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Where 'Virginia is for Lovers' comes from, and why its popularity still remains

Its purposeful ambiguity has left the door open for Virginians to insert the slogan with whatever they find meaningful about the place they call home.

NORFOLK, Va. — "Virginia is for Lovers": It's arguably Virginia's most well-known saying and slogan, a four-word phrase that's found in businesses, cities and more across the Commonwealth.

In the theme of love for Valentine's Day, 13News Now wants to answer where exactly the iconic slogan came from.

According to Lindsey Norment, the brand director for the Virginia Tourism Corporation, the story starts in 1969 with the advertising company George Woltz of Martin & Woltz Inc., who had recently landed the Virginia State Travel Service account.

"They were talking about, 'Oh it’s for history lovers.' Someone else chimed in, 'It's for mountain lovers the mountains are beautiful.' Someone said 'Beach lovers.' People started saying 'Well, it’s for all of these things. It’s for lovers.'"

Norment said the advertising and applications have since evolved from the early days. At first, the emphasis behind the "Lovers" campaign was that of romance and honeymoons, as well as a reflection of the time period it was championed during. 

"It was also a provocative time. 1969 the summer of love, Woodstock, a lot going on. So that term 'lovers' was kind of provocative, which is what I think makes it stand out but also makes it provocative with the mood with what’s going on," Norment said.

Over time, the slogan has taken on a more universal, but still personalized meaning. Its purposeful ambiguity has left the door open for Virginians to insert the slogan with whatever they find meaningful about the place they call home.

Virginia is for lovers of nature, cities, beaches, mountains, food, breweries, and so on and so forth.

Norment said the vagueness allowed the slogan to stand the test of time for more than five decades. 

“Something to be said about the flexibility, it allows Virginians to make it their own and feel prideful of that. The best brands are about what’s relevant to you and your life. Become this kind of like prideful, weird quirky slogan thing but it works," she said.

It's also helped others identify more easily with the Old Dominion. 

"The awareness of our brand, we sit at around 73% awareness. That means when we ask people outside the state what they're familiar with about Virginia, they can say 'Virginia is for Lovers.' They say it, they know it, there is a high level of awareness about the slogan. That number doesn't matter until you ask about other destinations, when asking about states like North Carolina, South Carolina and Maryland, the highest they have in terms of awareness is about 30%, so it's a huge competitive advantage."

In 2009, the "Virginia is for Lovers" slogan was voted into the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame. According to Norment, the iconic "I Love New York" brand with a red heart was created roughly a year before the "Virginia is for Lovers" slogan.

You can find approximately 300 "LOVEwork' sculptures around the state, according to the state's tourism corporation.

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