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Hillsborough tourism bureau unveils new name

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Published:   |   Updated: May 31, 2013 at 06:47 AM
TAMPA -

Hillsborough County visitors industry officials today revealed a new brand they hope will set Tampa apart from competitors yet retain collaborative efforts with their Pinellas counterparts: “Unlock Tampa Bay…Treasure Awaits.”

And Tampa Bay & Company is changing the title it has had since 2007 to “Visit Tampa Bay.

“We aren't using palm trees and sun for a brand like everyone else in Florida, we want to present an attitude,” said Santiago Corrada, who became president and chief executive officer of Hillsborough County's visitors bureau last month.

Corrada, who lived in Miami before coming to Tampa 10 years ago, is regarded for his energy and innovative management approaches.

So it's no surprise he was willing to take a bold approach to trying to improve Tampa's identity in the visitors' industry, which can be more difficult than statewide competitors that enjoy larger budgets.

Hillsborough's destination has an annual budget of about $10.7 million, compared with $19.1 million for Pinellas, $22.7 million for Fort Myers/Sanibel and $50.1 million for Orlando.

Both the new brand and the visitors bureau's title reflect “Tampa Bay” rather than Tampa or Hillsborough County, the source of the bureau's funding through bed taxes along with membership fees the bureau collects.

That might cause some confusion, but it appears to have worked out with clients, officials said.

“Everyone knows Pinellas has the beaches and Tampa has the Convention Center,” Corrada said. “What we'd like to do is to get people to spend an extra day or two in Tampa with what we offer, which could really bolster hoteliers' business and our bed tax.”

His Pinellas counterparts have been made aware of the branding project.

“We've worked to promote the Tampa Bay region together with Tampa Bay & Company for a long time so (the name) is not an issue, said David Downing, Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater's assistant director.

“Tampa and St. Pete/Clearwater are very different – but complementary destinations , so there's no worry that consumers will confuse the two once they are here.”

Tampa has searched for a defining image to capture the attention of potential visitors for years, but mostly has fallen short.

It inherited the label “America's Next Great City” from the 1988 best-seller, “Megatrends,” but that set up 25 years of comedic fodder as Tampa's performance failed to match the exaggerated promise.

It chose the name Tampa Bay & Company to help it launch its business recruiting efforts, although the label neither identified the bureau's role nor anything distinctive about the area.

Hillsborough's re-branding effort began with former bureau director Kelly Miller, who left the Tampa job after a year's tenure in late October, and Doug McClain, Visit Tampa Bay's vice president of marketing & communications who's now been with the agency for a year.

Corrada, who got a head start from a short stint heading the Tampa Convention Center, worked with McClain and Tampa-based advertising, branding and production company Spark under a $147,000 consultant's contract, to research and create a distinctive profile.

It began with some sobering surveys of potential leisure travelers and of meeting – planners who choose destinations for conferences and conventions. Those highlighted major challenges regarding the city's image – though not its assets – contrary to customary boasts of Tampa boosters.

Surveys found Tampa ranked one step from the bottom in rankings of leisure travelers perceptions for being “hip,” “exciting,” “adventurous,” and known for “art,” “history” and “culture.”

The highest ranking was second from the top on being “affordable,” and third on being 'relaxing.”

Results from meeting planner surveys were somewhat better, but showed Tampa has an image issue.

On 11 categories that meeting planners were asked to rate, seven fell into the lower half of appraisals, with only “water” earning a top two ranking.

So the quest for a new brand aimed to highlight the diversity of Tampa attractions while seeking to promote an active dynamic – hence the brand “Unlock Tampa Bay…Treasure Awaits.”

“We needed to put everything together in a package,” McClain said. “We were ranked low on “authenticity,” but how could that be with the art, culture and history that's available here? We just weren't packaging our assets as well as we could.”

Bay Blue, Ybor Gold and Gaspars Hull Black were selected s the color elements for the Tampa Bay brand, chosen to stand out from dominant colors other Florida visitors bureaus use.

The lock and keyhole in Tampa's branding design sets it apart from major convention business competitors – Louisville, Ky., Charlotte, N.C., Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, depicts an identifiable icon that officials hope will be associated, while playing off the city's pirate culture.

The “Visit” prefix in the convention and visitors bureau world has been ongoing for several years now in the United States and around the world, so Hillsborough's choice to rename its visitors bureau makes sense, Pinellas County's Downing said.

“Many Florida destination marketing organizations, including the state's “Visit Florida” now go by “Visit,” and the days of the old “convention and visitors bureau” titles are gone, he said.


tjackovics@tampatrib.com

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