OCEAN CITY – The local business community gathered this week to hear what tourism officials have in store for next season.
Tourism Director Deb Turk started out by saying the new Rodney Campaign TV commercials are close to being completed but because they are in their editing stages they could not be shared on Monday afternoon.
“Every year I wonder how the commercials can get any better,” Turk said. “They are hilarious. It’s amazing how much goes into 50-second commercials but I think these showcase the destination better, Rodney a little less, and the visitor a little bit more.”
Rodney the lifeguard has become an icon representing Ocean City. Rodney commercials have surfaced over the last couple of years and are geared toward saving people from their everyday lives to bring them on vacation to Ocean City.
Turk also shared some details regarding Ocean City’s new “Thank You Campaign” for the summer of 2012 that has been in the works for the last few months.
“A few months ago, the council had talked about a retention program and to me that meant loyalty … you can keep people coming back,” she said. “What we came up with was a city wide ‘Thank You Campaign’ for this coming summer and it’s all about deals and a really unique contest.”
The contest is to take advantage of the latest and greatest technology provided by smart phones, Facebook and Foursquare check-ins. By downloading or updating the town’s website application onto a smartphone, Droid or iPhone, a user will be provided the opportunity to check-in.
A check-in list will locate the closest businesses to a person’s proximity enabling them to view the closest deals. By checking into a local business, the person will automatically be entered into the sweepstakes. The person is not limited to one check-in but as many as preferred.
The “Summer of Thanks” logo has already been created and tool kits will be distributed to participating businesses providing posters, post cards and other simple ways to say thanks. Ocean City will also wrap its buses and billboards in the campaign’s logo as well as hand out T-shirts and freebies, along with offering deals and specials around town.
“We are still going to have our Rodney commercials and all that, this is just a campaign within a campaign to make sure that everybody knows how much we appreciate their loyalty to Ocean City,” Turk said.
Turk added that this year there will also be a group of “Thank You Ambassadors” who will walk around giving random “thank yous” to Ocean City visitors.
“We are going to be surprising people this summer,” she said. “We are going to have our own volunteers that will go out throughout the town … they will just go up and down the Boardwalk and just say ‘thank you’ for coming to Ocean City.”
Recently, Turk was invited to attend the TEAMS conference with the State of Maryland representing Ocean City and was amazed at the opportunities the town has not pursued in sports marketing.
“The Dew Tour sort of set the stage for that, and we started collectively as a town saying ‘well if we can do this, what else can we do’,” she said.
The reaction she received from sports events organizers has built incentives for Ocean City to build on opportunities in sports marketing. A sports page will be created to be added to the town’s website, as well as printed ads and publications. Turk said she has already and will continue to reply to Request For Proposals (RFP) for different sports events looking for a venue.
“Some sports marketing events are very, very interested in Ocean City,” she said.
As Turk schedules new events, she will be looking to sill in slow or “weak spots” to keep revenue flowing into Ocean City.
“It really struck all of us all that we have to offer, and when I went out there I wondered if we could compete for these events and I found out that we absolutely can,” Turk said.
Another new event that has been announced for next summer is the High Tide Musical Festival. Turk said that the organizers of the event, Founders Entertainment, became aware of Ocean City through Rodney commercials.
Once Founders Entertainment realized the Dew Tour was taking place in Ocean City, it wanted to follow in the same foot print. The process all began in July when company officials came to visit the Dew Tour site.
“To me, this has the potential to be a big event here,” Turk said.
The event is a two-day music and arts festival, June 2-3, slated to feature three stages on the beach from Dorchester Street moving north to 2nd Street. Attendance is estimated to bring in 35,000 people a day.
The event will include art, beach games and sponsor activities that will complement the music. Talent to be targeted ranges from Paul Simon, Tom Petty, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Mumford and Sons to Florence & The Machine, Adele and many more.
“This is about a $5 million investment for them so they have every intention to make sure the attendance numbers are met,” Turk said.
Similar to the Dew Tour, the town is seeking to have the High Tide Music Festival become a long-term event.
“If it is a great success, it will be something that we will want to come back every year and it becomes a little bit easier,” Turk said. “Just as with the Dew Tour, I have every indication that they will be back.”
The Dew Tour was set up on Ocean City’s beach downtown featuring extreme sporting events skateboarding, BMX, skateboard bowl and surf. According to Dew Tour officials, there were 73,000 fans who experienced the Dew Tour Pantech Open, July 21-24 2011, which was the highest attendance in the event’s seven-year history.
Other potential events Turk announced are the Extreme Volleyball Professionals (EVP) tournament, Big Shots Basketball, the U.S Running Association, and a NFL Ravens Corporation promotion leading up to the High Tide Music Festival.
“What we are looking to do now is look at the calendar, look at the big picture, when do we need business, what events are interested, what event is going to bring business to town, and be a little bit picky, or a lot picky about what we choose and what comes to town,” Turk said.