Rebranding Post Merger: Adventures On the Gorge

Rebranding Post Merger: Adventures On the Gorge

Brian Campbell, owner of Rivermen had hired Leapup in the spring of 2006 to assist Rivermen with the online relaunch of the Rivermen brand. Based on that highly successful experience and facing a new challenge in the fall of 2009, a merger with 2 other adventure companies, Brian knew it was time, once again, to put in a call to Annie…

The Challenge…

  • Adventure WV Resort LLC (dba Adventures West Virginia) was formed in April 2008 to finance the merger and expansion of Adventures Mountain River (recently acquired by Class VI River Runners), Class VI River Runners and Rivermen, three of the leading whitewater rafting operators on the New and Gauley Rivers in West Virginia. Mountain State Anglers and Treetops Canopy Tours also became part of the Adventures West Virginia cluster of brands.
  • The goal of Adventures West Virginia (AWV) was to become the major destination resort (“the new Moab”) on the East Coast for mid Atlantic regional outdoor enthusiasts.
  • By the fall of 2009, AWV was in a fierce battle for market share  in West Virginia’s highly competitive New River Gorge adventure market with ACE Adventure Resort (a merger of ACE Rafting with Wildwater Expeditions).
  • The AWV team knew they had one opportunity to get their brand strategy right and their marketing plan launched and they needed to move fast.

LeapUp Leaps In…

LeapUp led a strategy session in January 2010 with the AWV team to craft a new brand strategy for Adventures West Virginia and its family of sub-brands. The session resulted in a series of key decisions:

  • Adventures West Virginia changed its name to “Adventures On the Gorge” (AOG) in order to capitalize on the destination market as a central focus and the positive brand associations with the New River Gorge among target market consumers.
  • AOG’s new brand strategy mapped out a course to gradually evolve from a House of brands (ClassVI, Rivermen, Adventures Mountain River etc.) to a Branded House (Adventures On the Gorge) with a gradual buildup of brand equity in the AOG parent/master brand.
  • AOG’s marketing plan’s was crafted with the goal of dominating the destination of the New River Gorge across multiple sports markets (rafting, zip lines, hiking, biking, horseback riding etc.) and become the adventure “mecca” of the mid Atlantic region.
  • The team worked to create a new brand identity for AOG to ground and vest brand equity in the Adventures On the Gorge parent brand (visual identity, value proposition, brand claims/messaging, benefits for consumers).
  • The marketing strategy of the merged entity was planned to shift towards support of the AOG brand while continuing to market the association of AOG with the strong subbrands of Rivermen, ClassVI/Mountain River, Treetops and Mountain State Anglers.
  • The new brand identity and messaging platform was then integrated across all online and offline collateral used by AOG.
  • LeapUp continued to assist the AWV team with their online brand relaunch:
    • Rebranding and relaunching the AOG site
    • Creating a new keyword strategy which could be used across the Rivermen, Class VI and AOG sites.
    • Relaunching and search optimizing the Class-VI.com website

LeapUp’s Leverage…

  • Adventures on the Gorge is now the dominant, market share leader in the New River Gorge in West Virginia with overall sales of over $14mm. Since the launch of merged entity in 2008, total sales (all entities) have doubled with two additional brands (Songer and Gravity) joining the AOG fold since the strategy review in 2010.
  • Brian Campbell, Vice President of Marketing at Adventures on the Gorge, reports “the recommendation by Leapup to change our name and shift our brand strategy to the Adventures on the Gorge brand was pivotal to our success. We continue to use the messaging strategy mapped out with Leapup at our strategy session in 2010 and have recently added to this with our new “Play wild. Stay civilized” brand message, continuing our focus on active adventure by day and comfortable accommodations and dining at night.
  • The name change in 2010 from Adventures West Virginia was welcomed by staff and guests who rapidly adopted the new brand name “Adventures On the Gorge”.
  • When the AOG brand change was launched online in the summer of 2010, the subbrand sites for Rivermen and ClassVI/Mountain River dominated in unique visitor traffic. By 2012, this situation had reversed with Adventures On the Gorge surpassing subbrand sites in overall traffic. Pageviews to the AOG site more than doubled in the first year (2011 vs 2012).

Adventures on the Gorge: Average Unique Visitor Volume by Brand – 2010 vs 2012