Ocean City Today

Bikefest seeking city bucks in exchange for sponsorship

Tourism Commission backs deal for social media, print ads for resort at $25,000
By Katie Tabeling | May 11, 2017
Photo by: Katie Tabeling

(May 12, 2017) Even though the City Council said last year it would no longer provide “seed money” to help with the startup costs of OC Bikefest, it’s now being asked to consider whether to sponsor the event by contributing $25,000.

The Ocean City Tourism Commission on Tuesday recommended that the council consider a sponsorship deal with the event organizers, with Tourism Director Donna Abbott telling commission members that Ocean City would be promoted through Bikefest’s various venues and social media platforms in exchange for the $25,000. This deal would contrast with past practices of funding the motorcycle event through the Tourism Advisory Board.

“Rather than sending them a check and not getting anything back, this would be an opportunity to get something in return,” Abbott said. “Bikefest is a top-searched keyword on our website, so there’s an opportunity here to tap into an event that can be helpful with promotion.”

Under the proposal, Ocean City’s tourism logo would be included on Bikefest’s website as digital advertisements. The resort’s tourism website would also be linked on the website. Two full-color ads would also be included in promotional material.

Ocean City’s logo would also be on signs at Bikefest at the inlet and the convention center on 40th Street. Signs would also be at the Shorebirds Stadium in Salisbury, where a motorcycle rally will be held.

Abbott said that the deal would include a social media takeover on OC Bikefest’s social media sites on certain dates that would promote fall events. She pointed out that Bikefest, which is held mid-September, is the first of the resort’s fall events that were created to help expand business as summer wanes.

“We’re trying to use this as a stepping stone to get people interested in the fall events, like Sunfest, Winefest, O.C.toberfest and Winterfest,” Abbott said. “I think that once you walk away from the Bikefest, those people have kids and grandkids. They have the ability to travel, and we would like them to come back.”

Since Bikefest started in 2010, residents have made several complaints about the noise the motorcycles bring to the resort. Some councilmembers have also been apprehensive about the event, based on the perception that it draws a rougher crowd.

The Tourism Advisory Board, a coalition of tourism industry members that recommend new events to the city, supported Bikefest in the past to help it get it off the ground. In 2013 and 2014, the board provided $35,000 each year out of its annual budget of $300,000. Two years ago, that funding went down to $20,000.

Last year, Bikefest organizers OC Jams and the Tourism Advisory Board requested $25,000 from the city but only $10,000 was awarded. Council Secretary Mary Knight, who chairs the Tourism Commission, said at the time that additional seed money would not be forthcoming in subsequent years.

Abbott said in a later interview that this new proposal was developed by her department, rather than the Tourism Advisory Board.

“It’s a matter of making a deal with the event promoters where Ocean City gets something in return rather than cutting them another check,” she said. “We [the Tourism Department] saw this as an opportunity to reach a market.”

Knight said that she saw the value in the proposal, and did not consider this a different avenue for Bikefest organizers to get their annual funding.

“They heard the message loud and clear that we’re not going to give money away, especially for an established event. Bikefest is well-established,” Knight said in a separate interview. “We have done promotional deals like this in the past with Hooked on OC, and we can monitor the attendance numbers at the fall events to see if it’s working.”

The Ocean City government signed on to be a title sponsor with the local fishing show in 2008 at a cost of $25,000.

Knight added that she supported the sponsorship proposal and Bikefest as a major revenue source for the resort.

“It’s a good event with good people. I know that locals leave the area when Bikefest comes to town, and that’s their desire,” Knight said. “I also know that the bikers go to restaurants, Royal Farms, 7-Elevens and bars and spend their money. It’s like other events, and we are fortunate to have quick responses from our police to handle any bad elements it may have.”

The City Council will discuss the Bikefest sponsorship deal during the May 15 session. If approved, the funding would come out of the fiscal year 2018 budget.

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