Citing Recession, City Pulls Plug on 'Brand Atlanta' Marketing Campaign

Blaming the economy's effect on its finances, the City of Atlanta has suspended public funding for Brand Atlanta, its three-year old marketing initiative, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin announced this week.

The city launched Brand Atlanta in 2005 in order to promote tourism to and within the Atlanta area. Since then it's spent $8 million on destination marketing, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, which reported Monday that although it will do so without permanent staff—it's now being run by staff that's on loan from the Atlanta Development Authority—Brand Atlanta will, in fact, continue operating.

"We think we've had a good start and need to continue," Franklin said at a news conference, according to the Chronicle. "We think by being creative with their partners, we might find other ways [to finance the campaign] that are not as cash dependent."

Franklin said that marketing is key for Atlanta, which relies heavily as a city on tax revenues from visitors and tourists. Still, because the city lacks funds, she indicated that the campaign must turn to the private sector for assistance.

According to Atlanta Development Authority President Peggy McCormick, chair of the Brand Atlanta board, it has already done exactly that by licensing its brand to retailers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, who plan to open two stores there featuring Atlanta-brand merchandise.

Although the campaign has had its setbacks—its original slogan, "Every day is an opening day," failed to produce results, prompting the campaign to adopt a new one, "City lights, Southern nights"—McCormick pointed out that Atlanta's share in the top 25 U.S. travel markets has increased from 5.8 percent in 2004 to 6 percent in 2006, and that the city has risen from 18th place to 12th place in a ranking of top destinations by meeting planners. In order to improve its rankings further, the campaign launched marketing last month in Birmingham, Ala.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Greenville, S.C.; and Savannah—four markets in which it hopes to appeal to budget-conscious travelers, for whom Atlanta is a drive-to destination.

"I have come to learn that branding is a long-term process," Franklin said, according to the Chronicle. "It requires years of consistent and persistent investment for the brand to take shape."