Fayetteville A&P Commission denies Bikes, Blues & BBQ request

The Fayetteville Advertising & Promotion Commission on Monday denied a $30,000 request by Bikes, Blues & BBQ to fund an interactive marketing campaign intended to revitalize and increase attendance at the annual motorcycle rally.

Commissioners last week held a special meeting to discuss the request from Bikes, Blues & BBQ officials. Representatives from the rally requested the funds to pay for a contract with Little Rock-based advertising agency, Aristotle, Inc. to administer an online campaign designed to increase awareness of the annual festival and to increase sponsorships and merchandise sales.

The commissioners decided to put off the discussion on the request until their regularly scheduled funding meeting held Monday, where all but one of them ultimately voted against providing funding for the proposal.

Commissioners agreed that Bikes, Blues & BBQ is worthwhile, but several expressed concerns over providing the money to an already well-established event.

“I think it is a great event. I think it’s great for hotels, and great for restaurants,” said commissioner Tim Freeman. “But I think for us to give them $30,000 when they already have such a huge revenue stream on their own…I think that there are other organizations that need help more.”

Other commissioners were concerned about funding the request that came in after the April 1 deadline, since other late applications had already been denied for the same reason. Bikes, Blues & BBQ officials requested the funds in early May.

“I think we should stick to our stated goals and our plan, where we aren’t having these special meetings every year,” said Adella Gray, one of two City Council members who also serve as A&P commissioners. “I like for us to be flexible, but at the same time, we have to have some guidelines.”

Part of the urgency over the request came from the fact that Aristotle, Inc. had 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 would help Bikes, Blues & BBQ to help train event staff to develop and execute their own new strategies each year. The $30,000 request would be used to pay Aristotle for their services to administer the program.

Alderman Matthew Petty, who at last week’s special meeting indicated that he supported funding the proposal at least in part, said he had a change of heart after realizing the Google grant would remain in tact with or without the additional funds to pay the ad agency.

“After I had time to look more at the proposal, I realized that that $60,000 isn’t going to go anywhere,” he said.

Commissioner Hannah Withers said she felt like the request overlapped with services the commission already contracts with their agency of record, the Sells Agency.

“We are already paying an agency to do what they’re wanting to pay an agency to do,” she said. “I walked away from this thinking it was not a wise investment for us.”

A&P chair Ching Mong, who brought the proposal to the commission last month, said he wanted to see the request funded at least in part. Mong proposed providing $15,000 toward the request, but to delay payment so as not to interfere with Monday’s planned funding dispersement and instead offer three $5,000 payments on a once-per-quartery basis beginning in the last quarter of 2015.

Mong’s proposal failed to secure a second, and the board voted 5-1 to deny the original proposal.