National Cherry Blossom Festival: Centennial


Situation / Challenge

Each year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the arrival of spring in Washington, D.C. and the blooming of the city’s world-famous flowering cherry trees. The festival, known as one of the world’s great celebrations of spring, produces and coordinates a variety of events that are free and open to the public.

The 2012 festival marked the 100th anniversary of the gift of trees from the city of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C. Festival organizers knew attendees, sponsors and participating organizations had high expectations for the 2012 celebration and needed to create a presence for the festival with branding and messaging that reflected the theme of the 2012 event —“Celebrating 100 Years of the Gift of Trees.” The goal of the project was to create a consistent, recognizable brand image and message to elevate awareness and participation for the centennial festival.

Our Strategic Approach

Sage acted as a strategic marketing partner, holding kick-off messaging workshops with stakeholders and organizers to establish a solid brand platform as the foundation for all of the creative tools and outreach materials. Throughout the process, Sage worked closely with the festival team, maintaining constant communication and attending weekly staff meetings and conference calls. Rather than acting as an outside consultant, we became a true extension of the team.

Sage produced collateral material for approximately 15 festival events, including invitations, programs, flyers, signage, gobos (a logo projected on a wall), PowerPoint templates, animated presentations (to visually enhance performances), and web graphics. Sage handled content management for the festival’s website, populating all event information and providing guidance for aligning the website to the new brand guidelines. We also recommended changes to the calendar function to improve the user experience.

In addition, Sage also wrote the content and managed the production process with the Washington Examiner for a 40-page festival guide as well as three to four-page newspaper wraps that served as advertorial sections on the outside of the paper. Lastly, Sage managed a traffic schedule for advertisements going out almost daily for the duration of the festival. Content changed with each insertion to stay current with festival events and push timely messages.


  • The Festival received unprecedented media coverage, producing public relations and marketing impacts valuing $16 million.

  • More than 3,500 local and national television mentions reached an estimated audience of 187 million, not including international audiences.

  • There were more than 17,300 Festival-related blog and social media posts.

  • More than 26,000 people downloaded the Festival app (14% more than for the 2011 app).

  • The Festival website received record traffic, garnering more than 1.5 million visits by over 1 million unique visitors (a 29% increase over 2011), and approximately 5.8 million page views. Festival merchandise sales increased by 30% over 2011.

  • The Festival’s inaugural “City in Bloom” campaign, presented by Capital One Bank, visually unified and ignited the region with festival spirit — extending from storefronts to public transit.

  • The National Cherry Blossom Parade was nationally syndicated for the first time, reaching 60% of U.S. households, including 17 of the top 20 markets.

Signature events were well attended and attracted thousands of festival goers:

  • Opening Ceremony: 6,000 guests

  • Pink Tie Party: 800 petal partiers

  • National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade®: 120,000 spectators

  • Sakura Matsuri – Japanese Street Festival: 40,000 attendees

The American Marketing Association recognized this campaign with its “Outstanding Marketer of the Year” 2012 Award.