The Great New York State Fair

YOY attendance growth


The Great New York State Fair is the first and longest-running state fair in the country. Prior to the opening of the 2016 fair, the state had invested $50 million in redeveloping the grounds, including a magnificent new entrance, greater open space, a bigger midway and the elimination of the (past-its-prime) grandstand. 

Following this significant expenditure, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wanted to increase overall attendance to 1 million. To do this, we knew we needed to target outer-ring markets—such as Rochester, Watertown, Elmira/​Corning, Binghamton, Utica, Ithaca and the Finger Lakes—to reach people who may not have considered attending the fair.


Dixon Schwabl went to work to understand more about the people who attend and why they visit The Great New York State Fair. 

Through market research studies, we learned that tradition and proximity were the two primary factors driving year-over-year attendance.


we also learned:

36% of fairgoers are Millennials

33% are 35-54

47% have children

Few people go to the fair alone; however, many go without their children

Many are looking for new budget- and family-friendly activities

Parents cherish family time and enjoy day trips 

This led us to identify three key audiences:

Moms and families (including minority, LGBT)

Mature couples (attending with or without grandchildren)

Young couples (on dates or with friends)

Distilling what we learned about our audiences—what they enjoy about the fair and what they look for in summer activities—led us to our insight:

 Every  individual  experiences  the  fair  differently  and  finds  their  own  great  time. 


From this, the Find Your Great” campaign was born. It was designed to tap into attendees’ individual experiences at the fair, since everyone has their own great.” Find” is key also, as people love the thrill of discovery. Each attendee finds their own great in their own way. 

The Find Your Great” campaign was launched in print, digital, social, TV, radio and outdoor media, and via a new podcast series and earned PR initiatives. We also developed campaign imagery that leveraged another key insight from our pre-fair research: No one goes to the fair alone.

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Almost all of the imagery celebrated people enjoying fun times with family and friends. 
Bus Shltr Crazyfun
Bus Shltr Pride
Bus Shltr Wonder

Mixed traditional, digital and social media were the main media pillars, with the primary intent of driving website traffic to purchase tickets online (introduced in 2016). From March through June, we began building our audience on social media with a robust paid initiative. This started a buzz around all the changes to the fairgrounds and drove individuals to nys​fair​.ny​.gov to buy tickets online.

We also used out-of-home placements in primary markets: bus shelters in urban areas and digital billboards on major highways. Mass-media tactics (TV, radio, newspapers) were mixed in to further increase awareness. And in 2016, we launched the first-ever state fair podcast—All’s Fair—publishing six episodes in all, promoted by paid social ads, digital Pandora ads, PR efforts and the fair’s website.


Yet even as the 2016 fair was in full swing, we were already planning for 2017.

Building on our strategy to share authentic stories to support the Find Your Great” campaign, we commissioned authentic photography, filmed journalism-style video stories, and created a library of assets for print, digital, outdoor and social ads during the 2016 fair that could be used for years to come. Later, we edited the video stories into TV and radio spots. For social and digital media, we crafted new content (articles, infographics and podcast episodes).


With a combination of traditional media, digital media, social media, content marketing and public relations, we told real stories that captured the positive emotions people associate with the fair. In 2017, the campaign also included the production of a live” TV spot, filmed on-site on opening day, capturing a first-time fairgoer as he explored the fair. Within 24 hours, the spot was shot, edited, trafficked and broadcast.


The 2016 The Great New York State Fair reached its goal of 1 million attendees. The final tally was 1,117,630, shattering previous records, and attendance increased by 23% over 2015. Exit surveys indicated 30% of attendees traveled more than 100 miles—demonstrating the validity of targeting outer-ring markets.


Key 2016 metrics:


More than 90% of visitors to
nys​fair​.ny​.gov were new users


Website Sessions
(March 1-September 102016)

15,424,139 digital media impressions

With 57,151 digital media clicks
(CTR: .82%)

$24,603 in sales

2,827 Pre-​fair online ticket transactions
 Unbelievably,  in  2017,  we  beat  the  2016  numbers. 

The final attendance tally reached 1,161,912, breaking 2016’s record-breaking year by 4%. Daily attendance skyrocketed, with four daily attendance records set in 2017. Online presale tickets increased nearly seven-fold over 2016 and generated a record $395,630 in revenue.

Finally, average view rates for both content videos and presale promotions were nearly 32%—well above the industry average of 25%—with an average cost per view of $0.05.

Key 2017 metrics:

55% of visitors to nys​fair​.ny​.gov were new users

80% came from organic search or direct visits, reflecting success in raising broad awareness


Website sessions
(March 1-September 102017)

31,699,888 Digital Media Impressions

With 190,308 digital media clicks
(CTR: 1.25%)

$395,630 in sales

14,506 Pre-​fair online ticket transactions
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