My wife and I have just returned from an unforgettable trip to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which was held Oct. 1-9, 2011.  The organizers of the largest hot air balloon festival in the world call it, “The greatest show off earth.”  And the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta has been recognized as the “world’s most photographed event.”

But, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta hasn’t become the “world’s most YouTubed event” … at least, not yet.

So, what YouTube marketing strategy would help the world’s premier balloon event get off the ground, so to speak?  Let’s do a SWOT analysis to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in YouTubing next year’s Balloon Fiesta.


The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a videographer’s as well as a photographer’s dream.  That why media from more than 50 nations have covered this newsworthy event since the first Balloon Fiesta in 1972.  Coverage has included: live satellite broadcasts to Japan; television documentaries prepared by Great Britain, West Germany, the Netherlands and France; as well as television specials on ESPN, Arts & Entertainment, the Public Broadcasting Service, and the Travel Channel.

Here are some of the ballooning photo ops that are also YouTube video ops:

  • The Dawn Patrol, which began in 1978, features pilots, who take off in the dark and fly until it is light enough to see the landing sites.  Fellow balloonists appreciate the Dawn Patrol because they can watch the balloons and get an early idea of wind speeds and directions at different altitudes.  On mass ascension days, about a dozen Dawn Patrol balloons perform the Dawn Patrol Show, a choreographed inflation and launch set to music.
  • Mass Ascensions, the launches of all the participating balloons, are the most spectacular display of sound and color in all of aviation.  Balloons launch in two waves – led by a balloon flying the American flag to the strains of The Star Spangled Banner.  Launch directors, called zebras because of their black-and-white-striped outfits, serve as traffic cops, so balloons leave the field in a safe and coordinated manner.
  • Balloon Glows were invented in Albuquerque in 1979, when local pilots tethered and inflated balloons on Christmas Eve as a thank you to local residents.  The sight of balloons lit from within at night like giant holiday ornaments is breathtaking.  The “all burns” — when all the balloons fire their burners and light up at the same time – are perhaps the most fantastic single moment during the Balloon Fiesta.
  • The Special Shape Rodeo, which started in 1989, has become the most popular event at the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.  The rodeo showcases such intriguing shapes as a pair of bees, a stagecoach, a daisy, a snow-man, a pink dragon, Noah’s Ark, and even a cow.  The Special Shapes launch in the mornings and glow in the evenings in what has come to be called the Special Shape Glowdeo.

For example, check out “Official Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta,” which was uploaded to BalloonFiesta’s Channel on YouTube back on Sept. 6, 2007.


As the date on “Official Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta” indicates, no new videos have been uploaded to BalloonFiesta’s YouTube Channel in the past four years.  The Pilots and Crew Videos weren’t uploaded to YouTube this year and the 2011 Fiesta Cams didn’t use YouTube Live, either.  This means the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta’s light was hidden under a bushel basket.

If you use Google Videos to search for the term, Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the first non-YouTube video you’ll find is from The Garrity Group’s channel on Vimeo.  It’s entitled, “40th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.”

But, according to the DoubleClick Ad Planner, had 800 million unique visitors worldwide in July 2011.  By comparison, had 17 million.  So, both the Balloon Fiesta organizers and their PR firm should have uploaded at least some of their videos to YouTube.


There are several people and organizations who might want to help the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta become the “world’s most YouTubed event” in 2012.

Among them are Joshua Siegel, Product Manager, and Christopher Hamilton, Product Marketing Manager, who are rolling out of YouTube Live, which integrates live streaming capabilities and discovery tools directly into the YouTube platform.  Heck, they’ve live streamed a number of popular concerts, sporting events, and interviews, why not a balloon festival?

An organization that might be interested in getting involved with next year’s Balloon Fiesta is GoPro, the world’s leading activity image capture company.  GoPro produces the famous HD HERO line of wearable and gear-mountable cameras and accessories, making it easy for people to capture and share their lives’ most exciting moments in high definition.

Check out “GoPro 2011 Highlights: You in HD” and imagine what you might see if hundreds of pilots and crew shot 100% of the 2012 Balloon Fiesta with the HD HERO camera.


There’s always the possibility that other hot air balloon festivals, rallies and events in North America or Europe will make a splash on YouTube before the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta does.

However, the most serious threat to one of Albuquerque’s largest tourist attractions could be called “the winds of change.”  Although tourists and fiesta visitors take thousands of pictures of the balloons, digital cameras and camcorders have replaced cameras and camcorders that use film.  That’s why Kodak no longer sponsors the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, but Nikon does.

With the growing popularity of online video, this means the “world’s most photographed event” also needs to become the “world’s most YouTubed event” sooner rather than later.

But, what would I know?  I’m just a tourist.  So, tell me if you think this trial balloon is full of hot air.