South African Tourism North America (SAT)'s mission is to inspire and compel travelers in the United States and Canada to visit South Africa. SAT’s global "Meet South Africa" campaign elevates the stories of South African locals to make the destination feel attainable through human connection and shared interest. Sparkloft partnered with SAT to develop a market-specific extension of this campaign, focusing on the African-American and LGBT traveler segments through influencers and content production.

South Africa has the perception of being an underdeveloped country that isn’t accepting and welcoming of diverse cultures. SAT wanted to shift this perception by diversifying its audiences. We used social-driven insights and sentiment analysis to identify new audiences who would be interested in South Africa as a travel destination.

Sparkloft’s research uncovered a travel movement in the black and LGBTQ North American communities. These travelers seek cultures and destinations that are progressive, open-minded and welcoming. They crave emotional experiences that evoke a sense of pride and heritage. This audience has disposable income that they want to invest in personalized travel that includes local cuisines, cultural opportunities and once in a lifetime bucket-list items.

African destinations often generalize the American traveler, failing to speak directly to these diverse travel groups. South African Tourism knew there was an opportunity and a need to speak specifically to these audiences and create content that is representative of the culture of the traveler.

Sparkloft leveraged social influencer reach in order to change destination perception and start a meaningful conversation around the welcoming South African culture among the target audience.

We partnered with two North American influencers with followings that aligned with our audiences. Cultural strategist, Kent Johnson (@KentWJohnson) and photographer, Paul Octavious (@PaulOctavious), traveled to experience and help tell the story of South Africa through different lenses.

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Set against the backdrop of colorful South Africa, we designed two itineraries for our creators, each with their own purpose. While Kent focused on culture, history and telling deeper stories in Johannesburg, Paul helped us highlight the progressive LGBTQ scene in Cape Town and Durban.

We paired our North American creators with South African locals to tell the story of the destination’s progressive and open culture. The highly collaborative experience allowed all of the creators to exchange natural dialogue, share perspectives and establish a genuine connection. These real stories were then shared across social media channels–including a podcast.

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Our paid distribution strategy was carried out in two different phases. Our first phase launched various social-specific videos focusing on our creators journeys through South Africa to drive awareness and engagement. We then re-targeted engaged users with conversion-focused ads that drove them to the website for bookable experiences. Each influencer's itinerary was designed intentionally to include activities that could be booked either through a tour operator or independent booking site, making sure we were showing off authentic travel experiences a viewer could then experience.

The Sparkloft team are some of the brightest innovators and engineers of social conversation. Their strategic approach to our #MeetSouthAfrica program greatly expanded the range and depth of our social media presence.
— Bangu Masisi, Former President, Americas South African Tourism

Taking an audience-first approach was a milestone for South African Tourism, as this campaign was the first time the destination sought to reach specific type of traveler. The audience-specific social content was met with positive sentiment and was celebrated for showcasing Black and LGBTQ audiences who have historically been underrepresented in travel marketing. We were able to reach these audiences in a way that invoked a sense of pride in their heritage and told the story of South Africa’s open culture.

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