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California Welcomes Travellers to the Ultimate Playground with New Global Brand Platform

The state’s first brand evolution in more than a decade, grounded in research from the National Institute for Play, inspires visitors to realise a fun and free-spirited vacation in California.

California is inviting visitors around the world to escape to the Ultimate Playground, where an abundance of adventures and experiences give travellers permission to play their own way – on a hike, on a road trip or simply relaxing on a beach or tasting wine.

Launched early this month, the “Let’s Play” global campaign, the Ultimate Playground represents the first brand evolution for the state in more than a decade to inspire domestic and international travellers to visit California. As people yearn to escape modern-day stressors more than ever, consumers naturally gravitate to California’s fun and free-spiritedness as a vacation destination.

“California’s playful lifestyle, paired with our abundance of experiences, create something no other destination can claim – California is the Ultimate Playground,” said Caroline Beteta, President and CEO, Visit California. “The power of play is scientifically proven, and majorities of every generation aren’t satisfied with the amount of time they spend playing. It’s time for that to change.”

Research from Visit California and decades of scholarly works provide a strong foundation for a playful brand identity. More than 85% of consumers across six global markets agree it is important to incorporate play into their lives, and 43% said that vacation “is the only time I have to really let go and play,” according to Visit California’s consumer research.

“Travel is a time and place that gives us permission to embrace play, and California offers every visitor an opportunity to play in a way that speaks to them,” Beteta said. “Vacation can be an excellent time to rekindle joy, rediscover how to play and then take that playful spirit home as a souvenir.”

Wunderman Thompson Intelligence says consumers are creating a “joyconomy,” based on a recent study of consumers across the United States, United Kingdom and China, The Age of Re-enchantment: Emerging Trends and Opportunities. It found:

•  89% see fun as a necessity that keeps them going in tough times.

•  83% are seeking out experiences that bring them joy and happiness.

•  People want more joy (72%), hope (71%) and inspiration (62%) in their lives.

The National Institute for Play (NIFP), founded in 1989 to study the scientific knowledge on play behaviour and its implications, has found that play is necessary for a healthy, happy life. Play is as vital to humans as sleep, and embracing play can have a tremendous positive impact on our physical, mental and social well-being.

A new NIFP study released last week – The Power of Play: Losing and Finding Ourselves through Everyday Play – refreshes those findings from decades of research and provides a vital call to action.

“At the National Institute for Play, we maintain play is an urgent public health necessity,” says the paper’s foreword. “The pandemic and its aftermath, our nation’s extreme political polarisation, global geopolitical conflicts, and the climate crisis contribute to unprecedented, widespread levels of anxiety, depression, addiction, and hopelessness. Play is part of the solution.”

The study, a comprehensive summary of more than 100 sources from scholars in a wide array of fields, describes eight distinct styles of play, the basis of people’s individual pursuits that bring them the most pleasure and fulfillment. “When we play, our brains ‘light up’ and the neural pathways formed from repeated playful times (whether early or late in life) shape how alive we feel, how well we learn, how cleverly we create/innovate, and how we relate from that point forward,” the study says.

The NIFP study also draws a straight line from travel to play. “The intention of travel is routinely framed as ‘leisure’ and ‘recreation’ – experiences that happen to the traveller,” co-author Scott G. Eberle writes in the study afterword. “But travellers may seek the occasion for a deeper, rounder, more active, more personal and tailored reward, play. Travel gives travellers permission to play their own way. The lucky ones will find that play itself is the destination.”

Visit California is launching today a global brand campaign based on the Ultimate Playground platform. “Let’s Play,” a 30-second television spot, captures the simple joys of playing in California. The three-month, $32.8 million integrated campaign will air across the United States, Canada, Mexico, U.K., Australia and China. A new section on features a quiz for travellers to identify their “play style” and connects visitors to regions of California and activities that align with each style.

According to NIFP, the eight play styles – Collector, Competitor, Creator, Director, Comedian, Explorer, Mover and Storyteller – begin emerging at infancy. They are grounded in decades of research, as is the idea that play is an inherent human need within everyone.