Ocean City Today
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Resort sponsors Bikefest in marketing deal

City Council inks $25,000 agreement, although some say bikes come out on top
By Katie Tabeling, Staff Writer | May 18, 2017
Photo by: Katie Tabeling

(May 19, 2017) The Ocean City Council on Monday agreed to become a premier sponsor of OC Bikefest by contributing $25,000 to the event in exchange for advertising benefits.

The Tourism Department recommended that the city sponsor the four-day motorcycle rally after it had worked out a deal with Bikefest organizers to promote the resort’s various fall events.

In exchange for $25,000, Ocean City’s tourism logo would appear on signs at the event’s various rallies and on its website. Two full-color page ads would be included in the rally guide. In addition, social media blasts would be planned for the Bikefest networking accounts, where Ocean City’s events are promoted.

But Councilman Wayne Hartman, who argued last week against selling liquor at Bikefest, said that inking the deal would be going back on the council’s word.

“Last year, when we talked about this, we made it $10,000 and we said no more seed money. This year, we have a twist on it,” he said. “I understand the value of this, but I’m sure there’s a cheaper way to get these folks. Hopefully, when they’re here, they’ll see what Ocean City is about and maybe make that initiative themselves to come back.”

In the last six years, the Tourism Advisory Board gave Bikefest $35,000 a year out of its annual $300,000 allocation to get it off the ground. In 2016, the board asked the city to front $25,000 to help defray entertainment costs, as it already spent its budget. The City Council settled on $10,000, but said it would be the last time.

Hartman added that last week’s vote on liquor sales was enough leeway for this event.

“I think we gave them all the seed money they need last week when five members up here agreed on liquor sales,” he said. “I heard a rumor of Jack Daniels having six-figure sponsorship at events when liquor is approved. [I’m] not saying that this is the case here, but we’re helping with $25,000 for them to help us? Sounds like a one-way street.”

Mayor Rick Meehan pointed out that it wasn’t unusual for the city to support conventions through print or online ads.

“We’ve done that for MML [Maryland Municipal League] and MACo [Maryland Association of Counties]. It’s a point of sales. I think it’s good business to try and stay connected with those individuals,” Meehan said. “If you have 50,000 people come here for Bikefest … we see a lot of them back in Ocean City with their families.”

“It probably is good business to advertise, but the difference is that this is an event that causes a huge amount of overtime for law enforcement,” Councilman Dennis Dare countered. “We don’t have those issues with MML.”

Bikefest organizers agreed to a memorandum of understanding with Ocean City that outlines which services the city will supply with reimbursement to follow. This year’s contract includes around $86,000 in services that would be paid back.

Even so, Hartman asked that the council see a complete report of services that can’t be reimbursed before a vote. Councilman John Gehrig pointed out the figures were already presented to the council when they approved the memorandum of understanding.

“They’re paying us around $20,000 in police, $16,000 in public works in the overall fees. They draw around $41 million in lodging, $19 million in food and beverage, and others to an overall $69 million spent,” Gehrig said. “Some think this is a good buy, some people don’t. I’m not going to argue with them, but we’re not giving them a free ride.”

The council voted 5-2 to accept the sponsorship deal, with Hartman and Dare dissenting. The $25,000 will come out of the Tourism Department’s sponsorship budget for fiscal year 2018, which is funded out of room tax.

Council Secretary Mary Knight, who also serves as the chair of the Tourism Commission, said that she had high hopes for this deal, and if it did not work, she would be the first to change her mind on future Bikefest deals.

“This is going to be very good for our fall events, especially, with the 25th anniversary of Winterfest coming up. I’ll be the first to say that if we saw the analytics and they’re not good, we will re-evaluate this,” she said.

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