By Twin Cities Pioneer Press
Even North Dakota’s tourism director admits it isn’t easy promoting a state where the first day of the new year brought temperatures down to a brutal 45 below zero.
But having Hollywood actor and Minot native Josh Duhamel make the pitch helps, said Sara Otte Coleman, who heads the state’s tourism agency.
“He has increased awareness,” she said.
Among the least-visited states in the nation, the agency announced Wednesday that it will once again enlist the services of the star of several “Transformers” movies to lure visitors to the state better known for its brutal cold weather than as a tourist destination.
The agency also unveiled its $2.9 million marketing plan for 2018. It announced that Duhamel will be paid $365,000 to be the face of the state’s tourism campaign for the next two years. The actor wasn’t present at the announcement.
Duhamel already has earned $525,000 since 2013 to be North Dakota’s pitchman, records show.
The tourism marketing campaign features new TV and print ads, as well as new travel and hunting guides that feature Duhamel. Many also include his 4-year-old son Axl, whose mother is Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie.
This year’s campaign will feature Duhamel’s hometown of Minot and Grand Forks. It is a continuation of the North Dakota Legendary brand that was established in 2002 to help create more awareness of the state and what it has to offer, Otte Coleman said.
It will continue to showcase North Dakota’s outdoor activities as well as its top tourist destination, Theodore Roosevelt National Park located in the badlands in the western part of the state.
Tourism officials will continue to gear marketing campaigns toward audiences in the neighboring states of Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana, as well as Wisconsin and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Coleman said. The agency also will target the Chicago-area this year, she said.
Duhamel has been a good ambassador, and his television and other advertising have boosted visits to the state, Coleman said.
The actor only lent his voice to the state’s tourism campaign from 2013-15, but his role was expanded in 2016, said Kim Schmidt, a tourism spokeswoman.
A survey was done that year that showed the advertising campaign reached 3.8 million households resulting in 354,000 non-resident trips to the state. All told, the advertising brought in $104 in non-resident spending for every $1 spent on advertising, Coleman said.
A survey has not been done since.
North Dakota’s tourism division is part of the state Department of Commerce. The agency has a two-year budget of about $11 million and has 11 employees.
Coleman said the agency has had discussions with Bismarck native and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz about becoming a paid spokesman for the state but nothing has materialized yet.
North Dakota Keep Native Josh Duhamel on as State's Tourism Pitchman - Twin Cities Pinoneer Press