Jennifer Hudson sings Rhode Island’s praises

Promotion part of Rhode Island Commerce goal of attracting more diverse visitors

By: - June 22, 2023 3:30 pm

Jennifer Hudson introduces the “Rhode Show” game segment during the May 23 episode of her daytime talk show. (Screenshot)

Coming in from break, the studio audience lauded singer and actress Jennifer Hudson as her daytime talk show led into its next segment during its May 23 episode. As the applause died down, Hudson said she was excited for summer and wanted to “relax somewhere gorgeous.”

“Y’all ever thought about heading to Rhode Island?” she asked to a loud applause. “Baby, it might be the smallest state, but it’s packed with big experiences.”

Hudson was leading into a segment sponsored by Rhode Island Commerce Corp. aimed at attracting a more diverse array of visitors.

“There’s a big need to do more multicultural marketing so that we can bring incremental revenue to the state,” Commerce’s Chief Marketing Officer Anika Kimble-Huntley said during a presentation to the agency’s Air Service Development Council on Tuesday. “It’s a huge opportunity.”

According to Kimble-Huntley, 80% of visitors to Rhode Island in the past 12 months were white. Those numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Symphony Tourism Economics, a company that compiles reports for destination market organizations like Rhode Island Commerce.

“Combined we’re able [to] gain knowledge of consumer demographics including race throughout RI,” Rhode Island Commerce spokesperson Matthew Touchette said in an email Thursday.

There is a charge to be able to access this type of data, but Touchette said he did not know how much it costs.


As part of the segment on the Jennifer Hudson Show, titled “Rhode Trip,” an audience member played a life-sized version of Skee-Ball and answered Rhode Island-themed trivia. 

“This ‘Woman King’ star who just became the 18th EGOT [Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award winner] grew up in Rhode Island,” one of the clues read. 

The answer, of course, is Viola Davis, who grew up in Central Falls and studied theater at Rhode Island College.

To win the grand prize — a trip for two to Rhode Island — the California audience member had to score 48 points — a reference to the length of the state, which is 48 miles.

The remaining 250 audience members received Rhode Island swag including a drawstring backpack, postcard, and a $100 flight voucher from Breeze Airways, which opened its new base of operations at Rhode Island’s T. F. Green International Airport in late March.

Kimble-Huntley said after the meeting she would “prefer” not to disclose the cost of the promotion, saying after the meeting “that’s a negotiated media buy — so I don’t really like to share that information.”

The agency received $4.5 million in air service marketing money for destination advertising for fiscal year 2023, along with $1.5 million in appropriations in the state’s FY23 and FY24 budgets for marketing.

Other marketing opportunities

Kimble-Huntley told the council that teaming up with Jennifer Hudson was an ideal choice as the show, which can reach up to 123 million people in syndication, has an audience that is 60% nonwhite.

The effort is not the first time Rhode Island Commerce tried to reach a more diverse audience.

Kimble-Huntley said the state advertised in USA Today’s special editions for Black History month in 2022 and 2023.

“The circulation is so broad,” she said. “And that the digital assets that come with that are pretty good as well.”

Beginning in fiscal year 2024, Kimble-Huntley plans to prioritize multicultural marketing, saying that her team just wrapped up a photo and video shoot consisting of restaurants, beaches, mansions, parks, bike paths, and Rhode Islanders of different ethnicities.

“Just a plethora of people doing activities,” Kimble-Huntley said. “It was a diverse video shoot.”

Kimble-Huntley declined to comment on the cost of the campaigns, saying that she’s still working on her office’s budget.

What about the giant stuffies?

Multicultural marketing isn’t the only endeavor Commerce is doing to attract more tourists to the Ocean State through its destination spending plan.

Other plans include television ads during sporting events and placing seven-foot stuffed quahog replicas at airports in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Detroit and Baltimore. 

The quahog installations were initially scheduled to be up this month, but Kimble-Huntley said after Tuesday’s meeting that “they’re in progress.”

“The production’s taken a little longer,” she said. 


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

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