Amidst a steady stream of top-name brands advertising during the 2023 World Series, Hattiesburg, MS, stepped up the plate. The destination–the third-largest in Mississippi–made the daring move to go national with its “Baseburg” campaign, banking on its love for the national pastime to lead to future travel business.
“We felt like it was time to go big or go home,” says Visit Hattiesburg CEO Marlo Dorsey. “What better way to introduce ourselves to the world?”
Hattiesburg may not be as well known or visited as other Southeastern U.S. cities, but it’s drawn national recognition before. Home to 47 large-scale murals, it earned a top-10 ranking for best public arts scene from Travel & Leisure.
Dorsey, Mayor Toby Barker, and Southern Mississippi Baseball Coach Christian Ostrander feel like the Baseburg campaign is a work of art. They say the best part is that the advertisement and hashtag movement properly reflect Hattiesburg.
“Everybody is searching for that authentic experience that helps you be part of something bigger than who you are,” says Dorsey. “We have a collective ambition to really position Hattiesburg as something very special.
Mayor Toby Barker
Coach Christian Ostrander
Ostrander has been with Southern Miss for the past seven years and became head coach following the 2023 season. The team has made the NCAA Tournament in each of his seasons at USM and reached the Super Regionals in 2022 after defeating LSU, bringing some of college baseball’s biggest games to Hattiesburg.
At this point, any USM home game is a major event in the city, he says as evidence why the Baseburg moniker fits like a glove. The city’s amenities are a proven recruiting tool for potential players and tournaments, he says.
“I’ve been all over recruiting over the years and Hattiesburg is the nicest town in this state,” he says. “You’ve got plenty of hotels, restaurants, and everything to do. I’ve seen places that don’t have nearly what Hattiesburg has in regards to those things.”
Time for a Comeback
The timing for this welcomed attention comes as the country moves beyond the worst of the pandemic. As with much of the country, Hattiesburg struggled to attract visitors during the decade’s onset.
Baseburg as a marketing tool was conceived in 2016 and has been embraced ever since, says Dorsey. Now it is integral in a long-term plan to use sports tourism to drive economic growth. In 2022, the city passed a 1% tax on hotel and restaurant sales that it splits with USM. As a result, future events will be even more valuable to the community.
“We’ve got a plan through 2026 on how we’re going to strongly position Hattiesburg as a premier sports destination,” says Dorsey.
Local officials say Baseburg appears to be a grand slam. It earned honors from both The Mississippi Tourism Association and Recreation and Parks Association, and Dorsey adds there “has been some FOMO from our DMO friends.”
Mayor Barker, who attended Southern Miss, says the success highlights an unspoken truth about Hattiesburg.
“The community and culture here is so well-established,” he says. “The campaign spoke to something we knew was there but had not articulated. We are a baseball community.”
Photo Credits: Brad Puckett/Visit Hattiesburg
Have a story idea or want to be featured? Email Matt Swenson at [email protected].