The Sunny Side of Louisville Hot Air Balloon began its 2017 Farewell Tour during the Kentucky Derby Festival’s Great Balloon Fest which was held April 27-29.  

That first sentence says a lot. 

Yes, our promotional balloon still represents our old brand identity.  And, yes, we will debut a SoIN balloon in 2018. 

Why do we still have the Sunny Side balloon?

Our switch to the SoIN brand identity happened quicker than we expected. It took off mid-year in 2016. At that point, we hadn’t budgeted for a new balloon and didn’t want to rush such an important purchase. “Sunny” has been a popular sight on the race and balloon event circuit for more than 30 years, and we just couldn’t say goodbye to it that quickly.

Why keep the balloon as a marketing program?  

Our Visitor Services and Marketing departments have worked hard the past two years to reinvent the balloon program. No longer is the focus of the balloon a tool to support the bureau’s community relations efforts.  

Instead, the balloon is on the road more and more each year – going to races and events in our drive-distance travel markets.  Where possible, we don’t just send the balloon.  A separate promotional crew goes into the city, sets up a tent and table, and hands out visitor guides and registers potential visitors for our e-mail marketing program. In 2017, the balloon is tentatively scheduled to be in Decatur, Ala.; Canton and Middletown, Ohio; Danville, Ky.; Centralia, Ill.; Bloomington, Ind. and several other stops.

We also identify client or media contacts in those markets with whom a relationship can be strengthened by bringing them out to the balloon event and taking them for a ride. Finally, a paid social media effort will target potential visitors in each market to drive them out to the balloon event where our promotional team can contact them and engage them in conversations about SoIN’s attractions, events, and restaurants.

What does it take to staff a hot air balloon team?

Our team leader is Dan Hoehler, a 37-year veteran pilot who has flown memorable commercial balloons like The Energizer Bunny.  Dan’s wife, Lisa, is his trusted crew chief.  Additional volunteer crew either travel with the balloon or are recruited from residents in the event’s host city.  As balloons go, Sunny is big, so a minimum crew of four is needed to set up, chase and tear-down the balloon each flight.