When photos of Prince Harry partying naked in your city end up on the cover of every major newspaper in the world, you can see a scandal or you can seize an opportunity.

Facing backlash for “corrupting” the young royal in 2012, Las Vegas flipped the script. It launched a cheeky, unapologetic campaign that reinforced the iconic “What Happens Here Stays Here” and shamed everyone who broke the city’s golden rule by sharing the photos.

A $144,000 investment brought Las Vegas $23 million worth of media value and 104 million editorial impressions. True to its cult-like status, it was about the impression it made, not the impressions it bought.

Look at the glittering playground that Las Vegas is today and it’s easy to forget the incredible story behind it. The city transformed the landscape of a seemingly uninhabitable patch of desert within decades and is now one of the most popular destinations on earth. Nearly 40 million people visited the city last year alone. That’s the entire population of Canada, and then some.

Recognizing how the city has achieved such singular cult-like status in a matter of decades and how it delivers the extraordinary to its fans were unmatched feats worthy of celebrating at The Gathering.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) is the brains behind the brand’s success. It has co-ordinated the countless resorts, attractions and local jurisdictions into a single unified voice to share the brand on a global scale.

Ask Cathy Tull, LVCVA’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, to distill the spirit of the city into three words and she’ll tell you that it’s courageous, bold and unapologetic.

Take “What Happens Here Stays Here.” When the campaign launched in 2003, it was risky, marking the first time the organization didn’t explicitly feature a product in its marketing. Instead, a sultry woman writhes through the streets of Las Vegas in the back of a limo, then arrives at the airport prim, proper and dressed in a suit. The tagline flashes across the screen.

The Super Bowl refused to air the campaign, but Las Vegas distributed it anyway, dubbing it “the ad the NFL doesn’t want you to see.” It sparked media frenzy and generated $6.7 million in revenue for the city.

It’s easy to think of Las Vegas as a playboy and party destination, but the city embraces the spectrum of adult entertainment: shopping, entertainment, sports, dining, spas. Not only does it offer everything in a way that no other city on earth does, but it’s the best of everything—from the world’s most sought-after acts to the best accommodations money can buy. The city has also established itself as a major business centre. For 19 years, it’s been the top destination for trade shows in North America.

Part of Las Vegas’s success comes down to understanding and listening to its followers. They’re loyal (84 per cent of visitors are repeat customers) and they want new experiences. They want to come to Las Vegas for a trip they can’t get anywhere else.

It’s not afraid to transform its landscapes and embrace the spirit of reinvention, while staying true to what Vegas is at its core: bold, courageous and unapologetic.

Hence the city’s continual evolution. It’s not afraid to transform its landscapes and embrace the spirit of reinvention, while staying true to what Vegas is at its core: bold, courageous and unapologetic. “Really great brands are those brands that decide who they are, decide who they want to be and then are true to who they are and who they want to be,” says Tull. “We will always be inventive and creative. We will always be bold in our approach.”

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