The Belle of Louisville and Spirit of Jefferson have a new look, thanks to digital agency Mightily. No, the historic vessels haven’t gotten a makeover, but their brands sure have.

A new website features sprawling aerial drone videos of the Belle and Spirit, the skyline and the bridges filmed by VizionAir Drones. It promotes the new campaign “Louisville at See Level,” meaning that the best way to get a new perspective on the city and really see it, is to see it from the Ohio River.

Shawne Slaughter is a project manager for the city of Louisville. One of his accounts is the boats, which are owned by the city. He said their online presence had been “pretty bland.” His predecessor had already settled on refreshing their image and when Slaughter took the job, he inherited the goal and the digital marketing firm, Mightily, who was going to help him achieve it.

Because the cost of the project came in under $20,000, the city didn’t have to issue a request for proposal.

According to Sabrina Edmonson, accountant for the vessels, the Belle has had a rise in passengers over the past five years, while the Spirit has experienced a decline. In 2016, 51,109 guests climbed aboard the Belle, up from 49,015 passengers in 2011. In the same time period, the Spirit’s numbers dropped to 22,845 from 24,267.

Slaughter said that the boats suffered from a “misconception of being for old people.” He said that the folks at Mightily asked him “Who do you want to be the audience?”

Michael Getz, the Belle account executive at Mightily, said that the answer was locals, younger people, business people for casual meetings and private events, among others.

“How do you seduce someone to go for the first time?” Slaughter said.

The Mightily team put their heads together and came back with a website that delighted Slaughter. “It’s really slick,” he said.

The old home page courtesy of the Internet Archive

“The Spirit kind of got left behind in their business model,” Getz said. “This was an opportunity to grow.”

One goal of the site is to raise the profile of the Spirit. So, the landing page of the website features aerial drone footage of the two boats sailing down the river side-by-side, something they’d never do in “real life,” Getz said.

Both boats have their own pages within the site that look equal.

Mightily set about giving each their own brand — the Belle as the historic grand dame of the river and the Spirit as her more modern, more flexible, quicker partner. “Both boats need to belong to an overarching brand: Louisville,” Getz said.

The landing page for the Belle says: “It’s not just a boat. It’s a time machine.” The copy reads: “Steamboat travel and transportation revolutionized our river, our city, and our nation. To board the Belle of Louisville is to do more than to see Louisville and the Ohio River from a unique perspective — it’s also to step into a piece of living American history.” The page also features a timeline of the boat’s history.

The Spirit’s page mentions the boat’s old-time feel but modern conveniences.

You can search for cruises by type, date, date range and boat, and reserve cruises online.

Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly referred to the Spirit of Jefferson as the Spirit of Jeffersonville.

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