The 50 year history of ‘Virginia is for Lovers’

WASHINGTON — “Virginia is for Lovers” is the longest-running tourism slogan in the country, around even longer than “I ‘Heart’ NY,” and it turns 50-years-old next year.

The slogan was created in 1969 by the advertising firm which is now The Martin Agency in Richmond, the same agency behind Geico’s series of award-winning advertisements.

“The first ad that ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ appeared in was in Brides Magazine, so the original feeling and spirit behind it was that it was for lovers,” Caroline Logan at Virginia Tourism told WTOP.

“The ad depicted the very first honeymoon in Virginia, which was supposed to be in Jamestown,” she said.

The slogan was originally conceived with a modifier, like Virginia is for “history” lovers, or Virginia is for “beach” lovers, but the slogan without a modifier proved enduring.

“You can go about anywhere on the planet from the U.K. to China, or California to New York and you say ‘Virginia,’ and I think people will say back to you ‘is for lovers,’” Logan said. “We’ve seen our T-shirts on ‘The Walking Dead’. In Kenny Chesney’s new song, ‘Get Along’ he says ‘Virginia is for Lovers.’”

A half century ago, Virginia’s tourism bread-and-butter was history, But Virginia Tourism has recently leaned back into the original concept, adding modifiers like “wine lovers,” “oyster lovers” and “craft beer lovers.”

Virginia Tourism has absolutely no intention of replacing “Virginia is for Lovers” as the state’s tourism message. Logan says there are brands that would kill to have a slogan that’s been as strong and as well-recognized.

Tourism is Virginia’s fifth-largest industry and reached $25 billion in revenue in 2017. Tourism also supported 232,000 jobs in Virginia last year.

Domestic tourists spend an average $68 million a day in Virginia.

The image accompanying this story is an installation at Boat Lake in Byrd Park in Richmond, part of Virginia Tourism’s LOVEworks campaign. There are more than 100 permanent LOVEworks installations around the state. The white LOVE letters are also for rent for special events and promotions.

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