Bikes, Blues & BBQ requests $30,000 A&P grant

Hallie Shoffner, a marketing strategist at Aristotle, Inc., presents an interactive marketing proposal Tuesday during a special meeting of the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission.

Photo: Todd Gill, Flyer staff

Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commissioners will have one more application to consider when they distribute their leftover tax dollars next week.

Officials with Bikes, Blues & BBQ have requested a little over $30,000 to fund an interactive marketing campaign designed to increase awareness of the annual festival, and spark new sponsorships and merchandise sales opportunities. As part of the plan, the commission’s Experience Fayetteville brand would receive logo placement in several locations during the festival, along with a presence in various individual online marketing campaigns.

Festival board members requested the funds during a special meeting held Tuesday at the Fayetteville Town Center.

Spring A&P funding awards

 RequestedAwardedMore info
2014$232,414$80,900Full story
2013$261,861$161,950Full story
2012$294,345$159,200Full story
2011$157,385$61,800Full story
2010$284,869$149,292Full story

Source: Staff report

Bikes, Blues & BBQ representatives said the idea is to reinvigorate the festival to ensure its status as a sustainable event.

“We’ve seen that events around the country in the 10- to 15-year life cycle can sometimes start to erode,” said Brian Crowne.

Breathing new life into the festival’s marketing strategy, Crowne said, is vital in maintaining interest in the 15-year-old event, especially considering that younger motorcycle enthusiasts are more digitally focused than older generations.

Crowne said Aristotle, Inc. helped Bikes, Blues & BBQ secure a Google Ad Grant, a program which gives select non-profits $10,000 worth of free keyword-targeted text ads on Google search result pages per month.

The Little Rock-based interactive marketing firm, which specializes in tourism marketing, has proposed to develop and help execute a one-time, six-month digital marketing campaign to take advantage of the Google Ads Grant leading up to this year’s motorcycle rally. During the campaign, Aristotle will work closely with Bikes, Blues & BBQ to help train event staff to develop and execute their own new strategies each year. For their part, Aristotle is asking for $30,116 to cover the cost of a usability audit, development of a content marketing calendar, search engine optimization, media management, social media promotion, and training.

Crowne said working with a professional firm for the first six months is the best way to ensure Bikes, Blues & BBQ puts its best foot forward while embarking on this new digital strategy.

“They’re going to help us walk, so that we can take care of our own business in the future,” he said.

After the pitch, commissioners said it’s clear that Bikes, Blues & BBQ would benefit from a new digital strategy.

“Contributing some funding is probably a good idea,” said Matthew Petty, one of two City Council members who also serve as A&P commissioners. “It’s been 15 years since the rally got started and I like the idea of refreshing it so we don’t miss any opportunities to bring people back to town after each event.”

The key word, of course, being “some” funding.

It’s not that a $30,000 request is unheard of. The commission gave $45,000 to the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks in fall 2013 to help promote the 2014 National Veterans Golden Age Games. That same season, commissioners approved a $40,000 donation to Fayetteville Underground, a $30,000 grant to the Fayetteville Roots Festival, and $28,000 in funding for TheatreSquared.

This season’s available funds, however, are pretty slim. In past years, the group has seen excess funds as high as $162,000 in the spring, but recent special projects have soaked up most of the leftovers in the past two years. The group distributed $80,000 in spring 2014, and that’s about all there is to dole out this time around.

As usual, the list of organizers seeking those leftovers is long. This season’s requests now total more than $273,000, which why commissioners said a single $30,000 request isn’t likely to be fully funded.

“I think this is a great marketing plan,” said commissioner Hannah Withers. “But my concern is with what we have to work with in our budget. This request is over one-third of what we have to allot this spring.”

Withers asked whether Bikes, Blues & BBQ had any money available to put toward the project if the commission were only able to fund a portion of the request.

Crowne said the project was a new development and there’s currently no room in the event’s budget to cover any costs this year. However, he said he’d welcome any amount the commission could give, and Bikes, Blues & BBQ officials would certainly try to find other sources of income to hopefully make the project work.

Commissioners discussed possibly allocating $15,000 toward the project on Tuesday, but ultimately agreed to wait until next week to make a final decision during the regular funding awards meeting.