The tourism departments of Charleston and South Carolina are spending close to $300,000 to bring NBC’s "Today" show to the Charleston Wine + Food Festival in March, but one of the buyers describes the anticipated payoff as “priceless.”
“This is not going to drive ticket sales this year, but it certainly will in subsequent years,” Explore Charleston spokesman Doug Warner said. “It creates that brand awareness and national attention, just like we saw with the eclipse.”
Explore Charleston and Discover South Carolina each contributed about $140,000 to help underwrite the production costs associated with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb’s visit.
Charleston Wine + Food refused to disclose its share of the total bill, but the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau five years ago paid $350,000 to support an hour-long "Today" segment starring the same co-hosts.
Warner says the trip made a valuable impression on both of them.
“For example, when Jackie Gifford was there for Travel + Leisure to announce The World’s Best (Awards), Kathie Lee and Hoda went on for three minutes about Charleston,” Warner says. “That’s kind of priceless.”
"Today" this week aired its plans to revisit Charleston. Standing in front of a giant screen displaying Charleston scenes, Gifford said, “It's one of the most enchanting, adorable towns I've ever been in America. We've already been there. We don't usually repeat, but it's worth repeating over and over again."
In anticipation of the trip, Gifford and Kotb sampled Callie’s Charleston Biscuits and The Darling’s seafood cocktail bloody Mary on camera.
Visit New Orleans in October partnered with New Orleans and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. to bring "Today" to town in conjunction with its tricentennial festivities.
“It’s too early to tell what kind of return on investment we’ll receive from the remote 'Today' show shoot, but we thought the broadcast showcased the city favorably to millions of viewers around the country, which was the intention,” Visit New Orleans spokesman Kristian Sonnier said.
While in New Orleans, co-hosts Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager wore Mardi Gras beads, ate crawfish and took a trombone lesson from Trombone Shorty.
According to Warner, "Today" honors the traditional journalistic divide between advertising and editorial, which means the show’s producers choose what to cover.
“We do get to make lots of suggestions but they have ultimate control,” Warner said. “We’re pitching a lot of really great food- and not-food-related content that’s not just your typical stuff.”
"Today" has asked Explore Charleston to keep its ideas under wraps, but Warner says if the proposed human interest segments make the small screen, viewers “are going to go, ‘Oh my God, this is fantastic.’”
It’s unclear how frequently "Today" rents out its fourth hour of programming to sponsors, but show spokeswoman Megan Stackhouse said "it’s common practice for these shows to be sponsored."
Stackhouse added the show discloses sponsorship terms "on air, online and on social media."
Charleston Wine + Food is scheduled March 6-10. A release from the festival says the "Today" show "will be featured at several signature events ... (and) will also participate in the Culinary Village” in Marion Square.