Attack of the killer stuffies: The next big thing in marketing the Ocean State

Rhode Island Commerce unveils latest concept to woo travelers

By: - April 13, 2023 3:20 pm

This stuffie installation, as conceived by Rhode Island Commerce, will be coming to LAX this June. The concept elicited a few smirks but no laughter when it was unveiled Thursday morning to the Rhode Island Airport Corporation’s board of directors. (Photo courtesy of Rhode Island Airport Corporation.)

When flying in and out of Los Angeles this summer, Rhode Island travelers will see a very familiar sight: a giant replica of a stuffed quahog.

On top of being an Instagrammable reminder of home, the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation is hoping it can inspire tourists in that market to come to the Ocean State for their next vacation.

“Some people don’t know what a stuffie is, and it’s so unique to Rhode Island,” Chief Marketing Officer Anika Kimble-Huntley said at the Rhode Island Airport Corporation’s (RIAC) April 13 board of directors meeting.

Installations will also be installed this summer in Atlanta, Baltimore, and Detroit. In addition to the quahogs, Kimble-Huntley said Rhode Island Commerce plans to work with social media influencers in those cities to further promote the Ocean State.

$19 million in improvement coming to Rhode Island’s airports

It is unclear what the cost of the stuffie campaign, still in its concept stage, will be. In an interview, Kimble-Huntley said the state’s economic development agency is “still figuring out pricing.”

This initiative is just one of many marketing promotions included in Rhode Island Commerce’s $4.4 million destination spending plan.

Approximately $1.5 million was appropriated in the fiscal year 2023 budget toward destination tourism using money from the American Rescue Plan Act and the state fiscal recovery fund.

Markets across continental U.S.

Between June and September of last year, Rhode Island Commerce spent $466,000 on marketing campaigns in Los Angeles, Denver, Nashville, Pittsburgh, and Norfolk, Virginia.

So far, the return on investment is looking good, with tourism forecasted to be $1.9 million from these markets, said RIAC Chief of Staff Britanny Morgan.

“The state’s destination marketing efforts are working,” Morgan said.

A little more than a third of the budget has gone toward television spots in markets Boston sports teams play in.

“If the Celtics are playing the Pistons in Detroit, we’re actually doing a Rhode Island takeover in that market for a week or week-and-a-half,” Kimble-Huntley said.

The initiative launched this February with ads airing during away games for the Bruins, Celtics and Red Sox. Patriots games will come in the fall, something Kimble-Huntley said she is particularly excited for. 

“That will get a ton of exposure,” she said in an interview. “Sports fans are huge  — there’s going to be a lot of eyes.”

Additional funds are going toward maintaining existing programs and ad campaigns, agency fees, and “experiential events” — experiences created by a brand to prompt an emotional connection — in West Coast markets.

One experiential event Kimble-Huntley proposed involves setting up a bounce castle featuring Rhode Island food vendors.

“We’re serving coffee milk and stuffies — all those things most folks on the West Coast don’t know anything about,” she said.

Rhode Island Commerce is also looking at setting up Matrix-style photo locations using Rhode Island backgrounds.

Data would be collected on these programs, Kimble-Huntley said.


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Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.