Council Seeks to Tighten Sponsor Solicitation Process

OCEAN CITY- A request for permission to solicit a request for a proposal (RFP) for the design and construction for Robin Park playground replacement was a sure win in this week’s Mayor and City Council meeting, but the request for an RFP for sponsorship proposals wasn’t so easy.

According to Tom Shuster, Director of Recreation and Parks, in late September the Maryland Board of Public Works approved a grant of $75,000 to the town under the Maryland Community Parks and Playground Program. This grant will provide 100 percent funding for the Robin Park playground replacement.

Also in late September, the Recreation and Parks committee recommended to the town to issue a new RFP for Sponsorship Solicitation. The committee agreed to issue a new RFP for Sponsorship Solicitation for special events and activities of the town, which was discussed and voted upon in the Mayor and City Council meeting this week. Upon the Council’s approval, Shuster will prepare a RFP for solicitation of proposals.

In the discussion Councilmember Mary Knight asked, “When we put out an RFP like this what do we ask for?”

“Typically, what we would ask for in the RFP, to the company we are proposing to, that they provide us what percentage of commission would they charge for solicitation of sponsorship that was consummated,” Shuster said. “We would also ask them for any cost-related servicing once the sponsorship has been signed.”

Explaining the new RFP further, “The RFP that we develop for sponsorship, will list all of the special events and activities that we would like them to choose from,” Shuster added. “We ask the proposer to choose up to five events and which they feel they can provide sponsorship for.”

Knight also asked, “In those sponsorships, do we also include advertising?”

“If anybody was to negotiate a sponsorship, there would be economic direct money and non-direct money to the sponsorship,” said Shuster. “That includes how much money they would be willing to pay, plus the additional value that would be specifically paid out. So, that would include advertising, networking, co-promotion and other forms to negotiate the relationship between the event and the sponsor.”

Councilman Joe Hall voiced opposition to this proposal.

“I would like more detail about how the RFP’s going to be written and what were looking for,” he said. “I think we have given somebody an opportunity in the past to do it and it wasn’t fruitful. I would prefer a more in depth presentation.”

Councilman Jim Hall, member of the Recreation and Parks committee, explained the reason behind issuing a new RFP for sponsorship.

“We have not been real successful getting outside folks get sponsors for us, so this is new ground and was hoping this RFP will bring that information to us,” he said. “And they’ll say what we’ll do, here’s how much I’ll charge, here’s the sponsors I can get and here are the events they will want to sponsor. Then we’ll decide where to go after we get that RFP back. If we can grab some sponsors, bring them on.”

Joe Hall continued to express his concern.

“I would like to have a more detailed plan presented to me on how Recreation and Parks is going to be successful in gaining good representation to solicit sponsorship for Ocean City,” he said. “I am not confident tonight in what was proposed to me, that the RFP will be successful and fruitful.”

Knight came to the defense of Shuster.

“I know Mr. Shuster and I have faith in our department head here that there will be a very well written request for proposal,” she said. “I have faith also in the Recreations and Parks Committee that they have reviewed this and the fact that you have been solicited tells me there is people out there that want sponsorship.”

Councilmember Margaret Pillas pointed out, “When we went out for a RFP for the advertising company, didn’t the department come to us and show us the contract and art fee? Weren’t we able to look at that and go over that.”

“Yes the RFP was presented to us for review,” said Council member Joe Mitrecic.

An unofficial RFP for sponsorship has been in the works but Recreation and Parks feels that it needs to be more specific and official.

“Because I have had conversations with some of the people bidding on it, I have a sense of what their capable of doing already, so I feel this is not a brand new process,” Shuster said. “I can make available the RFP we intend to use. It wont be unfamiliar, just more specific because it will contain an appendix of special events and activities.”

A copy of the new RFP for Sponsorship Solicitation for Special Events and activities was or will be emailed to the Mayor and City Council and they will then have the opportunity to ask questions or comment. The Council voted 6-1, with Joe Hall in opposition, to approve the recommendation.