Let’s Just Have Some Fun

Roger Lotz

I believe that work can be fun, and sometimes fun can lead to results you never imagined. At St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL), we experienced just that while running our second annual STL Airline Livery Madness Bracket Challenge, a twist on the NCAA March Madness® basketball tournament that showcases the artistry of modern airliners. We originally created this unique campaign for our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram audiences, but we also encourage airport staff and industry partners to join in on the fun. 

The idea originated when STL Public Information Officer Will Becker and I were looking at photos of airline liveries that had recently flown through STL. While we post a Photo of the Week on our website and social media platforms, we lamented that many great images would simply be filed away in our mainframe to chronicle the airport’s history. We wanted an innovative way to share these impressive photographs.

Will and I then started debating topics that are so much more important. Which livery is the most distinctive? Which is the most popular? From there, the bracket idea fell into place. We launched our contest by constructing a bracket with 16 commercial airline liveries. Airplanes qualified for our tournament if they flew through STL since the conclusion of last year’s bracket. Selecting planes for each bracket allows the PR staff to have fun. We comb through some wonderfully crafted photos, remember especially creative shots and who took them, and then select the best to display online. The contest has also upped our “shooting game” and is inspiring some good-natured trash talk. Gerald McGrath, a local photographer, began lobbying me last December about one of his photographs by proclaiming it bracket-worthy.

Roger Lotz is the public information manager at St. Louis Lambert International Airport and an avid NCAA basketball fan.  

We consider Will Becker our VIP. As the team’s bracketologist, he ranks planes from one to eight in two specific regions (one for each terminal). Following the NCAA format, we begin our challenge with a Sweet 16 bracket and whittle it down to an Elite Eight, followed by Final Four and Championship match-ups.

Over a three-week period, anyone who follows STL on social media can vote. This year, we improved our marketing stats by printing the brackets and a QR code on placemats for airport restaurants so guests could participate in the challenge while waiting for their meals. Another fun feature: We do not limit voting. It’s a livery challenge; let the fun reign!

Participants visit a specifically constructed website—SurveyLegend.com—to make their picks. In this year’s initial round, we started with the top-seeded Lufthansa Fanhansa vs. the eighth-seeded Sun Country’s 40-year livery; and the four-seed Alaska Airlines Orca against the number five-seed American Airlines Reno. In the end, Missouri One from Southwest went all the way, defeating its sister aircraft, Southwest Illinois One, in the final round after beating American’s AirCal, Lufthansa’s Fanhansa and the United Friend Ship in earlier rounds.

The 2022 champion was American’s Retro TWA livery.

Throughout the challenge, we keep our airline partners updated so they have some skin in the game. This year, nine different carriers had aircraft in the beginning bracket. 

From the start, we decided to mirror the schedule of NCAA’s March Madness®. We begin the same week and announce our winner the day of the NCAA championship game. This timing has helped secure local media coverage of our online challenge, always an asset when trying to get a new promotional project off the ground. 

We want and need participation from our social media audiences to make the challenge a success. However, much of our enjoyment comes from hearing how airport partners react to the contest. At the start of this year’s challenge, an Air Canada manager was overjoyed to learn that the airline’s Frosted Leaf livery was seeded sixth in the Terminal 2 Region. Later, a wheelchair attendant stopped me and explained which planes he wanted to see move into the Elite Eight. But my favorite response was when an airport restaurant manager jokingly asked me when our livery challenge would be listed on the sports lines in Vegas. Even with the fun we’re already having, one can dream.

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