Only in New York | The real story behind the I Heart New York logo

New York State Empire State Development (ESD) is the economic development agency of New York.  It is responsible for “economic development strategy” which “benefits the entire state” (Empire State Development, n.d. ).  Though ESD may not be a familiar brand name, I Heart NY is sure to conjure images of New York to the viewer.

The ESD has used this brand logo since 1977 when NY Governor Hugh Carey and the NY Department of Commerce decided to use tourism as a “means to improve the state’s economy” (I Heart NY, n.d.). NYC was not an attractive tourist destination in the 1970s, “crime was at an all-time high, and tourism was at an all-time low” (Aaron, 2013).  An entire I Heart NY campaign ensued with logo, jingles and commercials.

1977 Jingle by Steve Karmen

1977 Logo designed by Milton Glaser


The ESD has continued its marketing efforts in an attempt to continue to boost the NY economy.  The I Heart NY logo was never retired, the jingle has been used off and on, and the commercials have evolved.  New York governor, Andrew Cuomo increased marketing spending to $45 million in 2014 (Bureau, 2014).  He said, “We have a story untold about upstate New York because the state wasn’t aggressive enough in telling its own tourism story” (as cited in Bureau & Hupfl, 2014). ESD enlisted celebrities like Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, Steve Buscemi and Michael Strahan to showcase the state. Billy Joel was recruited to do last summer’s commercial and Michael Douglas was the voice for this fall’s commercial.  The commercials broadcast various destinations within the state and highlight geographical areas of interest to potential tourists.  They are very well done and seek to appeal to tourists’ varied interests. Though the target is aimed at out-of-state tourists, the state certainly benefits from native New Yorkers who get out of the house to visit a new area of New York state as a result of the campaign.  Commercials showcase scenery, activities for individuals, family events, adventure sports and more.

According to Governor Cuomo’s office, “tourism statewide had a $100.1 billion economic impact last year” (Gartland, 2015). Given the economic benefit of tourism dollars, other states have tried to mimic ESD’s successful marketing campaign.  Connecticut is currently running a commercial that is surprisingly similar to New York’s.  Jim Ritterhoff, a partner at NY ad agency Chowder Inc. said, “Connecticut wants its ‘I love New York’ moment” (as cited in Banjo, 2012).

v4-309x488The I Heart NY campaign’s strengths are in its elements.  They are memorable, meaningful and likable. The logo is adaptable.  After 9/11, the original graphic artist even published a special I Heart NY graphic.

One limitation of the logo is that it is so popular, the ESD has to maintain legal resources to send a great deal of cease-and-desist letters each year to unauthorized users of the logo. This comes from a desire to keep the logo authentic and purposeful.  When used appropriately, the iconic logo unites New Yorkers and is typically recognized and understood by outsiders.



Bureau, A. & Hupfl, A.  (2014, May 14). Celebrities help ‘I Love NY’ ad campaign. Retrieved from

Billy Joel.  (2014, May 14).  Empire State of Mind Commercial Featuring Billy Joel.  [Online video].  Retrieved from

Dtf213.  (2009, November 30).  I Love New York radio ad song, circa 1977-1980.  [Online video].  Retrieved from

Empire State Development. (n.d.). History of Empire State Development. Retrieved from

Gartland, M. (2015, July 20). Cuomo bringing back ‘I Love NY’ Campaign. New York Post. Retrieved from:

I Heart NY. (n.d.). Timeline of New York History. Retrieved September 20, 2015, from

I Love NY.  (2015, September 14).  I Love NY 2015 vacation ad- Michael Douglas.  [Online video].  Retrieved from

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s