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Promoting tourism through paying it forward

Rumble Alberta is back with more routes and a unique advertising program
Rumble Alberta 2021 Logo_WEB
Rumble Alberta is back bigger and better than ever after their highly successful inaugural event in 2020. The premise is to hold a touring challenge that participants can do at their own pace over four-and-a-half months instead of a weekend so they can remain safe during the pandemic. Last year they offered nine routes in northern Alberta, this year it is 44 across Alberta and there are even some off-road routes, making for for more than 50 total routes to explore.

ATHABASCA/BARRHEAD/WESTLOCK — What do you get when you pair a genius idea with an amazing advertising opportunity that includes promoting both tourism and local business? 

Billed as a motorcycle and motor car touring challenge, this year's Rumble Alberta event is an expanded and enhanced version of their poker rally last year with the intent of helping promote smaller local businesses who may not have the biggest advertising budget. Last year, Rumble Alberta's poker rally idea gave participants a week to complete as many of the nine northern Alberta legs as possible and a chance to win prizes. 

Building on that success they have announced over 44 routes, through over 400 communities — including Athabasca, Barrhead and Westlock — with several off-road routes pushing the total north of 50, with even more prizes, sponsors, and charities to support as Albertans are safely challenged to explore their province. 

“It's for everybody in any vehicle. This is not strictly motorcycles; that's a misconception because it's organized by the Canadian Motorcycle Tourism Association. It’s for all rubber tire traffic,” explained co-organizer, Canadian Motorcycle Tourism Association (CMTA) vice-president and History Check creator Sheila Willis.

The point is to get people out and exploring Alberta and winning some prizes, but also spending money to help boost the economy. In the most current information on the government of Alberta website tourism brought in $8.2 billion with 35.2 million visitors, of that $6 billion came from 33 million fellow Canadians who checked out our province in 2018. 

“One of the biggest challenges with COVID has been the travel-related businesses that have had to shut down and there’s real serious hardship on them," said Willis. “So, in the meantime, we're creating these 44 routes for people to go out exploring and we want to bring them into those businesses, but a lot of them are no longer in a financial position to pay for any advertising.” 

And that’s where the Pay it Forward advertising program was born as an opportunity for businesses who have not been hit as hard to help out the ones who are struggling by paying for advertising so they can take part in the expanded Rumble Alberta event. 

"There's a lot of ways I see this happening,” she said. “It might be a business buying for another business, such as our first guy to jump on board when it was barely a concept, Jim Sparks of Century 21 Northern Realty in Slave Lake and he sponsored Cozy Toes n’ Clothes Boutique in Slave Lake.” 

For Sparks, it was a no-brainer concept because he knows Willis always has the best interests of businesses at heart. 

“I'm a supporter of Sheila Willis," he said. "I've supported her in the past ... I appreciate personally what she puts into increasing the tourism and the history of our area, too. It's not just tourism, it's the history. So, when she hit me with this idea, I needed to think about it for a day or two for the right candidate, but I'm always up to help and support.” 

It's a great way for businesses to encourage shopping local too, said Willis.

"They're going to be put on the Rumble Alberta website maps and those maps are the general direction of the routes that we've created with places to see and what to do and where to take selfies and whatever,” said Willis. “And we're encouraging them to offer a special or a discount for participants that have purchased an event pass giving them added incentive for people to come into their locations.” 

The event pass is optional – if you want to tour and don’t care about winning any prizes or getting special discounts – but it is $100 per person with the first $20 going to a partner charity of your choice which so far includes Search and Rescue Alberta and Little Warriors with the MS Society expected to join soon, as well as likely three more Willis said and lasts almost five months starting May long weekend. 

“With your $100 pass you will be able to do all of the routes, all of the challenges, and you have four-and-a-half-months to do it,” she said. “Or you could do one or two routes, if that's what your choice is, but in the meantime, you're supporting the charity of your choice and then also all of those businesses.” 

And of course, Willis’s award-winning History Check app is a big part of the event, both for participants and sponsors. Sponsor businesses will be listed in the app with three key words as well as listed on the Rumble Alberta website and route maps and added to a rider friendly business association. 

“If you're going into Athabasca, you might be sponsoring businesses, but you're also going to be able to get information about the statue outside the Athabasca County office up on the hill,” said Willis. “Or the grave marker in the Athabasca cemetery for Louison “Captain Shot” Fosseneuve and other historical data and places to see like the parks, the splash park, walking trails. All that extra information will be on the app.” 

And with six charities and hundreds of businesses promoting the event beside Rumble Alberta, businesses, towns, hamlets and cities are getting a lot of exposure for little investment. 

“You got the whole summer to complete the challenges, which if we’re in COVID there is no bunching; everybody can do it safely” she said. “Alberta is huge and it's beautiful everywhere. Each area has their own unique environments, whether they be community environments or even geological — the landscape — and of course, the history.” 

More information can be found at