Mardi Gras Sponsorship = FAILURE

I wrote this week about the city’s efforts to raise money for Mardi Gras by asking locals and visitors alike to donate money via text message. Really no response on my thoughts other than by Chick Ciccarelli who works for MediaBuys LLC, the company that the City of New Orleans has worked with for the last 18 months to find a sponsor or sponsors for Mardi Gras. Here is his response:

“You may really have gone off the deep end. The Paypal Text To Give program is not a scam. It is the “Support” portion of the Mardi Gras Sponsorship and Support program. Our company’s job is to help offset costs of Mardi Gras, whether it be from sponsors or individuals.

The program is designed not only to help offset Mardi Gras costs underserved by corporate sponsorship involvement, pay for city infrastructure repairs underserved by slow moving government funding but also to tap into public support due to lack of help from Katrina Relief (501c3) organizations.

While you are making fun of helping New Orleans, what you should be doing is donating to the cause. You can do so by visiting http://www.cityofno.com/portal.aspx?tabid=86.”

In my initial post, I did not even mention MediaBuys. I wrote about the effort last Mardi Gras and didn’t feel the need to point out what everyone living here already knows. The attempt to sell sponsorships for Mardi Gras by MediaBuys LLC has been a failure.

At first I thought I would just blow off Chick’s comments. Free country, welcome to post anything he wants to really. But as I was in the shower, preparing for a beautiful parade day, I couldn’t get what Chick wrote out of my head and felt the need to respond.

The radio station (AM 690 WIST) has City Council Vice President Arnie Fielkow on at least once a month to discuss the state of the city. Mr. Fielkow was vice-president of the New Orleans Saints before being fired by Tom Benson for pushing the team to play games in the state of Louisiana last season. He was involved in corporate style fund-raising/sponsorships for many years with the Saints. The last time we had him on, Mr. Fielkow stated matter of fact that MediaBuys LLC has failed in their efforts to sell Mardi Gras. This isn’t to say that MediaBuys did not try hard, nor does it mean they are not a good company. It just means they failed. None of us, individual or company, succeeds 100 % of the time. But after 18 months of having the ability to find sponsors, yet not finding any with a large cash donation, it’s time to go in another direction.

Now I was unaware that the Mardi Gras sponsorships were intended to “pay for city infrastructure repairs underserved by slow moving government funding but also to tap into public support due to lack of help from Katrina Relief (501c3) organizations”. That is a new one from my vantage point. The selling of Mardi Gras sponsorships, the public was told anyway, was to pay for the event itself. Period. No one in city government has EVER said publicly that this was to help pay for other issues.

Blaming Katrina Relief organizations for not stepping up to the plate? You’re kidding hopefully. If not for the efforts of thousands of everyday Joe’s and Jane’s, we would have 100,000 un-gutted homes instead of 12,000. Without Habitat for Humanity shipping houses down here faster than Ray Nagin can shave his bald dome, no one would be back or even have a chance at coming back. Even with all the help from these organizations, we still have firehouses based in trailers, people living in tents, a homeless population out of control and a city that mentally is hanging on by a thread. I guess Chick and the city think they should give up the efforts they are making and just give Ray a big blank check.

Chick thinks I should stop making fun of the text message-begging plan and do my part by donating. Hmmm. Chick I live in Orleans Parish. I pay taxes on everything I buy in Orleans parish. I try not to buy anything outside the parish so I can help in my own little way. Even though it cost more in Orleans Parish and the taxes are higher. I drive through the destruction (yes, there is still destruction) twice a day. Everyday. I see it, breath it, live it 365, 24, 7. I pay the parking tickets that arrive on the car at 10:30 at night, when the meter maids are suppose to have been in bed. I walk through my city’s streets with one eye ahead and one behind to make sure I’m not shot, mugged, beaten and robbed or a combination of all three.

I am Vice-President of the corporation that owns the radio station I oversee on a daily basis. We are investing millions of dollars in rebuilding the radio station in New Orleans. We have not and will not attempt to get grants or SBA loans because we feel that there are other businesses that need those things more than we do. Is that smart? Maybe not. Replacement costs are double what they would have been before Katrina. But we decided to tighten the belt and make it happen. We talk about recovery 9 hours a day, Monday through Friday. Do you have any idea how difficult that is Chick? Do you have any idea how much people depend on us to get them information that can inform, enlighten and entertain them to get through another day?

That my friend is what I’m doing to help MY city recover. Your effort has been commendable. But the bottom line is that MediaBuys attempts to sell Mardi Gras have been a failure. Thank you for the attempt, but it’s time to find a company that can really get it done instead of turning our city in a panhandler.

9 Comments so far

  1. Ann (unregistered) on February 18th, 2007 @ 3:43 pm

    Bravo, Dan. I think grassroots efforts to get butts in the seats of restaurants, books in schools, and affordable/habitable housing far exceed that offered by “sponsorships” of Mardi Gras. I came last year and dropped more cash than I really should have. I spent it in small shops, restaurants etc, that needed an immediate cash flow. Tourists don’t come to help “the City” as much as they come to help the people of the city. The disgust the citizens of NOLA have with the decisions, or lack thereof, of the city government is echoed by the public at large. I don’t want to give $$$ to the City of New Orleans. I want to give money to Craig and all the small business people like him who are jousting with the windmills of bureaucracy built by the City. I think that Media Buys, and the City, completely missed the mark of the entire concept of “branding” Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras does not belong to the City, it belongs to the people of the city who build the floats, make the costumes and care enough to entertain their neighbors and friends in lavish style one magical time every year.

    Anyway, I’ll get off the soap box – there’s really only room for one and you do a much better job than me. :-)


  2. Chick Ciccarelli (unregistered) on February 18th, 2007 @ 3:44 pm

    Dan, I’m glad that my response gave you a purpose for thinking things through.

    No one said that you weren’t doing your part in helping with New Orleans recovery.

    I responded because you were making fun of a program that is an effort to try and help. Whether you like the process or the results or not, all efforts to help New Orleans should be commended, whether from within your community or not.

    Councilman Fielkow was provided very detailed report of our efforts at his request. He and I have talked and we’ve never disagreed with his wanting to bring someone else on board for future efforts. Since the program cost me over $190,000 out of my pocket to implement, I don’t know that it would be financially feasable for us to continue down that path again anyway. However, we were more than pleased to give up our time and money on behalf of the City and make the attempt. (By the way, we would have loved to had Councilman Fielkow give us some of his many leads, but I don’t recall that as part of our discussions).

    To say the 2007 New Orleans Mardi Gras Sponsorship and Support program has failed because we did not sign a Presenting Sponsor would be a gross injustice to the effort made by our staff, business associates, producers, local residents, local businesses, Krewes and the Mayor’s administration-all whom worked tirelessly to make a success of this program. It would also not be fair to those companies that did contribute.

    The fact remains that we did actually sign sponsors, just not Presenting sponsors for a variety of corporate reasoning, nor did we achieve the ultimate goal of $5.3 million. And, we did it at no expense to the City.

    Yes, you are correct about the charter of our contract with the City which is to offset costs of Mardi Gras. And that’s exactly what our program was designed to do. However, the Paypal program (which is part of the “support” portion of the program) goes on far after Mardi Gras and will continue for a year period, which would allow for infrastructure repairs if the Mardi Gras goal is achieved.

    No one said Katrina Relief organizations didn’t step up to the plate to help individuals or groups. But if you look into each Katrina Relief organization’s charter, you’ll find that most do not allow money to be given directly to the City’s infrastructure needs and certainly not Mardi Gras expenses. We know, because we were turned down by many of those 501c3’s and were told first hand what they are allowed to do and not do. But advertising when some of these organizations say that they are helping New Orleans as a City is misleading. It gives people the impession that money being donated is going directly to New Orleans. Here’s a case in point: many corporations told us that the reason they didn’t need to sponsor was because they aleady gave to the City through a Katrina Relief organization. One company said it gave $68 million. Quite a surprize to City officials, since the City never realized a dime of it.

    The idea here Dan is to try and help out. If you feel you’re doing enough, then step aside and let others help, but knocking the program because you think it’s “begging” is just plain silliness. I suppose those Katrina Relief organizations you’re so fond of are in a different category of “begging”.

    I’m curious if your media conglomerate was one of those that turned us down on free PSAs for the PayPal program.

    Bottom line is this Dan, we did what we could for the City, far more than you think or I wish to discuss on your blog and our company has nothing to be ashamed of. You might be better served utilizing your sarcasm on those who are doing nothing.

    Wishing you well.


  3. bob (unregistered) on February 18th, 2007 @ 4:50 pm

    “It would also not be fair to those companies that did contribute.”

    Who are they, exactly? Are there natioanl companies involved? If so, I’d like to support them for supporting New Orleans. The list I found on your has The T-P, City of N.O., Cox, Entercom, a few Krewes, the state of Louisiana, Louisiana State Museum, ClearChannel some Mardi Gras paraphenalia places and hotels. CBS Outdoor and bigscreenmedia out of Toronto (which looks like it has ties to CBS) are the only non-local businesses listed. Is there another list?


  4. Jack Ware (unregistered) on February 18th, 2007 @ 5:36 pm

    Seems to me this failure isn’t really all that significant. It is yet another in a long list of people and organizations with the best intentions who are unable to present significant results.

    I’m sure the mayor has the best intentions to bring everyone back, but they aren’t back. I’m sure Riley really wants crime to go away but it hasn’t. I’m sure on some level the insurance companies want to do right by people but they haven’t. I’m sure the Governor didn’t want the Road Home Program to be a joke but it is. And I’m sure you and your company really wanted to raise a couple of million dollars for Mardi Gras, but you didn’t, and I’m only guessing here, but I’m going to say that you won’t.

    So I guess if nothing else you’re in good company. But don’t sweat it. I think ultimately it’s more about everyone here being just a little tired of hearing “…but we tried.” And at any rate, thanks for the trash bags.


  5. Chick Ciccarelli (unregistered) on February 18th, 2007 @ 5:56 pm

    Thanks Jack. Finally someone who sees a realistic perspective. Trust me, we would have liked nothing better than to deliver better results.


  6. Jack Ware (unregistered) on February 18th, 2007 @ 9:29 pm

    Well, Chick, I can see where you and Dan both have a good point in there. I have a problem with all these failures just like everyone else. But I find more and more that my problem is that we (the collective ‘we’) don’t seem to be acknowledging the failures in an honest, brutal way. Not to place blame but to define the failure and quickly find something that’ll have a chance in working better. These failures don’t seem to be functioning as feedback to get closer to the goal but more like fodder which only distracts us from the goal.

    Fundamentally, I disagree with trying to apply branding to Mardi Gras. Furthermore, if that ever was possible, it’s less possible now considering the city’s image. But all that aside, since it isn’t my decision, if it’s going to be done then it should be done successfully and tactfully. And with that in mind, I have to agree with Dan because the text messaging/Paypal thing doesn’t meet either requirement in my mind. It just has a sort of half-hearted desperation feel to it.

    If this is going to be attempted in coming years, I only hope that whoever is making the game plan keeps in mind the things that have been attempted and didn’t work. On the bright side, this kind of honest conversation about it is what we need more of on a lot of subjects even if its at the expense of a few feelings. And it doesn’t have to be personal, in fact it should be objective. But that’s a very hard thing to do when you’re emotionally invested in something.


  7. Chick Ciccarelli (unregistered) on February 19th, 2007 @ 7:37 am

    Thanks for your comments Jack.

    Many things were learned from the attempt to find sponsorships for Mardi Gras and all that was gained will be passed on to the next group to help them accomplish the goals. Their first step will be in gaining support from the community, who in this case and at this point in time are very passionate about many areas surrounding this and other issues.

    Philanthropic concerns opened many conversations, but were soon closed as they went up the corporate ladder and were scrutinized by return on investment issues. So emotion, unfortunately does not often play a big role in getting deals signed.

    The program will work in time, but expectations need to be realistic. If I didn’t think this was still a worthwhile program or if I didn’t think it was worth open discussions, I wouldn’t be here having conversations with your group.

    Hopefully, you’ll eventially find that the PayPal program also has its place in helping achieve the city’s goals. Good people have good intentions behind this program and since its already in effect, I hope that a positive majority will get behind it, rather than seeing it negatively.

    I thank all of you for your time and appreciate your feedback.


  8. rickngentilly (unregistered) on February 19th, 2007 @ 9:40 pm

    good lord. when you can get jack ware to contribute to a dialoge with out being a smart ass you have mined gold.

    he is actually one smart mother fu%$er when he’s not pissing people off.

    (sorry jack about your street cred. your also a smart m.f. when you are pissing people off.)

    you sir have my vote for new orleanian of the year.

    please keep up the good work.

    no bullshit. this is more real than all the ass kissing in the t.p

    and all the hand wringing in the wapo and the old gray lady.

    finally news you can use.

    bless you and happy carnival.


  9. Jack Ware (unregistered) on February 20th, 2007 @ 7:28 pm

    New Orleanian of The Year…..heh heh.

    What about the mayor? I think he’s already declared himself that.

    Thanks for the kind words and thanks for reading.



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