NNEPRA Wins FIRST Place in APTA’s 2024 AdWheel Awards

NNEPRA has won FIRST PLACE in the American Public Transportation Association’s 2024 AdWheel Awards in ‘Best Marketing and Communication to Increase Ridership or Sales – Comprehensive Campaign’ category.

Our Entry Titled: NEXT STOP: Record-breaking ridership on the Amtrak Downeaster was voted on by a selected panel and chosen as the First Place Winner. Entry for this award was created by providing concept strategy, creative executions, and a detailed look at our campaign results in a visual representation compiled with a series of essay questions where we could further walk the judges through our target audiences, campaign objectives, challenges and of course, very successful results.

NNEPRA’s Marketing Director, Taylor Belanger, who spearheads all Marketing Initiatives for the Amtrak Downeaster walks us through the campaign’s framework below.


The primary objective of this campaign was to exceed FY2019 ridership and revenue figures and reintroduce the Amtrak Downeaster brand. Secondary objectives were to produce cost effective dynamic ads that could be customized and consistently updated in market to meet the evolving needs of our target audiences and develop content strategies from the market research that identified three core reasons why passenger select the Amtrak Downeaster: Value, Amenities and Destination Experiences.

Wide Angle Lens:

Prior to 2020, the Amtrak Downeaster had a robust marketing presence that included year-round paid media and grassroots outreach from Maine to Boston. Ridership and revenue goals were regularly exceeded. Post pandemic, both our brand awareness and ridership/revenues were negatively impacted and slow to recover. Driven by the need to return ridership and revenues to pre-pandemic numbers, we tasked our new advertising agency Blaze Partners to identify untapped ridership potential and to develop a customer-focused, fully integrated campaign to maximize visibility through paid and owned channels such as the Downeaster website, paid social, search, pre-roll, programmatic, broadcast, and radio. 


Through a combination of metrics, we have been able to attribute a measurable return from our “Next Stop:” campaign. With record-breaking ridership and revenue wrapping up both Q3 and Q4 of 2023. These include 6.1 million impressions across campaign channels, 153,000 clicks to the Downeaster website, 78,000 conversions. Website traffic was up 8% in Q4 YoY. Paid media continues to drive over 20% of all traffic to the website. Session time tracked on the website also improved by 150% with an average of 5 minutes spent on the Downeaster website.

The success of this initial campaign concept proved to be strong and had legs to grow and flex with market trends and insights taken from top performing placements. This campaign continues to lead our paid media into FY25 where we plan to introduce the next phase of NEXT STOP: _____.

NNEPRA is proud of the success of this campaign, and expresses gratitude to our agency of record, Blaze Partners, for their continued dedication to the success of the Amtrak Downeaster.

– Taylor Belanger, Marketing Director, NNEPRA