Airport Movies Take Flight

Ronnie Garrett
Published in: 

The movie begins with inspirational music and a single bubble. Soon, the bubble gives way to a bird taking flight, a hot air balloon rising and eventually an aircraft soaring through the air.

The footage could be the opening for a feature film, but it actually heralds the beginning of Spirit of Aviation, a 10-minute production designed to promote the Tampa International Airport System - a project that nabbed a Silver Addy award from the American Advertising Federation when it debuted in 2007.

The production reminds viewers they can "fly like a bird ... above the clouds ... to anywhere, any time," especially in Tampa, where "aviation first spread its wings." But the movie is more than a history lesson about the United States' first scheduled commercial airline flight between St. Petersburg and Tampa on Jan. 1, 1914. It's a marketing message designed to educate viewers about the area's airports and the benefits they bring to the communities they serve.

"An airport is a business, and every business needs marketing," says Patrick Bienvenu, owner of Airus Media, the firm that produced the film.

Officials at the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which oversees Tampa International Airport (TPA) and the area's three general aviation airports, agree. "This is just one of the many, many tools that we have available to market our airports," says Paul Phillips, director of general aviation. "We also have direct mail brochures, giveaways and more."

Lights, Camera, Funding

TPA and its associated general aviation airports - Plant City, Tampa Executive and Peter O. Knight - are among a growing number of airports entering the movie business to promote their services.

Hillsborough County Aviation Authority decided to create one main video (Spirit of Aviation) that highlighted all of the airports in the Tampa system and three smaller presentations to promote the general service airports. Each movie is designed to promote the airport and region in different ways.

"We felt that creating four unique products allowed us to use the movies in a range of places and extended their usable life," Phillips says.

The decision to create four movies also increased the project's price tag. And as with any large - and expensive - project, the question quickly became "How will we pay for this?" Fortunately, TPA didn't bear the $86,524 cost alone. Ed Cooley, the airport's senior director of operations and public safety, says the Florida Department of Transportation picked up approximately 80% of the tab, while the airport authority and local community paid for the rest.

According to Bienvenu, the productions typically cost about $2,000 a minute, and he considers seven to 10 minutes the ideal length for most airports. "It's hard to keep someone's attention if you go longer than that," he says.


Project: Promotional Videos

Produced For: Tampa Int'l Airport System

Cost: $86,524

Funding: Florida Dept. of Transportation (80%); Hillsborough County Aviation Authority & community (20%)

Length: 10-min. video for airport system, 3 shorter videos for general aviation airports

Produced By: Airus Media

Of Note: Won Silver Addy Award

Project: Promotional Videos

Produced For: Northwest Florida Regional Airport & Bob Sikes Airport

Cost: $40,000

Length: 11-min. video for Bob Sikes; short ad for Northwest Florida Regional

Funding Partner: Economic Development Council for Okaloosa County

Not surprisingly, the running length of the final product affects the length of time it takes to produce. A 10-minute video takes approximately three to six months to complete, he notes.

VPS, whose five airlines transport more than 800,000 passengers annually, used Airus Media to produce a short advertisement for it, as well as a longer 11-minute movie for the local general aviation airport, Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview, FL.

VPS paid for the nearly $40,000 project by partnering with the Economic Development Council for Okaloosa County (EDC). "The EDC is active in promoting the airport and the region to CEOs and companies, and they were able to get a grant to help fund the project," says Mike Stenson, VPS business/air service development manager.

The funding experiences of VPS and TPA are not unusual, reports Bienvenu. Most productions, he notes, are eligible for federal and/or state funding. "Typically, the sponsor only has to pay a percentage of the actual cost," he says. "The reason airport movie productions are typically eligible for funding is that they are such tremendous tools for promoting an airport, showing environmental compatibility, attracting airlines or presenting existing or future airport plans or programs to the community for approval."

Script, Please

Each airport played a critical role in developing a storyboard or theme for its production, adds Bienvenu. TPA assembled a team that included Cooley, Phillips and other key staff. The team first embarked on a more traditional path for Spirit of Aviation, highlighting the airport's benefits, before deciding to promote aviation's historical roots. "The first commercial airline flight became an exciting theme, and we used it as a means to draw people in and demonstrate how important aviation has been to the area both then and now," Bienvenu says.

The TPA team also formulated a focus for the general aviation productions by answering the following questions for each facility:

• Who are we?

• How big are we?

• Where are we located?

• Who do we serve?

• What is our goal and mission for this movie?

For the downtown Peter O. Knight Airport, the team decided to highlight city amenities and why the airport is so important to the urban community. Conversely, it chose flashy, high-end corporate flair for the Tampa Bay Executive Airport and recreational footage for the Plant City Airport. "We spent a lot of time as a group making sure that the production captured the flavor of not only the airport but the community it served," Phillips says.

After Bienvenu wrote the script, the airport committee weighed each and every word - an "intense" task, according to Phillips. "When you're reading it as a product, you don't have images associated with it and you get stuck on words. Once we moved the words into a visual format, they made sense and flowed much easier," he explains.

At VPS, the committee promoted Bob Sikes Airport by showcasing its 8,000-foot runway and defense and industrial aeronautical capabilities. The production also highlights the local region as full of talent and places to grow a business and close to Destin's pristine beaches.

Two Thumbs Up

According to Cooley, the movies have been a "great promotional tool" - a compliment that comes as no surprise to Bienvenu.

"Movies pack tremendous power and draw," he agrees. "It's the digital age - more people today prefer videos and movies to printed materials to promote airports or anything else."

Airus Media shoots its footage with Canon XL2 and XHA1 camcorders and produces the final pieces with professional film editing equipment to give them a feature-film feel, he notes.

Hillsborough County Aviation Authority presents its professionally produced videos at local events and up to five trade shows per year. A catchy video with moving music can draw attendees to a trade show booth more than static images, Phillips notes. "I want to have the opportunity to ask, 'Have you ever heard of the Tampa International System of airports? Let me show you a few things,' " he explains. The airport authority also shares movie DVDs with local convention and visitor's bureaus to further extend their reach.

L Patrick Bienvenu

VPS places its videos on its website and presents them to key businesses. "For example, when we are talking to prospective airlines about getting them into our airport, we'll show them the video," Stenson says. "The video gives them a real feel for our airport and the region without ever having been here."

Stenson says the movies also show their worth when played in a continuous loop at various trade shows. "The movies illustrate that we have lots of developable space and great incentives to offer businesses that locate here," he says. When people stop by the booth and indicate they're looking to expand their businesses, they receive marketing materials that include a DVD of the movie. "They can take that DVD back to headquarters and share it with other decision-makers," he says.

The videos can also become motivational tools, says Stenson. "We showed it at a big chamber function, and it really got everyone inspired," he says. "It shows the community and their airport in a positive light."

While specific tangible results are hard to quantify, both Stenson and Phillips report positive outcomes that might have been influenced by the films. The Bob Sikes Airport, for example, has added two new businesses since the movie was released. "Is it a direct correlation to the movie? I can't say," Stenson says. "It may have been part of it, because the airlines were able to see everything we had to offer and get a picture of the area they'd be operating out of."

At TPA, Phillips says he believes that every time the community is invited out to the airports or learns about the airport system at a community event, it creates intangible benefits. "We don't seem to get as many noise complaints or other complaints about our activities, because we have a relationship with the community," he relates. "This is just one tool in our big toolbox of things that helps us be a good neighbor."


2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement

Giving back to the community is central to what Charlotte Douglas International Airport and its operator, the City of Charlotte Aviation Department, is about, and last year was no different. 

Throughout 2022, while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued our efforts to have a positive impact on the Charlotte community. Of particular note, we spent the year sharing stories of how Connections Don't Just Happen at the Terminal - from creating homeownership and employment opportunities to supporting economic growth through small-business development and offering outreach programs to help residents understand the Airport better.

This whitepaper highlights the construction projects, initiatives, programs and events that validate Charlotte Douglas as a premier airport.

Download the whitepaper: 2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement.



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