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Bob Hope Airport is making a play for college sports fans

Marketing for Burbank's Bob Hope Airport includes making a play for college sports fans

Bob Hope Airport officials are following a marketing playbook they hope will help raise the airport's profile by targeting college sports fans across the country with bowl season approaching.

The Burbank airport — the official airport of the Rose Bowl stadium — is participating in a promotional sweepstakes that will launch on the stadium's Facebook page. Entrants will have a chance to win a trip for two to the game on New Year's Day in Pasadena, including airfare, hotel accommodations and dinner at a local restaurant.

"It's really targeted to out-of-town people coming to the big game," airport spokesman Victor Gill said. The promotional campaign, he said, is part of a long-term campaign to raise awareness of the airport.

The promotional effort includes a partnership with UCLA Athletics to get the message "Fly BUR" to the university's network of alumni, Bruins fans and their rivals on UCLA websites, in social media and in print publications, such as the Rose Bowl Stadium Guide.

Signage around the field and the large LED video board inside the Rose Bowl also display the airport's message. That means exposure not just to spectators at the game, but also potentially to TV audiences.

Every time the Bruins score, TV viewers will be staring at the airport's message while waiting to see whether the point-after kick is good.

Gill said a sweepstakes that provided airfare to Boulder, Colo., accommodations there and tickets to the Oct. 25 game in which UCLA beat the University of Colorado helped the airport's Facebook page garner about 3,000 likes — boosting it to more than 10,000 for the first time — and expanded the number of subscribers to the airport's newsletter by 2,000.

Similar promotions are also slated for basketball season, with signs inside UCLA's Pauley Pavilion and a sweepstakes for a trip to the Pac-12 men's basketball tournament in Las Vegas.

Prior to 2008, much of the marketing for regional airports such as Bob Hope was done by the airlines, Gill said. However, they began cutting back on those efforts during the recession, leaving marketing to the airports themselves.

"In the old days, we could afford to sit on the sidelines … because [passengers] came," Gill said.

The partnership with UCLA is part of a three-year, $327,000 agreement the airport entered into in May 2013 with IMG College, a marketing firm in Winston-Salem, N.C., which represents nearly 90 universities nationwide.

At the time, Damon Dukakis of IMG Sports told the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority that his company calculated that in the previous 12 months about 1.3 million UCLA sports fans flew out of airports in the L.A. Basin, which includes Los Angeles International Airport and John Wayne Airport in Orange County. Only 19% of them used Bob Hope Airport.

Gill said there is no way to track whether the partnership has resulted directly in an increase in passengers using Bob Hope Airport. However, in recent months, the airport has seen increasing passenger counts compared with last year.

In September, the passenger tally was up 5.4% compared with the previous September, the first time in six years that the number increased by more than 5%.

Airport officials are also working with the marketing organization Visit Burbank in an effort to make the city a destination for travelers. As part of that push, the city is featured in a 13-page spread in Southwest Airline's in-flight magazine this month and was profiled in US Airways Magazine in June.

"It's just a way for [Burbank] to get exposure on a massive scale," said Mary Hamzoian, the city's economic development manager. The in-flight magazines, she said, are read by millions of passengers each month.

It's all part of "finding creative ways to move the ball a little bit off dead center," Gill said, adding, "There is no master stroke."

chad.garland@latimes.com

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