As Shanty Creek Resorts celebrates 50 years in business and a resurgence in its popularity, much of the credit for its success goes to Chris Hale.
Hale joined Shanty Creek in 2009 after a decade as an advertising executive with AT&T. The St. Louis native grew up knowing the family that bought Shanty Creek in early ‘00s; a member called Hale to ask if he’d visit the resort and assess its potential.
"The resort had gone through its troubles, and the ownership had turned over a few times," Hale says. "[The family member] said, ‘You’re a brand guy; you’re a marketing guy. We thought we got something pretty special when we bought this place, but it’s not generating the money we think it can.’"
Hale spent a week at Shanty Creek and sent its owners a report on his findings. A month later, he was offered the job of vice president of sales and marketing at the property. It would mean uprooting his family from Atlanta and leaving a secure position at AT&T. But, Hale says, it was an opportunity "to work at a ski and golf resort and raise my family in the part of the state that every single other person is trying to retire or vacation to."
Hale set about improving the property and how Shanty Creek told its story. The first tagline he came up with was, "Michigan’s Favorite Resort. Again." The "again" was a way to acknowledge Shanty Creek’s past challenges and say it had moved beyond them; that "the place was awesome and we’re making it awesome again," Hale says.
Since then, Hale has helped launch a smartphone app for iPhone and Android; negotiated a sponsorship with Monster Energy; and overseen the development of Black Diamond, an exclusive craft beer from nearby Short’s Brewing Company, to commemorate the resort’s 50th anniversary.
His efforts have paid off, literally: Shanty Creek is profitable and its stature has been restored. When Travel Michigan asked the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau for a marketing campaign prize, the bureau asked Shanty Creek to provide it.
"If other entities are asking us to be their prizes- if we’re a valuable thing to win- we’re back in the game," Hale says.
Hale’s efforts earned him the 2013 Sales and Marketing Star of the Year Award at the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference in April. His pride, though, comes from the benefits to Shanty Creek.
"It’s a cool place," he says. "I’m immensely proud of it and I’m happy to be there. There’s momentum here."