Tourism board makes the best of a ‘Bad’ situation

When ‘going to Belize’ became a euphemism for an undesirable trip on ‘Breaking Bad,’ the country didn’t get defensive. It seized the opportunity.

On AMC’s irresistible “Breaking Bad,” now in its final season, “going to Belize” isn’t a good thing. It’s a threat.

In a recent episode, the sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman (played brilliantly by Bob Odenkirk) suggests that a troublesome character could be euphemistically “sent to Belize.” It didn’t mean mojitos and coastal sunsets, unless that’s your idea of the afterlife.

Fans smirked at the reference, and the Belize Tourism Board noticed. But instead of getting mad and overreacting, as some might have done, or shrugging, as most would have done, the Belize group saw an opportunity.

The board moved quickly to take advantage of the mention and to turn a negative reference into positive visibility for the destination. A few days after the episode aired, Belize invited show creator Vince Gilligan and its key cast members, including stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, to enjoy an actual vacation in Belize, all expenses paid. The invite was filled with the kind of inside-baseball details that only a true “Breaking Bad” fan would know, such as Walter Jr.’s enduring love of breakfast foods, and the timing was ideal, since the show recently wrapped filming after five successful seasons. The cast is surely in need of some creative down time (though they’re all presumably well able to pay their own way).

The Belize Tourism Board broke news on its Twitter account with a quirky invitation, where it was picked up by show fans and even covered by The New York Times and other outlets. And though it likely won’t have to make good on the offer of free vacations, it did reap the PR benefits.

The official Twitter account for “Breaking Bad” even responded:

There are those times when a well-crafted PR response flows like another day at the beach. Well played, Belize Tourism Board.

Dorothy Crenshaw is CEO and creative director of Crenshaw Communications. She has been named one of the public relations industry’s 100 Most Powerful Women by PR Week. A version of this story appeared on Crenshaw Communications’ PR Fishbowl blog.


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