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  • Date:

    21 February 2024


“The results have been fantastic, driving new users to our website and garnering interest in our brand.”

Jenny Sowerby, Director of Marketing

The challenge

Coming out of the pandemic was tricky for all holiday providers, but it represented a sizeable challenge for Sandals, the leading all-inclusive resort brand. The end of 2022 saw nearly half of the UK population feeling less comfortable living on their income compared to the previous year, so we anticipated that booking a luxury holiday was going to be a hard sell, especially with a looming cost of living crisis and without the pent-up travel demand of the previous year.

To entice customers to book and drive year-on-year growth, it was important to showcase meaningful consumer benefits that would show that a luxury holiday was worth paying for.

ABTA research showed that trust is a key component of the holiday buying decision; 81% of consumers specified that lack of trust can be a deal breaker. This was pretty great news for a brand that has over 40 years of experience within the all-inclusive luxury holiday market and would help tackle the two key objectives of the campaign:

  1. Shifting consideration – make Sandals the voice of authority in the Caribbean Luxury Travel Market. Whilst awareness of Sandals as a brand is high, there are lots of choices out there, so it was important to focus on what drives consideration for that all important holiday decision and make sure Sandals were the consumers’ go-to holiday provider.

  2. Raising awareness of the new resort launch – in 2022, Sandals opened a new resort in Curacao and with covid still affecting travel at this time, 2023 was the year to showcase this new offering. A unique resort and destination, it was important to highlight how different Sandals Curacao was from the other Sandals destinations and bring it to life for the target audience.

The big idea

‘Sandals, leading the way’.
With challenges around consideration, it was important to build trust among those in-market. It was also key to find a way to appear in front of that audience across a couple of different contexts – people looking for holiday inspiration and people needing reassurance on value and trust metrics – bringing to life the holiday experience in a deeper, more engaging way.

Three key Sandals audiences were identified:
Mature Moderates (Sandals core/active audience); Good Natured Extroverts, and Bougie Insiders (two groups that delivered on a slightly younger demographic).

Sandals partnered with Hearst to match up these audiences with their corresponding publications, ensuring they were reaching the consumer where they were most engaged and around the most relevant content, activating not just against Sandals core demographic audiences, but appealing to those stretch audiences to drive reach across the market.

Many readers of Hearst publications already had a pre-existing relationship with Sandals because of an ongoing partnership. Historically this consisted of display activity, so turning the dial up here and moving from predominately awareness driving activity to a more consideration-led piece felt like a natural and organic progression for the Sandals brand.

Making it happen

Hearst proposed a series of co-branded articles across both print and online, using portfolio titles that best aligned with the audience demographic but also delivered environments that tapped into their passion points – be that lifestyle, food, or even getting married, and where Sandals excels in terms of their offering and service.

Seamlessly integrating the Sandals brand and resort offering into editorially led content allowed the reader to absorb the message in an authentic way, driving deeper engagement (co-branded articles deliver twice the engagement time vs traditional advertorials. Source: Hearst, 2023).

Each article was supported with article framing, giving us the ability to track not just engagement and scroll rate, but all- important click-through rates of consumers reading those articles.

ROS placements were activated during each articles live dates to give the illusion of a full brand takeover for a much smaller budget, allowing them to own that space and align Sandals with Hearst as an ever-present, consistent, and trustworthy brand.

Content was then optimised on Hearst’s digital channels to drive EVR (engaged view rate), ensuring not only the content showed up in the right environments, but was measurable.

All of this was reinforced with print display advertising, aligning with travel themed issues and sympathetic editorial environments driving further frequency to the campaign.

Staggering articles across the year meant that as the travel market changed, and specific resorts needed to be prioritised, it was possible to control what was showcased.
All of this laddered up to make the consumer feel ‘surrounded’ by Sandals at times when they were most receptive to it and within ‘go to’ partner environments they trusted and loved.


Good Housekeeping
The content resonated with this audience, delivering on both reach and engagement with a CTR at three times Hearst’s CTR benchmark (0.38% vs the 0.11% KPI). It also delivered 24k impressions, almost 10k more impressions than planned.

The content with Prima delivered at 101% of the booked number of impressions, and a strong CTR of 0.23%, well above the .1% benchmark.
Sandals also saw ROS activity drive strong traffic towards the Prima article, with over delivery of page views and the strong CTR of 0.2% vs the 0.07% benchmark KPI.

Cosmo content (at time of writing) is still live, but to date is delivering at well above the booked number of impressions (26k vs the 15k booked) with a strong CTR of 0.33%. The audience was heavily engaged with this content and ultimately were three times as likely to click-through to site after reading it than predicted, and driving great dwell times of 3 minutes, vs the 2 minutes KPI.

Across all partner titles the display print activity has delivered on the key frequency driving metric and through strong negotiation and working closely with the publisher Sandals achieved considerable added value across the partnership.

“Challenged with improving brand awareness and understanding within our core and growth audiences in 2023, our decision to partner with Hearst was unanimous – given their unique portfolio of products across the various life stages we target. Working with their team to identify our core audiences and target them through both their print and digital portfolio, including Good Housekeeping, Prima, and Red, their approach to our brief was strategically respectful to our brand ethos and was expertly executed.
The results have been fantastic, driving new users to our website and garnering interest in our brand. We can’t wait to take our partnership even further in 2024”

Jenny Sowerby, Director of Marketing