Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Marketing answers start to emerge

Sun Valley Marketing Board suggests hiring Eleven Inc. to plan area promotions

Express Staff Writer

The Sun Valley Marketing Board lines the front row at the Ketchum City Councilís Monday meeting. In the front row, from right, are Scott USA bicycle division Manager Scott Montgomery, Sun Valley Resort General Manager Tim Silva, professional skier and Eddie Bauer marketing consultant Zach Crist, and Jane Rizzo, who spent more than 20 years in senior marketing roles. The boardís fifth member, investment banker Jake Peters, stands next to the lectern. Photo by David N. Seelig

Rarely do Sun Valley Resort General Manager Tim Silva, Blaine County commissioners, neighboring government leaders and the valley's largest business leaders show for a city's public meeting.

Monday's Ketchum City Council meeting was an exception. Those people and dozens more gathered for one reason: to hear the Sun Valley Marketing Board give its first status report.

Uncertainty has spread since the board's June conception over what marketing will be done and when. Board President Jake Peters provided the beginning of answers in his Monday presentation, revealing that the volunteer board has chosen San Francisco-based marketing firm Eleven Inc. to develop the board's marketing plan and eventually implement much of it.

Eleven Inc. may sound familiar. Sun Valley Resort switched to the firm four months ago to plan its marketing efforts. Peters said the marketing board wants to also work with Eleven because it would be best to collaborate with Sun Valley Resort, the area's only other marketer. Peters emphasized that the board and resort's marketing efforts would be separate but along parallel tracks.

Peters said that would benefit the marketing board at the onset because Eleven has already done the research—for Sun Valley Resort—to understand the area's situation. Eleven's first step will be to develop the board's marketing plan. Peters said that would take 45 days after Eleven receives its $24,000 payment. But the board doesn't have the money. To hire Eleven, the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley need to agree to write their first checks.

Ketchum's city leaders have all voiced their support and will return to the issue at the next City Council meeting on Nov. 1, possibly writing half the check then.

Peters will be repeating his presentation to the Sun Valley City Council on Thursday at 4 p.m. That's the group that needs to be swayed. Whereas Ketchum's council is united in full support, Sun Valley's has become divided down the middle with two councilors—previously outspoken marketing board supporters—now strongly opposing funding it.

This change in opinion came after the marketing board merged with the Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce in mid-September, forming the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance, something Sun Valley Councilmen Nils Ribi and Bob Youngman have since said they don't support, wanting the two groups as entirely separate entities. At the time, the two also said they object to the board's plan to stall hiring of a full-time CEO, and argued that the marketing board's members are unqualified.

Peters said he met with one of those opponents and came up with an alternative structure that was acceptable. Under that alternative, the marketing board would be a separate legal entity and contract for service with the chamber to operate the visitor center and plan events.

Ketchum council members Curtis Kemp and Nina Jonas said the two organizations should remain as the alliance and not change for a third time. The council unanimously supported hiring Eleven.

Sun Valley City Councilman Dewayne Briscoe reminded Peters that the challenge is still to come in Sun Valley.

"It's divided, but hopefully compromise can be conceived," he said, advising Peters to be less "confrontational" by blaming "politicians" for stalling the process.

Trevon Milliard:

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