New Orleans looks for boost from Mardi Gras

NEW ORLEANS: As New Orleans prepares for its first Mardi Gras since the hurricane-related destruction of 2005, the city is banding together with corporate sponsors to help tout the event, attract tourists back to a ravaged city hungry for much-needed tourist dollars, and to help pay for the annual celebration.

NEW ORLEANS: As New Orleans prepares for its first Mardi Gras since the hurricane-related destruction of 2005, the city is banding together with corporate sponsors to help tout the event, attract tourists back to a ravaged city hungry for much-needed tourist dollars, and to help pay for the annual celebration.

The city is working with MediaBuys, a Los Angeles-based online media-buying club, to find corporate sponsors for the city's famed party. The city, seeking sponsors whose contributions will help pay for the production and marketing of the 2006 celebration, is banking heavily on this year's event, which happens to be its 150th celebration.

The Clorox Company, through its Glad product line, is the first major official sponsor. Besides contributing money, Glad will donate more than 100,000 of its ForceFlex trash bags, becoming the event's official trash bag.

"Our participation helps that [recovery process]," said Aileen Zerrudo, group manager of the Glad ForceFlex PR team, who added that Glad has donated 1.2 million bags to the American Red Cross for clean-up efforts.

"Our participation is an extension of what we've been doing in New Orleans all along through the Clorox Foundation," Zerrudo said, adding that the company gives away 4 million trash bags a year.

"It's important to get accurate information out and let everyone know that Mardi Gras is happening," said John Deveney, CEO of New Orleans-based Deveney Communications. "A major entity like Glad stepping up gives it credibility; it's not something that only locals want to [take place]."

The firm is the AOR of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau (NOMCVB), which is spearheading a lot of the media work around the event. Deveney said the communications effort includes local and state officials, corporate partners, local business owners, and other influential participants.

"Mardi Gras is part of our culture and heritage," Deveney said. "It will help speed and enhance our recovery because it helped build our economy."

To help reporters covering the event, the NOMCVB created Mardi Gras 101, an event giving journalists a primer on why Mardi Gras is so integral to the city and its recovery. In addition, the group will connect journalists with small-business owners and other community members. It is also producing "progress reports" for journalists: video clips that show the recovery effort and people enjoying life in the city.

"We have every indication that there will be enormous media attention and interest [in Mardi Gras' role] in the rebirth of this important area," Deveney said.

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