Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Communication Office
"Kentucky Unbridled Spirit" makes huge strides in first year

Press Release Date:  Tuesday, December 20, 2005  
Contact Information:  Brett Hall
Jodi Whitaker

Governor Fletcher, Commissioner Fiveash release findings of brand study

FRANKFORT, Ky. – In just its first year, the “Kentucky Unbridled Spirit” brand has become the most recognizable state brand in the region and has potential visitors saying they are more likely to spend time in Kentucky.  

Governor Ernie Fletcher announced these findings as he unveiled the results of an independent study recently commissioned by the Kentucky Department of Tourism. The study was conducted to benchmark residents and non-residents’ awareness of the “Kentucky Unbridled Spirit” brand and to determine what impact branding project may have had upon the perception of the state. 

“The whole point of the branding project is to differentiate Kentucky from our competition – the surrounding states,” said Governor Fletcher. “Successfully showcasing that difference will lead more visitors to Kentucky and more jobs to Kentucky. This research is proof that ‘Kentucky Unbridled Spirit’ is helping us do that.” 

The research project was conducted by Jerry Henry and Associates and was conducted in Kentucky and five contiguous states (Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio.) Key findings include the following: 

  • 54 percent of respondents were able to accurately identify the “Kentucky Unbridled Spirit.” That was higher than any other state tested, and was the most recognizable brand identified by every consumer segment tested. More out of state consumers knew Kentucky’s brand than their own. 
  • “Kentucky Unbridled Spirit” earned higher appeal ratings than any other state tested. Those who like the brand outnumber those who don’t by a margin of 5 to 1.
  • Nearly 30 percent of respondents said the new brand has positively impacted their perception of Kentucky. 
  • Nearly 50 percent of respondents indicated the new brand advertising has made them more likely to visit Kentucky.
  • 36 percent of non-residents questioned said they’d be more likely to visit Kentucky.
  • Brand message points are registering with consumers, who said:
    • Kentucky has a wider variety of activities and attractions than expected;
    • Kentucky has more lakes and outdoor recreational activities than average;
    • Kentucky has more exciting activities and events than expected; and
    • Kentucky has a rich pioneer/civil war history that makes it a good destination. 

“Since branding is all about changing attitudes and improving perceptions, the bottom line of this research is that we are starting to move the needle,” said Randy Fiveash, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Tourism. “We will use these findings to more aggressively market Kentucky, so we can create more opportunities and more jobs for Kentuckians.”  

“Tourism research shows that for every one million dollars spent in Kentucky, another 30 jobs are created,” added Governor Fletcher. “As we continue to grow awareness of this brand throughout Kentucky and the rest of the country, those new opportunities will continue to expand.” 

“Kentucky Unbridled Spirit” was unveiled in November, 2004, after being the overwhelming choice of Kentuckians who voted during a four week balloting process. The brand is being placed on state stationery, Web sites, signage and advertising. Also, local cities and county governments, groups and associations have adopted the brand as have dozens of private companies. In addition, “Kentucky Unbridled Spirit” branded merchandise is being sold on-line and in 70 retail stores, and has already has netted the state approximately $60,000. That compares to less than $4,000 in logo merchandise sales in the previous five fiscal years combined.   

“Kentucky’s biggest asset is the unbridled spirit of our people,” said Governor Fletcher. “Adding this brand to all of our state government stationery, Web sites, brochures and advertising stretches our marketing dollars and gives us a clean, consistent, professional look. It also succinctly explains who we are as Kentuckians. We have an unbridled spirit we are willing to share with all who come here.” 

Jerry Henry, an independent researcher with more than 20 years in the leisure and tourism research industry, says “Kentucky Unbridled Spirit” has remarkable recognition for a brand that was launched only a year ago.

“It has one of the highest levels of first-year awareness and appeal that I've seen in quite some time,” said Henry. “Whenever a new brand can be recognized by more than half its target audience in less than a year, you know you've got a winner. ‘Kentucky Unbridled Spirit’ appears to be a perfect fit for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.” 

“It is pretty rare that people in the region would be more familiar with a new brand than they are with other state brands that have been around for a much longer time,” added Henry. “I’m very impressed.”