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The brilliant online marketing strategy behind the bumper 2017 Hermanus Whale Festival

Never before in its 26 years of existence has Hermanus seen such crowds of people visiting it's iconic 3 – day festival dedicated to the migrating southern right whales. The whales were there, the people were there and the money was there.

Whale Festival FB banner

Aerial surveys of the southern right whales have shown a significant increase in numbers; from 96 whales in 2016 to 226 whales in 2017! 

According to Councillor Arnie Africa, Chairperson of Overstrand protection Services the highest traffic count of all Whale Festivals thus was recorded on Saturday 30 September with nearly 18 000 inbound vehicles.  “With a  total of 36 217 incoming vehicles over 3 days,  the 2017 Whale Festival easily exceeded 100 000 festival-goers over the weekend”. Importantly, no fatalities were reported for the Whale Festival 2017”, said Africa,

street parade

Business owners reported sales increases from between 30% - 80% with all restaurants having queues of people waiting. Some food stalls were sold out on Saturday and local suppliers had to step in to supply in their need.

But how did we do it?

Although the marketing of the 2016 Whale festival had a more traditional approach, it attracted significant numbers of festival goers. Traditional marketing relies heavily on printed media such as newspapers and magazines,  but a shift towards social media was already set in motion with bloggers and journalists writing about the Whale Festival.  The whale festival website was a source of information but not fully functional as it was not correctly optimized for the purpose it was created.

This year we realised that although the traditional marketing attracted the crowds, the toolbox has changed. The JayDee Media team shifted their focus towards social media and online marketing and by simply implementing strategies from our social media training workshops; we increased the number of visitors to the whale festival by 30-50 percent!

We had a plan:

  • As SEO specialists, we optimize the website and run a 3 months SEO program
  • A mobile-friendly, social media integrated website
  • A website with a strong foundation with easy access to all the policies & documentation
  • Lots of relevant content posted consistently
  • Shared curated content from our partners
  • Transparency inside the team, our partners and sponsors
  • Choosing social media channels where our audience was hanging out
  • Creating a content calendar and sticking to it



The website was the heart of our marketing campaign. Designed and created to be accessible on all platforms; PC, laptop, mobile, tablets, the website was the vehicle that carried all the relevant information about the Hermanus Whale Festival.

It clearly stated our long-term vision and our festival theme. The event calendar was customised into daily events and also different topics e.g  kiddies events and also promoted other activities taking place over that weekend.

It contained information about our exhibitors, documentation in downloadable formats, blogs & articles about the products on display that could be visited, loads of, photos & videos.

We integrated our social media channels into the website and made it easy to download and share our content and images.

By optimising the functionality of our website we could constantly drive traffic to it. There was a seamless integration between the social media content and the website via using content to drive the social media channels and vice versa. The website was user-friendly to the online and traditional media, the public, the authorities, our partners and our sponsors.

The most asked question was for accommodation.  This prompted us to incorporate a Central Booking system and invite all the accommodation establishments in the area to list their properties. We could thus direct all accommodation queries immediately to a central booking button placed strategically on the front page of the website.

Another method in our website madness was the 1000+ backlinks we received from national and international websites the mentioned the Hermanus Whale Festival as an event on their websites with a link back to the whale festival website.

Did it work?

The website (www.hermanuswhalefestival.co.za) had 80 000 unique visitors in the last 35 days running up to the whale festival, 827 000 page views and 3,4 million hits.


SR 101 Anyone who has ever attended one of our training workshops knows that we place a very big emphasis on the consistent creation of original, shareable but relevant content that can be measured.  Our first objective was thus to create a Hashtag (#whalefestival)  and promote it constantly thereby developing a means to get the whale festival analytics.

We developed a media kit with a wide variety of content suitable for different magazines, newspapers, bloggers and TV channels. The photos were both in hi–resolution for the printed media and lower resolution for the social media.

We designed Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook adverts which companies could customise by adding their own brand. We included press releases, a 101 of Southern Right Whale facts and funky snippets for the radio broadcasts. The  Hermanus Whale Festival logos were sized and formatted for different mediums.

Facebook advert

To distribute all of this information we created a Dropbox which could easily be shared on demand. Journalists and bloggers were thereby empowered with enough information and images to each tell a different story from their perspective.

When DECANTER, for instance, wanted to write an article about the whale festival article we could add a twist by supplying them with information on a wine produced by Creation for The African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary by Creation   The APSS was one of our partner exhibitors in the Eco Marine Tent.

 Website articles were relevant to the exhibitions, displays or events and were, in turn, were shared by our festival partners on their social media channels, eg, the Coke Music Stage artists shared their  Facebook posts on the whale festival Facebook and so did our eco-marine partners, classic cars and others.


 We scouted online for blogs and articles covering the whale festival and posted it on our website thereby utilizing lots of curated content as we could not have told the story better.


We had a small marketing team of…TWO.  Myself & Jeanette Du Toit, also the Chairperson of the Hermanus Whale Festival as well as my co-ordinating partner in the Eco Marine Tent.

 Our eco-marine partners and our sponsors were constantly kept in the loop via e-mails and we even finalized tent layouts through emails.  What could not be resolved via email was posted on the website where it could easily be accessed.


DICT FB post

Hermanus Whale Festival is a family festival and we, therefore, chose Facebook as our main medium for communication whereby we could reach our audience. However, we also had to make available different information to tour guides, media, and tourism outlets outside the areas. We chose TWITTER for this purpose because we knew that this was their hang out place.

 The majority of our eco-marine partners were already very active on social media and tagged the @WhaleFestivalSA  in their own TWITTER and FACEBOOK posts and sharing content. We used a scheduling program, BUFFER, and posted tweets up to 5 times a day in TWITTER and in FACEBOOK 2-4 times a day, all the time tagging selected audiences and constantly kept the conversation going.

On FACEBOOK we shared events, info, photos, video, talked to the people, answer their questions, posting information from the website and all the time driving them back to the website where they could read more.   To enlarge and diversify our reach we posted on our own FACEBOOK  & TWITTER profiles, pages and groups thereby sharing information to different audiences.

Did it work?

  • Facebook Event – 68 000 interested – 32 833 going = 101 1191
  • Facebook Page Followers 16 972
  • Facebook Page Reached - 259 511
  • Facebook Group Marketing – 30 days – 6 million reach en 1.8mil members
  • Total Facebook reach in 30 days: over 7 million



We used a content calendar to work our plan.

While the information required by some printed publications had to be in place three months before the event,  local newspapers only required the information a week prior to the event.

There were food bloggers, adventure bloggers and travel agents with scheduled deadlines who needed information relevant to their subject. Local and international television broadcasts and radio talks had to have access to information in different format scheduled times.

Interviews with radio, television, Overstrand Municipality and the sponsors were scheduled with the CEO, Leon Theron and Chairperson, Jeanette Du Tout. These interviews had to be converted into marketable formats and posted in relevant mediums as soon as possible afterwards.

Did it work? (A few selected statistics)

Printed :

  • Condé Nast Traveller UK
  • Forbes Private Banking magazine
  • Reise News
  • Never Seen Before
  • Decanter
  • Edgars Club September Magazine – 600 000 copies
  • Pick n Pay Consumer Magazine
  • Hello Cape Town ( Blog )
  • Cape Town Tourism (website)
  • Coke – flyers/banners

In-flight magazines

  • Open Skies, Emirates,
  • Sawubona, South African Airways
  • British Airways

News Papers:

  • Hermanus Times
  • Village News
  • Cape Argus
  • Die Burger
  • Die Rapport
  • Cape Times
  • The Newspaper

Online Articles + Magazines 2017:

  • Cape Town Magazine
  • Sleeping Out
  • The Inside Guide
  • SA Venues
  • Winelands Web
  • Lonely Planet
  • Restaurants.co.za
  • Flight Centre
  • Zando
  • Cape Town ETC
  • Constantia Valley
  • Where to Stay
  • Traveller24
  • Western Cape Info Let’s Go
  • 10 Times
  • Cape Town Tourism
  • Hermanus Online Magazine
  • Lekker Slaap
  • Booksure Travel
  • Getaway

Radio & Television

  • GoodHope FM was on site for the 3 days during the whale festival plus started airing a week before the festival. LSM 7 – 10 level. 
  • Up to 6 x Live Radio Interviews
  • 4 x radio Stations aired the Hermanus Whale Festival event
  • Television: 4 x National and International TV channels screened prior to and /or visit during the Hermanus Whale Festival

Bottom line: The FREE marketing value that we generated for this event exceed R 2million !!


Meeting the demands of your clients without pushing your company beyond its limits will be challenging, the good news is that the solution exists today. Find out how we can collaborate through our training workshops in creating an online marketing strategy to ensure a sustainable future for your company. After all, anything is possible when a team is working together!


Did it work?

  • Facebook Event – 68 000 interested – 32 833 going = 101 1191
  • Facebook Page Followers 16 972
  • Facebook Page Reached - 259 511
  • Facebook Group Marketing – 30 days – 6 million reach en 1.8mil members
  • Total Facebook reach in 30 days: over 7 million


Contact the Jaydee Media Team:

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Office Locations

Hermanus Office

25 Mitchell Street, Checkers Building, Hermanus, South Africa
Phone: +27 (0) 28 312 3846

Online Marketing Team

Jaydee Media
Phone: +27 (0) 28 312 3846