Marketing money and name confusion stir controversy over TEE Center
Three players. Three sheets of music.
When Augusta Riverfront President Paul Simon went before the Finance Committee last week to talk about the annual plan, he chided the commission for not spending enough on marketing.
“One of the things that we really need to keep in mind, and I keep talking about it but don’t get much response, is marketing,” Simon said. “You’ve got to market these facilities. Under the contract, we don’t market it. That’s not part of what we do. Under the contract, the CVB markets it.”
That seemed to be news to CVB President and CEO Barry White, who said his group was paid additional money from the city specifically for the premarketing of the new facility. The total amount was around $350,000 in hotel tax funding.
“It was a finite amount of money to last a finite amount of time,” he said. “So that’s what we’ve been doing. We probably have another three or four months before that money is expended.”
Given the fact that the booking cycle for many events is more than a year, such a marketing arrangement for a new venue or the expansion of an existing one is not unusual, White said, but he stressed that the CVB was never intended to take over full marketing efforts.
“My understanding is it will be a joint effort,” White said. “We market all public facilities, we market the destination, we market Augusta and we’re going to continue to do that.”
Administrator Fred Russell said he had a similar understanding regarding the marketing.
“It’s the Marriott, mainly,” he said. “The CVB’s job is to get people to come to Augusta, and this is another tool they have to do that. Paul’s is to fill up the Marriott, and this is another tool to do that. It’s a good thing, at the end of the day.”
At the Finance Committee Meeting, though, Simon seemed adamant that marketing the $29 million, 38,000-square-foot facility — as well as the existing, city-owned conference center adjacent to it — was the CVB’s responsibility.
“You all need to give them the money to work with, and you need to direct them to get together and market it in the same vein,” Simon said. “The Marriott — we promote it as the Augusta Convention Center. That’s what it is. You all own the full convention center — it doesn’t matter whether you have a person use the convention space or the new space, you still get revenue and economic benefits from it.”
“I’m very aware that the hotel would like to call it something else, but again, our instruction has been to market the new space and market it as the Trade Exhibit and Events Center,” White said tersely. “At the direction of the city for this premarketing, we’ve been calling it the Trade Exhibit and Event Center, which is about as clearly defined a space as possible.”
So, officially, what is it that the city has just built?
“I believe it’s officially called the Convention Center, but locally known as the TEE Center,” Russell said. “I believe that’s what I put on the thing going to tell the world about it.”
And who made the decision?
“I did on that one,” Russell said. “I don’t think we’ve ever officially made a decision, but the Marriott advertises it as the Convention Center and my general feel is we’ve got the TEE Center as part of the Convention Center, and I’m not really that concerned with anything other than that.”
While changing names seems to go against the idea of establishing a brand, which the CVB has been doing for the last 14 months, Russell didn’t seem bothered.
“I believe it’s wise to use two kinds of bait when you fish on occasion,” Russell said.
White, however, sounded less enthusiastic.
“Brand identity is important,” he said. “I don’t disagree with you one bit.” You Might Also Like: