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Anatomy of an Event, Part 3 of 3

by Sylvia Allen

See Part 1 at:
See Part 2 at:

Case History Using The Time Line

As stated earlier, this is an ideal time line, allowing you one full year to plan an event. If you plan multiple events, as many of you do, you have a number of time lines going at any given moment. Some activities can be combined for multiple events which creates greater efficiencies during the year; other activities have to be done individually. For example, once you have developed an event calendar you can sell some of your sponsors on multiple event participation; others may opt for a single event sponsorship. At least, when calling on the sponsor, you have options from which they can select. Another example of “bundling” you activities would be in negotiating for tables, chairs, and tents. If you can offer your vendor a number of opportunities, you can negotiate for a better price and, in some instances, get the vendor to make a donation. For example, a tent supplier to the Freehold Center Partnership recently donated 20 chairs for a specific event because the Partnership had spent in excess of $1,000.00 with this particular vendor in a year. The donation was worth $30.00 and saved the Partnership from having to pay for the chairs. Always remember to be creative in your thinking and your approach.

To demonstrate these event fundamentals, Oceanfest '99 will be used as a recent example of an event that was produced following the concepts previously discussed. As background, Oceanfest '99 was started nine years ago as an Independence Day celebration. It is the primary fundraiser for the Greater Long Branch Chamber of Commerce. Held in Long Branch, New Jersey, the event is held on the boardwalk promenade on the ocean, directly in front of the Ocean Place Resort and Spa. Consisting of crafters, vendors, sponsors, sports, entertainment, kiddy rides, food and a host of other activities, the event was always a one day affair that attracted 100,000+ people annually. The event grew each year and, in 1998, it was decided that since July 4 was on a Sunday in 1999 and Long Branch had just successfully completed a beach replenishment program, the event would be increased to two days. This decision was made by the committee immediately after last year's event. Getting the city to support this decision took a little longer!

The biggest obstacle was expense. Since the city provide police, fire, first aid and sanitation services to the event they argued that they couldn't afford to double those expenses for a two day event. The event organizers asked if they provided a solution to that additional expense would Mayor and Council approve the additional day. They agreed.

It was decided that one way to generate additional money would be to put out a Request For Proposal (RFP) to all the soda companies for sales and service on the existing municipal vending machines (which were then all under different contracts). Developing the RFP, following the guidelines for municipal bidding, getting responses and determining who would get the contract took six months! In late January, 1999, Mayor and Council approved the two day event and passed a resolution approving same. What did this do to the time line activities? Sponsorships were being sold on the basis that the event would probably go to two days; sponsorship dollar participation was based on two days; the media partnerships were based on two days ... all done because the event organizers were confident that Mayor and Council, once they knew the monies could be recouped, would approve the two day event! However, talent couldn't be booked until the final approvals were received.

The minute the event was approved for two days, vendor solicitations were sent out, talent solicited (including a featured band for the beach concert) and booked, and suppliers contacted. Sponsors were solidified and contracts negotiated. It was decided to add more sandsculptors to the festivities (one had been featured in 1998) because it was a popular attraction and sponsors loved the concept of having their logos sculpted in sand. These sculptors were contacted and booked in February, six months before the event. March and April were busy with public relations activity, solidifying media partners, soliciting and selling additional sponsors, processing vendor requests, and working with new hotel management to ensure a smooth transition to a two day event. All collateral material was designed including table tents, posters, flyers, payroll inserts, and - a major coup - large posters and promo pieces that were to be distributed by New Jersey Transit on all trains and busses. A five minute video was produced which would be aired on Newsmakers, an hourly insert (24/7) on the Comcast cable network.

The media partners for Oceanfest '99 were Y-107, a local Long Branch radio station; the New York-based trio of WPLJ/Radio Disney/ WABC; Comcast cable/CN8; the two newspaper group of The Atlanticville and The Coaster; and the Asbury Park Press. The latter publications were to each produce an advertorial for the event with Allen Consulting, the event producers, providing editorial content. All editorial content was developed during May. In addition, radio spots were written and all sponsor radio tags were given to the appropriate media. Comcast/CN8 was provided with copy and graphics for a spot.

In June the site map was developed by the Chamber. Immediately upon completion of the map, all sponsor, vendor, food and talent confirmation letters were sent with instructions on where to park, when to show up, what their location was, etc. PR activity was dramatically increased. A web site was developed that would hyperlink to the city's web address. Three horizontal street banners - 4' x 25' - were put up across heavily trafficked streets. Table tents were put into participating restaurants and in every hotel room of the Ocean Place Resort and Conference Center. Payroll stuffers were inserted in 3,500+ Monmouth County employee paychecks. Plus, even though there was a beach, special sand had to be ordered and brought in for the sculptors!

Then, two weeks before the event, sponsors who hadn't been solicited began to call! The NBA Jam Van wanted to be there; Keebler Cookies wanted to be there; Nissan Motors wanted to be there! (Ed. Note: Never say “No” ... just figure out how you can give them value on such short notice!). Talent began calling and re-confirming. A “sand tutorial” event was planned for the media the day before the event. Telephone calls, e-mails and faxes were sent to encourage the media to come and participate. Many promised to be a part of the festivities. (Ed. Note: Even when they say they will come, they may not. Don't be discouraged!).

What happened? The media event attracted a small number of participants; however, the pre-event coverage generated millions and millions of print and electronic media impressions. As a result, on Saturday, July 3, and Sunday, July 4, thousands of people showed up in spite of the fact that the temperature was almost 100°. The sandsculptors were the hit of the event with people lining the boardwalk to watch them work. The event will probably increase the number of sculptors to five in 2000.

Since July 4th was on a Tuesday in the year 2000, the event reverted back to one day until such time as it approaches another weekend opportunity. The event generated revenue in the low six figures and gave the Chamber a mid-five figure profit. In addition, it continues to be one of the major events at the Jersey Shore attracting hundreds of thousands of people to an event that offers a diversity of activities in a beautiful location.


    About the Author:

    This article is repreinted with the permission of Sylvia Allen, President of Allen Consulting, Inc., an internationally recognized sponsorship and event marketing firm located in Holmdel, NJ. A much sought after speaker and sponsorship "guru", Sylvia has published a book on sponsorship - HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL AT SPONSORSHIP SALES, produced a video - THE 12 STEPS TO SPONSORSHIP SUCCESS, and published The Sponsorship Newsletter, a monthly publication that is in its sixth year of pubication. Of course, she has done lectures on sponsorship all over the country - to rave reviews!

    You can reach her at 732-946-2711 to discuss booking a seminar or via e-mail at You can order her book, videotape and/or newsletter by visiting her website at or give her a call.

    Also take a look at, Sylvia's website that specializes in development of Sponsorship Support Programs and Services for Festivals, Events, Mainstreet Celebrations, Chamber of Commerce Activities, etc. Make sure you sign up for the free newsletter, Hometown News Online.

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