Alumni Spotlight: Scott Fortner

Marketing alum blends personal interests with work through destination marketing

November 21, 2014
Scott Fortner

When you think of ‘business,’ some stereotypical images that may flash through your mind could include a suit, or a tie, or a briefcase.

But sometimes a business degree can lead to skiing. And fly-fishing. And mountain biking. And craft beer.

Scott Fortner (’89), has used his marketing degree to land a rewarding job that allows him to enjoy these interests and many more. He has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, sales, public relations and events for the Colorado mountain resort industry. Currently, he serves as Marketing Director for GoBreck, the organization that works to enhance and promote the character and experience of Breckenridge, Colorado, a world-renowned resort destination.

Fortner said the overarching goal at GoBreck is to build awareness and create inspiration for the town of Breckenridge while highlighting their activities and events, which encompass many forms of entertainment — everything from outdoor adventure, to music, to arts, to shopping.

But it turns out that all those attractions aren’t exactly why people come to Breckenridge. Research gathered through “#BreckBecause,” a regional and national award-winning marketing campaign executed by Fortner’s team, found the real draw of the town.

“We went out and did a brand research study and we affirmed one of the things people liked about being in Breckenridge,” Fortner said. “It wasn’t ‘the best snow,’ or ‘best skiing,’ or ‘the best trails.’ It’s as much about the people as anything else. The comments were more like, ‘I felt so comfortable,’ ‘locals were genuine’ and ‘the town felt warm and welcoming.’ How do you communicate that to people in a meaningful and authentic way?”

So, his team turned to social media and allowed the audience to tell the story, an increasingly popular and effective tactic in marketing called “crowd sourcing.”

GoBreck put chalkboards up around town where visitors could write their comments about what they loved about Breckenridge. Then, the visitors could post a picture of those comments to their social media accounts using the hashtag #BreckBecause.

The team compiled the submissions and re-shared them on GoBreck’s website and social media channels. They were able to strategically use the submitted comments to create marketing materials for specific events and activities.

The campaign was wildly successful. GoBreck won the 2013 MediaPost Creative Media Award for the category of “Performance Media and Marketing,” beating out competitors like Outlook.com and CSX. They saw massive increases in followings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and the hashtag garnered more than 12 million impressions. Fortner believes this is because real, true experiences cut through the marketing clutter.

“It’s all about the experiences (customers) had and sharing those experiences. (Those experiences) aren’t ours. It’s not this slick, glossy, cool huge headline copy and a picture of a beautiful day in the mountains. It’s real pictures from real people who’ve really been there,” Fortner said.

During his time at B&E, Fortner was able to participate in research, particularly related to retail product research, an experience he remembers fondly.

“It allowed me to get some insight in terms of how people behave, what resonates and what doesn’t. Truth and honesty always tend to resonate much better. That was something I was able to take with me,” he said. The #BreckBecause campaign is the quintessential example.

Marketing a destination renowned for its adventure sports is an excellent fit for Fortner, who has had a lifelong affinity for outdoor recreation. A native of Ravenswood, W.Va., he grew up spending time at Canaan Valley Resort and Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort. Of all the things to do in Breckenridge, some of his favorites include fly-fishing, whitewater rafting, and mountain biking (a hobby that began during his years in Morgantown.)

After college, Fortner worked at Snowshoe Mountain Resort for a couple years before heading west to Breckenridge in the early 1990s. Despite uncontrollable challenges like the weather and the economy, Fortner enjoys destination marketing for a town he loves so much.

“(At GoBreck) we get to do things in a way that other businesses just don’t have the opportunity to do,” Fortner said. “We’re selling this intangible thing. An experience, a feeling. And it’s fun.”