Building Connections with Waterways


For centuries, the waters of central Iowa nourished and defined our region. Over time, we lost touch with the water.

Central Iowa Water Trails—the biggest transformational project ever attempted in central Iowa—aimed to bring central Iowans back to the water. To appreciate and use this natural resource.

Strategic America’s job was to create a memorable destination brand for a network of 150 miles of water trails. The brand needed to be quintessentially Iowa to emotionally connect numerous target audiences with the project and convey the water’s impact on the Des Moines’ area—from economic growth in tourism to attracting a more diverse population.


Research Public Opinion

Strategic America, with research partner Spawn Ideas, gained deep insights from extensive research, which drove brand development.
Hundreds of central Iowa citizens, including minority and historically marginalized groups, were contacted and asked for their opinions. SA and Spawn brought communities and stakeholder groups together for the future of our waterways.

Drive Creative Development with Data

‘Confluence and Connection’ emerged as key themes for this campaign. Connecting the rivers, connecting people to the water, and connecting people to each other. These themes also influenced the final brand name—Iowa Confluence Water Trails, ICON for short—and every element created for the brand.


Making a Splash

Improvements along the waterways will go on for years to come, but a new sense of purpose and energy exists around the project. While Strategic America worked to raise awareness and build a brand, our strategic communications team developed detailed plans to target audiences and drive social engagement. Since launching ICON social pages, SA’s social media efforts reached more than 18,500 people organically, earned nearly 1,600 engagements, and yielded an average engagement rate of 24% across all channels, increasing loyal brand advocates.

Shifting Tides

People are starting to appreciate the magnitude of this undertaking. How our water trails represent a new commitment to water safety, conservation and recreation. How a movement of dreamers and doers are collaborating to improve the quality of water—and quality of life—in Central Iowa. Less than a year since launch, ICON has secured nearly $77 million in funding from private donors, municipal and state grants, and federal funding.

Iowa Confluence Water Trails Downtown Badge
Iowa Confluence Water Trails Camping Badge
Iowa Confluence Water Trails Kayak Badge
Iowa Confluence Water Trails Nature Badge
Iowa Confluence Water Trails Bike Badge
Iowa Confluence Water Trails Bird Badge
ICON Case Study Cover
ICON Surfboards
Confluence Brewing Company Flip 'N' Roll Beer Can
ICON Cooler



Catch Des Moines


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