing was the quality of the content and the distribution value that [the Perennial Plate] had. That's something we will be looking for in future partnerships with bloggers.
In addition, [a project] that has value for [the bloggers] to be associated with as well. This is their business and livelihood, and knowing what you can offer them is really important too.
What are the keys to working with travel bloggers and content creators on successful partnerships?
Appealing to them from our perspective. They have a proven record with an audience; they have great reach through associations with HuffPo and contacts in the food media community as well. So it ups their currency from our perspective. It's an interesting partnership - very exciting for us!
NB: Perennial Plate's latest video, announcing the Intrepid Travel world tour:
NB2: More on the Perennial Plate here, and more about Intrepid's food adventures here.