Verdin, a San Luis Obispo-based marketing firm, was awarded a contract not to exceed $75,000 from Atascadero’s tourism business improvement district to help attract visitors to town.
The tourism district was established in 2013 and allows Atascadero’s lodging businesses to charge a 2 percent levy on hotel bills and direct that money toward marketing.
The job was originally recommended to go to the city’s marketing contractor, Mental Marketing of Templeton, per a previous suggestion by the TBID’s board of directors. However, the City Council tabled its approval of the contract in January until it could meet with the tourism board in a joint meeting to discuss each entity’s roles in Atascadero’s overall tourism efforts.
At the January meeting, Mental Marketing’s work for the city was criticized, primarily by Atascadero business owner David Wilson, who submitted a bid for the TBID job but was not chosen.
The joint meeting later reinforced a concept where the city will help promote the local community while its hoteliers will work to book out-of-town guests. The City Council also wants to be the entity that decides what brand will be used in the city’s and TBID’s marketing campaigns. The city is currently branded as “The Heart of the Central Coast,” and the City Council will be addressing the brand at a city marketing workshop now scheduled for May.
After the joint meeting, the TBID voted to hire Verdin for its marketing campaigns, which the City Council approved at its March 10 meeting, with Mayor Tom O’Malley abstaining to avoid a conflict of interest because he’s the proprietor of the Portola Inn.
Mental Marketing’s agreement with the city, which has cost about $250,000 from the general fund since fiscal year 2012, is up in June and the firm is winding down the city’s campaigns.
Verdin will focus on using public relations, messaging, advertising and social media to increase the number of guests’ overnight stays in Atascadero, according to the firm.