by Eric Ginsburg

The city, Action Greensboro and the Greensboro Area Convention & Visitors Bureau are purchasing a $30,000 ad in Delta Sky magazine’s June issue as part of a joint effort to market the Gate City.

A copy of a US Airways’ in-flight magazine waits inside a seat back pocket of Cecelia Thompson’s black Volkswagen Tiguan. The 2011 issue, many locals may recall, featured Greensboro prominently as the cover story, singing praises of many of the city’s cultural attributes. Thompson, the 32-year-old head of economic development group Action Greensboro, keeps the magazine there for visitors she often shows around the city.

That’s part of the beauty of a slick, glossy profile on Greensboro, city spokesperson Donnie Turlington said; in addition to the benefit of the ad buy itself, the publication can be reused for years, making it a continually giving gift.

“The city as a whole got a lot of mileage out of that,” Turlington said of the US Airways feature.

Turlington and the city continued to use the magazine issue, too, bringing it along on trips to Washington, DC and handing out copies to help share positive stories about Greensboro.

And now, four years later, three city organizations are hoping to recreate that success.

The city, Action Greensboro and the convention and visitors bureau purchased a two-page ad as part of a cover feature in Delta Sky magazine’s June 2015 issue. Each group kicked in $10,000 to make the deal possible, which Turlington said will reach an estimated 5.5 million readers. About half of those readers live in households with $150,000+ annual income, he said.

“It’s a unique audience that we rarely get in front of,” Turlington said, adding that the team hopes to use the issue for several years afterwards, just like the preceding US Airways issue.

The two-page spread is set at the Woolworth’s lunch counter at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum downtown, where four NC A&T University students launched what became the sit-in movement. The ad, showing a multi-racial group of locals including musician Molly McGinn and Action Greensboro operations manager Candace Tucker, plays up that history while expanding on it.

“When someone makes a move. Someone takes a stand. Momentum kicks in and the story begins,” it reads. “From the students who sparked a movement at a lunch counter, to community-driven arts, a thriving business scene and trailblazing green spaces, we have a way of moving in the right direction. Whatever it is. If it’s a seed of an idea, we can make it grow. If it’s trendy, we can make it timeless. Just let us know when you’re getting here. Make it happen. Make it in Greensboro.”

Thompson said the team decided it wanted to focus on what is iconic about Greensboro, playing up for a national and international audience the reference point that many learned about in textbooks as schoolkids.

“The average American has the sit-ins a point of reference,” she said, “and it’s something we can be proud of and celebrate. We reached out to the civil rights museum and they worked really quickly and were really helpful and open to being a part of this effort.”

The issue will also be translated into Japanese and distributed on Delta’s Asian flights, which Thompson said “will be really good for our aviation efforts” around economic development at the airport with companies like HondaJet.

But the ad buy is much more than a two-page spread.

There will be several pages of editorial content, by two local writers, that will supplement the ad, Turlington said. Thompson said five pages of content will focus on industry, tourism and quality of life in Greensboro, aimed at attracting individuals and businesses to want to relocate here, or at least visit.

The two-page spread won’t be the only Greensboro ad in the piece.

“There’s a fair amount of supplemental advertising that will add more to the piece,” Thompson said. The coordinating team helped Delta identify key local prospects like Bennett College, VF Corp., Piedmont Triad International Airport and the Weatherspoon Art Museum, she said.

The idea emerged when Delta Sky magazine approached the Greensboro Partnership with the idea, Thompson said. From there, Action Greensboro — which is part of the organization — joined with the city and the convention and visitors bureau to fund and plan it.

This isn’t the first time the three groups have worked together, Thompson pointed out, mentioning failed efforts to lure Stone Brewing to locate in Greensboro and the successful attempt to land the National Folk Festival. As with those efforts, Greensboro Partnership board member and Pace Communications President Craig Waller offered to help. Turlington said Pace donated the design and ad work to this marketing push.

US Airways magazine, where the Greensboro feature ran in 2011, used to be owned by Pace Communications, which is part of what led to the coverage at the time, Turlington said. Delta’s magazine is published by MSP Communications in Minneapolis, according to its website.

Greensboro is in the middle of trying to figure out how to talk about and brand itself, which has meant stalled or disjointed efforts to market the city for economic development. The Greensboro Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and Greensboro Partnership use different taglines to promote Greensboro, and the city itself and Downtown Greensboro Inc. have appeared wholly unclear on which direction they plan to go.

But change is afoot, with the Greensboro Partnership hiring a new CEO who starts June 1 and the city working on a new logo for itself as part of a wider branding and marketing effort. Recent changes have affected the Delta effort as well; David Marshall, who served as the partnership’s vice president for marketing and communications and who initiated and oversaw the ad buy, left the organization at the end of April.

“David decided that he wanted to pursue his own career opportunity,” Greensboro Partnership Chief Operating Officer Deborah Hooper said on Monday, adding that planning for recruiting someone to fill his shoes will begin once new CEO Brent Christensen arrives.

Part of the new efforts will include the unveiling of a new website,, which is not yet public. The two-page Delta ad will direct people to the website, giving them a way to connect to more information and resources about the city, Turlington said.

“Basically it becomes a website portal to help us tell our story,” said Turlington, whose city staff team is pulling it together. “We’re cranking. We’re working on it.”

The website will be one way that the organizations can measure the impact of the ad, Thompson said, adding that most of the traffic to the site will be from Delta readers because that’s where the address is being promoted.

But the ad may not end with Delta, and could possibly turn into a campaign. Thompson said they are currently pricing it out for other national magazine buys, and if there is a good opportunity and a budget to back it, they may continue to run with it.

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