The Meadows ups ante with new campaign

Casino launches new ad campaign, dining changes to take on competition

March 21, 2014
This rendering shows “The Band Wagon,” a food truck that will be parked inside The Meadows Casino. The new food concept is among several changes coming in the next few weeks at the North Strabane Township gambling and entertainment venue, which also has launched a major advertising campaign in the tri-state region.

The Meadows Casino has launched a new advertising and marketing campaign it hopes will position the North Strabane Township gambling and entertainment venue as a standout among an increasingly crowded market in the tri-state area.

In fact, it hopes to be “The One, The Only” venue people consider when they’re heading out for a night of gambling and entertainment.

During a telephone interview Thursday, Meadows General Manager Sean Sullivan and Marketing Director Kevin Brogan said the new advertising message created by Chicago-based agency RPM for billboards, direct mail, radio and television positions the casino as “The One. The Only. The Meadows.”

New signs at the venue drop the word “racetrack,” identifying it simply as “The Meadows Casino,” but Sullivan and Brogan stressed that the track will be included in future promotional campaigns.

They noted the casino’s external message also is being backed by a $2 million capital investment in its food and beverage operations that soon will add a buffet restaurant and an indoor food truck as part of an effort to transform the venue’s bars into more lively places for guests.

Brogan said casino management began thinking about ways to reposition the venue shortly after it celebrated the racetrack’s 50th anniversary last summer.

“We asked ourselves, ‘What’s going to define us for the next 50 years?’” said Brogan, who added that the casino began interviewing several ad agencies that would help it find ways to differentiate itself from an increasingly crowded casino market in the region.

Unlike when it opened in 2007, with two West Virginia casinos as its primary competitors, The Meadows now competes with nearly a dozen gambling sites within a 170-mile radius.

The quintupling of competition, which now comes in the form of standalone casinos, those with racetracks and others operating on limited licenses for hospitality sites, has lowered slots and table games revenue here and across Pennsylvania as all of its contiguous states have added gambling as a revenue-producer.

“Casinos are in a way becoming a dime a dozen,” Brogan said. “We wanted to know, how can we separate ourselves from the rest of the casinos?”

As it turned out, Sullivan said, when executives from RPM, which specializes in casino advertising nationally, toured the site, they found many of the answers were right in front of them.

“They immediately said we have a fantastic property,” Brogan said, adding that the agency also found that the casino was a regional leader in several statistical categories.

Not only is the casino the largest in the area, its 350,000 square feet also makes it one of the largest on the East Coast.

“We’re also a Vegas-type casino,” Brogan added, noting that its owner, Cannery Casino Resorts, is based in Las Vegas.

RPM also noted that at 3,300 machines, The Meadows has the largest slots floor of any casino in the region. Sullivan added that the casino also takes some of the area’s biggest bets, extending credit lines for high rollers into six figures. It also had more than $100 million in jackpots last year, edging out Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, which has a higher volume of play than the local casino.

Finally, the North Strabane Township casino is a leader in the number of slots free plays, paying $73 million in the category last year.

The agency’s findings were bolstered by a series of focus groups The Meadows conducted among its guests, Brogan said.

While many of the groups said they enjoyed coming to the casino to be with friends or to enjoy a night out, the biggest revelation came when groups were asked to rate a variety of statements about themselves and the casino.

What came out on top, Brogan said, was the statement, “I like to gamble.”

While acknowledging that some big Las Vegas operators are now entering the region – with Harrah’s in Cleveland and Hollywood in Columbus – Sullivan is unfazed.

“We believe we have a superior atmosphere,” he said.

Buffet, food truck to be added

That atmosphere is about to be transformed in several significant ways, primarily in the food and beverage area.

• On April 4, the Terrace Cafe will be rechristened as “The Carvery,” which will charge guests a flat rate for all-you-can-eat buffet dining that will include three meat-carving stations.

• The Silks bar will be renamed “Headliners” as a nod to the adjacent stage for live acts. But the biggest addition to the area will be a custom-built food truck named “The Band Wagon,” which will arrive next week and will soon serve up a changing menu of small plate and tapas items.

• Also to be transformed will be the Pacers Bar in the middle of the casino, which Sullivan said will become the venue’s focal point. He said the bar has yet to be renamed, but will debut on Kentucky Derby Day May 3.

• Brogan said the casino’s food court also will be given a facelift in the near future, along with the addition of some new food offerings.

• Plans also are in the works to convert a 20,000-square-foot area behind the north parking garage into a place for live entertainment and televised boxing matches that will seat 1,200 to 1,400 people and won’t interfere with the racetrack’s operations.

Sullivan and Brogan stressed that while the new campaign is focused on the casino, they aren’t forgetting the racetrack, which offers racing on 208 days of the year, or the headlining acts that have appeared in past summers.

“We’ll still have Smokey Robinson, we’ll still have the Oak Ridge Boys,” he said.

Noting that the casino now has 1,400 full- and part-time employees, Brogan said The Meadows is committed to increasing revenues for its operations and for the state.

“We’re not just going to sit here and watch Pennsylvania (gambling) revenues decline” in the onslaught of increased competition, he said.

Michael Bradwell has been business editor for the Observer-Reporter since 1995, and was named editor of The Energy Report in 2012. He joined the newspaper in 1990 as a general assignment reporter in the Greene County bureau and has also worked as a copy editor. A 1974 graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a degree in English, he began his career at the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette. Prior to joining the O-R, he served as public relations director for Old Bedford Village, account executive at two Pittsburgh public relations agencies and copywriter for the country’s largest wholesaler of mutual funds.

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