Rio + 29 : A Community That’s Worth the Drive

An SIR Case Study | Back to OUR WORK


SIR Client: Albemarle County Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission

Challenge: For residents of Charlottesville and Albermarle County, the Route 29 Solutions road-improvement project was disruptive for the area’s residents, businesses, and commuters. Not only did the project duration span multiple years, but a construction of a new interchange overpass also required the re-routing of traffic in one of the area’s central business districts: the intersection of Rio Road and Route 29.  VDOT’s successful Route 29 Solutions advertising and PR campaign, created and implemented by SIR, provided the public with basic construction information and timelines, but Albermarle County and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District commission required a separate, comprehensive media services campaign to help drive support for the businesses affected by construction.


Action: Although the project started in 2014, construction was expected to be completed in 2017. This meant three years of interruptions on one of the busiest corridors in Albemarle County, impacting commuters as far south as Roanoke and as far north as Culpeper. Additionally, businesses along the corridor were concerned that construction would cause clients and customers to avoid their establishments, especially during the periods of peak construction where main shopping-center entrances were rerouted. The impact of closing the intersection would affect hundreds of businesses. 

The Chamber of Commerce and dozens of business owners and community members publicly opposed the project, with a Chamber-led petition to stop the project altogether. During several public meetings, local business owners voiced their frustration and anger with VDOT continuing with this project without their consent. Area residents, not used to the type of traffic congestion or delays caused by roadway construction, were also prone to avoid the area.  

The Rio + 29 campaign had to find innovative ways to involve agitated business owners while encouraging community members to continue supporting local businesses during the construction. This campaign also needed to have its own separate brand identity from VDOT’s Route 29 Solutions campaign.

Following the initial development of the Rio+29 brand standards and tagline, “worth the drive,” a top-to-bottom outreach strategy was developed with a community-focused approach to counterbalance the more pragmatic, information-driven goals of the Route 29 Solutions campaign. As opposed to the construction mitigation tactics preferred by VDOT, the Rio+29 marketing campaign utilized business-to-business appeals and support and a personalized “storytelling” point-of-view. This approach took shape via a series of ads that individually profiled businesses and business owners affected by construction. With businesses ranging from a Latin Market and a local greeting card store to a large auto dealership and national supermarket chain, the spots directly encouraged viewers to continue supporting their local businesses even if it meant taking an extra turn to get there.  

The follow specific outreach tactics were used throughout the campaign, all of which were entirely produced by SIR: 

  • Digital banner ads 

  • Newspaper ads  

  • Dedicated project website 

  • 8 :30 TV and Radio Spots 

  • Door hangers 

  • Decals and stickers 

  • A stylized “project map” tear-off poster distributed to every business in the area. Over 30,000 were distributed  

  • A “digital support toolkit” for businesses featuring customizable graphics and digital collateral that can be used on their businesses’ social media pages 

  • Community events 


Results: The campaign was a measurable success for the area. Over the course of the campaign, there were a total of approximately 10 million impressions via traditional and digital media. The digital support kit was also utilized by businesses and business organizations across the area to promote the campaign’s messaging. Additionally, as local news coverage of the construction and the business support initiatives increased, there was a measurable, “on the record” positive sentiment about the Rio + 29 campaign efforts. When SIR surveyed travelers along the Route 29 corridor, many mentioned the Rio + 29 campaign and their appreciation for the support of local businesses. 

Once construction was completed, a series of “thank you” ads were placed in local newspapers to demonstrate the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s appreciation for the business community’s participation in the campaign, and the community at-large support for businesses in the construction corridor. This smaller initiative updated all campaign tactics with a “thank you” message, expressed gratitude to the community for business support, reengaged those who may have already heard/seen the campaign, and encouraged customers, motorists, and the community to continue visiting the local businesses along the Rio Road and Route 29 intersection.  

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