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Sunday River wants to get skiers checking in on the slopes, using Facebook Places

Posted by Scott Kirsner  November 11, 2010 07:45 AM

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patches.jpgIt's November, the trees are bare, the air is chilly, and the thoughts of die-hard skiers and snowboarders are naturally turning to ... using Facebook on their mobile phones.

OK, maybe not naturally. But a nifty new Facebook application from the Boston social media agency Brand Networks, in partnership with the Sunday River ski resort in Maine, hopes to get you using your mobile phone on the mountain as frequently as you pull out your tube of Chapstick.

Here's how it works: you add the new Sunday River app to your Facebook page. Then, when you visit the ski resort, you use the Facebook app on your mobile phone to "check in" at various spots around the mountain. As a result, you both earn virtual "patches" that show up on your Facebook page, or actual rewards that you can redeem at the mountain, like half-off appetizers at one of the resort's restaurants, using Facebook's new Deals feature. (For you youngsters: back in the olden days, before there was Facebook, the way we wasted our free time was by sewing actual patches on our ski parkas.)

"If you check in at all eight of Sunday River's peaks, you get the 'Explorer' patch," explains Brand Networks founder Jamie Tedford. "Or if you check in on any day that it's snowing and write 'Powder Day' in your comment, you unlock the 'Powder Day' patch. If I'm riding the lift with a friend and I check in and I tag a friend who is with me, you and your friend get the 'Buddy' patch." Tedford says there will be signs around the resort encouraging visitors to use the Facebook app on their phones to check in.

The new app serves two purposes. First, it encourages Sunday River visitors to spread the word to their Facebook friends about where they are and how much fun they're having. That's very cheap marketing for the resort. But second, Tedford says that the app could evolve into a new kind of loyalty program for Sunday River, rewarding visitors who come often. Though this reward doesn't yet exist, Tedford says it'd be easy to offer a free lift ticket or Sunday River fleece vest at the end of the season to someone who'd checked in at the mountain on 20 different days, for instance.

Tedford contends that for marketers, it makes more sense to integrate with Facebook's "Places" check-in capability, rather than creating a separate mobile app or relying on Foursquare, which helped popularize the concept of checking-in with your phone when you arrive somewhere. "The #1 app on any of these mobile platforms is, or is going to be, Facebook. You either get with it, or you're up against it," he says. "You just don't want to be another app that someone needs to click."

The first time you'll be able to use the Sunday River app is this week, at the Boston Ski and Snowboard Expo, if you visit the Sunday River booth.

Recently, Brand Networks created a similar program with Starbucks, according to the company's blog. Starbucks customers can earn virtual gifts and badges — and also prod the company to donate up to $75,000 to Conservation International by checking in at the chain's cafés. Tedford said he couldn't comment further on that project.

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Innovation and technology news that matters, on a new website from the Boston Globe, featuring Scott Kirsner and other original reporting.

About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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