Social media influencers have been increasingly taking over the world of celebrity. Where once reality and movie stars were the talk of tinsel town, influencers are now taking the world by storm. Almost everyone has an influencer they follow, and some influencers have millions of fans who follow them loyally. In Southern California, some casinos are looking to take advantage of the currency social media influencers cash in; followers and fans. 

Influencers Get the VIP Treatment

As social media influencers have grown in popularity, industries have increasingly looked for ways to capitalize on their spreading sphere of celebrity. According to Press-Enterprise, “As the role of social media continues to increase in society, casinos have increasingly embraced influencers — people who promote products or experiences for their niche but relatively large audiences on social media — hoping that their posts and videos will translate to more visitors walking through the casino doors.

Casinos such as San Manuel Casino near HighlandMorongo Casino, Resort & Spa near Cabazon and Harrah’s Resort Southern California in Northern San Diego County have brought influencers in for visits to expand their marketing reach, sometimes sharing new amenities or promotions at the properties and other times capitalizing on an idea from the influencer.”

The influencers often granted access to VIP services, and are treated as the valuable assets they are. Per PE, the casinos get to know the influencers well so that when they arrive, they have a tailor-made itinerary for them to enjoy, maximizing what fans see of the experience. “At Harrah’s Resort Southern California, time is spent getting to know influencers and what it is they’re looking to promote before they’re brought on the property so that a specialized itinerary can be put together to capitalize on the partnership, said Amber Lussier, Harrah’s director of resort marketing.

At Harrah’s, part of the marketing is telling the story of its own city, ‘Funner,’ which has included honorary celebrity mayors such as David Hasselhoff and Rob Riggle. The swearing-in of the new mayor of Funner is one of the biggest influencer events at the resort.

‘We really roll out the red the carpet and we customize everything that we do for them so when they show up, they’re going to walk out to a cabana that’s fully decked out with maybe a foot bath and their favorite beer in a bucket of ice and some balloons and decorations,’ Lussier said.

San Manuel Casino has worked with influencers for almost five years, said General Manager Peter Arceo, and they have become an important part of the casino’s marketing strategy, particularly when the complex opens a new venue or amenity.”

Casinos Hope Influencer Proximity Will Draw Crowds

Harrah's Valley Center

Fans of influencers often want to imitate their lives. From the way they dress and the music they listen to, to their favorite foods and hobbies, fans often try to connect to their favorite influencers. For influencers like casino influencer mega-star Brian Christopher, his 300,000 fans can watch him interact with the amenities offered at some of these casinos. For the cost of putting one influencer up and giving them the VIP treatment, they hope to pull in a large number of his fans looking to imitate his experiences. 

PE writes, “Arceo said Christopher was the first influencer San Manuel worked with after loosening the policy on taking photos and videos of slot play nearly 5 years ago.

Since that time, because of Christopher’s popularity, and San Manuel’s easy-going policy, the casino has seen more influencers putting together similar content — and they seem to be getting results.

‘When we see people coming in within a day or two, or sometimes hours after a broadcast, then we know it works because it’s stimulated someone to get out of their house or wherever they’re at, walk in the door and search for the game that they just saw someone playing online,’ he said.”

It’s Often a Symbiotic Relationship

Both influencers and casinos benefit from the relationship. Influencers have access to prime travel experiences and places to film their content, and the casinos get exposure and high-profile recommendations. After some of the casinos re-opened after COVID-19 restrictions lifted, some of them turned to influencers to spread the word. 

Per PE, “’We just said, ‘Look, when you come here, feel free to tell your followers what the difference is’,’ Arceo said.

In his video, Christopher shared details about San Manuel doing two temperature checks and said he thought it was smart that staff had been professionally trained to ask COVID screening questions. Another YouTuber was quick to point out the thermal cameras and plexiglass.

And having someone else share that made all the difference, Arceo said.

‘We can say it all day long, but I think when people see real people talking about it then it’s received better that way,’ he said.

Lussier said she saw the number of influencers visiting Harrah’s decrease after it reopened from its coronavirus closure in May, which she attributed that to people being cautious about traveling and staying in hotels.

‘We’ve seen a steady increase throughout the year, and now I feel like we’re cranking,’ Lussier said. ‘We’re almost back to where we were pre-COVID.’

Arceo anticipates that social media influencing will continue to rise in prominence and more people will adopt it as part of their strategy.

‘I think most people don’t understand it,” he said. ‘They shy away from it because they don’t understand how it works, but I think just like anything else, once people get the hang of it and see how successful others have been with it, I think they’ll follow suit.’”

Unlike destination casinos like those in Las Vegas who have suffered because the majority of their customers are out-of-state travelers, casinos in more local economies have seen their business slowly recover. With an influencer on their side to sing their praises and spread word of their amenities, it’s easy to see why the partnership is a smart business move these locations are embracing.

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