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Viral tourism campaign

In Basel, it’s the Pokémon that are on the hunt

The opening sequence of the viral clip (basel.com/pokémon)

The opening sequence of the viral clip


Basel Tourism, the tourism agency of the northwestern Swiss city, has pulled off a publicity stunt inspired by the popular Pokémon Go game. A short video clip featuring “people-hunting Pokémon” garnered around 20 million views overnight.

The GPS-aided game – created through a collaboration between Nintendo, The Pokémon Company, and former Google subsidiary Niantic Labs – has been available for download in Switzerland for just three weeks. It has been a success in the country with servers crashing and thousands playing, especially in the cities. No official download figures are available for Switzerland, but worldwide, the figure has reached over 75 million. 

Part of the game’s allure lies in its scavenger-hunt-like reward system, as well as the blending of virtual and real worlds. It also brings with it a dose of nostalgia, with the goal being the “capture” of the cute Japanese characters. 

However, Basel Tourism has turned the Pokémon Go game on its head by commissioning a humorous video clip that shows costumed Pokémon impersonators chasing people and “capturing” them with coloured balls. The goal was to promote Basel as a destination for leisure and business visitors.

Some of Basel's key attractions are visible in the video in the images extracted from the clip.

The cathedral and the Rhine river (basel-com/pokémon)

The cathedral and the Rhine river

Cruising the Rhine on a ferry (basel.com/pokémon)

Cruising the Rhine on a ferry

The Basel Football Club stadium (basel.com/pokémon)

The Basel Football Club stadium

The Middle Rhine bridge (basel.com/pokémon)

The Middle Rhine bridge

Fountain art by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely  (basel-com/pokémon)

Fountain art by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely 


Marketing guru David Cappellini of the Zurich-based social media content agency monami thinks the campaign hits the right notes when it comes to online storytelling. 

“This clip works perfectly. How else can you reach 20 million people with a simple and cost-effective campaign that showcases the old town, the stadium and Basel’s Cathedral? It’s a fun way to optimise offerings and ensure that Basel stirs emotions. So you’re closer to consumers than you can ever be through boring billboards, or print or TV adverts.” 

It remains to be seen if online success translates into real visitors for Basel.

What motivates you to visit a new city? Let us know in the comments section below.


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