That’s next year’s headline. I’m calling it right now.
No, I’m not an oracle, and no, I didn’t ask Zoltar — but I can show you why we’re going to lose what could be— should be— a world-class Edmonton-based event.
Let’s start by looking at the recent Edmonton Sun poll, then we’ll Tarantino this debacle.
84% of people don’t care about the Indy.
Do you know why? Because we haven’t been given a reason to care! There’s no public buildup of excitement. There’s no celebrity endorsement. There’s no branding to turn the Indy into a can’t-miss experience.
I have to be honest: I’m a little embarrassed to be an Edmontonian right now. Our city was awarded an amazing opportunity. The Indy should be a world-renowned event, even more attractive than the Calgary Stampede. After all, racing vehicles at mach speeds and laying down record times is a bit more exciting—and relevant than racing chuck wagons and putting down horses. But the powers that be are completely squandering the opportunity.
How did this happen? (Please circle the best answer.)
a. Many years ago the City awarded an exclusivity deal to Northlands to market and manage all major events (whether penned or implied is irrelevant)
b. Corporate greed, laziness
d. All of the above
If you chose “d,” awesome! You get a gold star.
Exclusivity promotes laziness, complacency, short-sightedness, and greed.
Don’t believe me? How inspiring and memorable is the “Make it your Indy” campaign? Laziness brained it, and laziness approved it. What you see in this campaign is the business model of “let’s do the least amount of work possible and still get paid.”
I’m sorry, but that doesn’t work for me. Organizers should be going above and beyond to make this one of the most memorable events in Canada. Northlands isn’t working hard or getting creative because they don’t have to. They’ve got the job. They’ve got all the jobs. Why put any effort into creating vibrant and exciting events that tell the world that Edmonton is the place to be when you don’t have to?
Northlands is not a marketing or branding company.
Northlands’ business is to provide space and coordinate the logistics of events (and they do a really good job at it), but that’s it. They are not a marketing or branding company. They have failed to generate buzz and excitement around events and draw the throngs of people that should be attending because that’s not what they do!
That’s right. The wise decision makers in our city made an exclusive arrangement to market events that could draw who knows how much tourism with a company that isn’t a marketing company. While this might not be killing Edmonton, it’s definitely holding us back.
Instead the City should award the contracts for creating buzz around events and attracting large crowds to branding and marketing companies. (Earth-shattering idea, isn’t it?) Then they should hold those companies accountable. The current zero-accountability situation simply doesn’t work and is a waste of taxpayer money.
What would happen if accountability existed? For starters, the marketing of the Indy wouldn’t be left up to the sponsors, as it seems to be now. This is ridiculous and something no professional marketing and branding company would do. When sponsors are solely responsible for marketing, they aren’t getting the potential value out of the partnership. No wonder they’ve had an impossible time trying to secure a title sponsor and must find new sponsors every year. I wouldn’t renew my sponsorship either.
Make us care, and we will show up.
We are blessed with a many great cheerleaders in this city. @MasterMaq, @CaryWilliams, @ChrisLaBossiere, @KenBautista among others are all doing their best to help Edmonton evolve into a world-class city. But I’m worried that they too will one day give up, (Please don’t. You guys are awesome!).
Edmonton city council needs to start acting like a business. That means caring about its customers and creating brand experiences that we love and are proud of. Like any business, Edmonton must give the people what they want; otherwise, we will suffer the consequences of our customers’ choosing the competition. Vancouver is our competition. Calgary is our competition. Right now, they have much more to offer our customers.
I find it odd that Mr. Mandel is scoping Shanghai’s World Expo right now. It’s great that he’s taking the initiative, but I find it a little presumptuous. We can’t even manage a little Indy event properly. Does anyone seriously believe that Edmonton could land Expo 2017 if we were to lose Indy? And if we did, what impression would be left at the end of it?
Enough is enough. Quit killing opportunity. Quit killing creativity. Quit killing evolution. We need some new players—people and companies willing to do all it takes to make Edmonton a world-class city. The exclusive arrangement with Northlands has to stop if Edmonton is ever going to have a chance.
I bet the Indy will be pulled from Edmonton’s portfolio within the next year. Perhaps it will be given to a city that actually gives a damn about evolution, creativity, and inspiring its residents to live there. Vancouver—you’re well in the lead. Calgary—you are a close second. Edmonton—you are the dark horse I am rooting for.