The decision made a year ago to have University of Wisconsin Badgers Mens Basketball Coach Bo Ryan star in the state’s tourism commercials is reaping all kinds of benefits.
Coach Ryan’s popularity continues to call attention to the Badger State, boosting tourism, especially after a successful season for his team. “Absolutely, 100 percent,” said Wisconsin Department of Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett.
Ryan took the Badgers all the way to the NCAA Finals — the first time the team as gone that far since World War II in 1941 — though Duke ultimately won the championship Monday night, 68-63.
Klett was singing Ryan’s praises after working with the longtime coach on Wisconsin’s latest summer tourism advertisement, in which he appears to water ski with the famous Tommy Bartlett’s Thrill Show in Wisconsin Dells; the 67-year-old icon also zip-lines, drives a go-kart, and sings around a camp fire. “The respect level for him, and how he is as a person and a coach — on the court and off the court — is unbelievable nationwide,” said Klett.
The commercial was produced by the famous comedy-writing trio David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams — all Wisconsin natives and UW alum. The trio, collectively known as ZAZ, has made other ads for the state, including one starring former Milwaukee Buck Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and actor Robert Hays. That spot spoofed their 1980 satirical comedy “Airplane!” and reunited the two actors to reprise their roles.
The reaction to the “camp Wisconsin” TV and Internet spot has been amazing, Klett said, even passing up Green Bay Packer Jordy Nelson for page views, generating more than a half a million views on social media. Nelson starred in a fall tourism ad. Klett said the summer 2015 ad is the most successful Wisconsin Tourism commercial in department history.
Snagging the coach all those months ago might seem prophetic in light of Ryan’s successful basketball season, but Klett said it was a no-brainer. The UW Badgers haven’t played in the championship game for nearly 75 years.
A big name like Bo Ryan could have gotten $100,000 to $500,000 for his time and talent, Klett said, but he waived the fee. He wanted to do this for Wisconsin. Because of that, Klett said, the agency made a $10,000 contribution to Coaches versus Cancer, for which Ryan has helped raise $1.5 million.
The tourism ad for summer 2015 premiered just in time for the Big Ten Tournament. It can be seen at TravelWisconsin.com or Travel Wisconsin’s youtube page (or below, on this page). It will run in Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee and Madison.
Wisconsin Tourism generates $17.5 billion annually in economic impact to the Badger State, more than 185,000 jobs, and $2.3 billion in tax revenue.
AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report :55