Ocean City Today

OC gives bucks to back Bikefest

By Greg Ellison | Mar 22, 2018
Source: File Photo

By Greg Ellison

Staff Writer

(March 23, 2018) Although OC Bikefest and its swarms of motorcycles may ruffle a few feathers, the City Council on Monday weighed its financial merits and agreed to renew a sponsorship deal launched last year.

Tourism and Marketing Director Donna Abbott told the council the $20,000 co-marketing sponsorship — down $5,000 from last year — would continue to promote the Ocean City tourism logo on the OC Bikefest website and in print advertisements.

“[In 2017] their website … netted over 480,000 overall page views and our logo was prominently featured with a link to our website,” she said.

Abbott said Bikefest organizers bought roughly 760 radio spots last year and placed approximately 30,000 event rally guides throughout the region.

“The print initiatives that Bikefest had were extensive,” she said.

With an array of shoulder season events following Bikefest, Abbott said the marketing is focused on luring attendees back to the resort.

“We used [these ads] as a way to promote our fall events,” she said. “We used that as an opportunity to spring board those events.”

To improve on last year’s social media presence, Abbott said Bikefest organizers are now requiring musical performers to promote Ocean City on band websites.

“We will also exchange Bikefest tickets with our events,” she said. “We can decide what specific events.”

Abbott said the Tourism Commission approved the sponsorship request on March 12, which was reduced from $25,000 the prior year, and would be included in the fiscal year 2019 budget.

Councilman John Gehrig focused on the funding source.

“It’s coming from the tourism budget, which is paid for by visitors, not by the general fund or by residents through property taxes,” he said.

Although the town paid more than $110,000 in event-related expenses, Abbott said Bikefest produced roughly $86,000 for the city, not including the $26,000 ino rent for convention center parking lot.

Abbott also told the council that the hotel industry reported that room occupancy during the festival was at 95 percent.

Gehrig noted the in addition to covering costs; the event generates large revenues for resort businesses.

Councilman Dennis Dare, while acknowledging the event makes sense financially, had second thoughts on backing the marketing proposal.

“We have lot of motor events and giving a grant to one of them for advertising … I just don’t feel it,” he said. “These events are impacting our reputation.”

Councilwoman Mary Knight said she could support the grant, in part, based on positive feedback from law enforcement following a review of motorized events in 2017.

“This ranked high for compatibility and respectability with the town and the police commission,” she said.

Knight also pointed out that Bikefest is part of the larger Delmarva Bike Week, which provides activities outside of Ocean City.

“They get folks out of town, but then they come back here and they eat, sleep and buy things,” she said.

Gehrig reminded the other council members that even louder events receive greater financial backing from the city.

“We have some sort of mental challenge over motorcycles,” he said. “We have an air show … that flies over our skies for days and we continue to fund more than double the $20,000.”

Mayor Rick Meehan said the sponsorship costs are a sound investment.

“Our goal with the advertising … is to make sure these visitors … see what’s coming in Ocean City and … return at different times of the year,” he said. “Some of those times they’re not on their motorcycles.”

The council voted 5-1, with Dare opposed, to approve the sponsorship request.

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