Give Peace A Chance!

Marketing Truce Established In Cripple Creek Following Department Axing

~ by Rick Langenberg ~

Former peace advocate and rock ‘n roll legend John Lennon would have been proud.

Despite considerable speculation of a potential brawl and shouting match over the city of Cripple Creek’s favorite controversy, town officials, business operators and residents proved the skeptics wrong and  agreed last week on a temporary marketing truce. It was an ending that few expected, in lieu of the fallout over the recent complete axing of the city’s marketing and special events department.

Following a public workshop on July 24, the city council supported informal plans to name an interim marketing director, who has strong ties in the Pikes Peak region. But more importantly, they agreed with the concept of forming a steering committee, comprised of representatives of many non-profits and local organizations.

The end goal is to establish a marketing campaign that achieves strong community unity.

“We want to market the city as a whole,” said City Administrator Mark Campbell, in response to a volley of questions regarding Cripple Creek’s intent with its $700,000-plus annual marketing and special events program. Since the beginning of gaming, city marketing has emerged as a lightning rod issue, with more than 10 directors and head promotional officials being shown the door. Unlike other towns in the area, Cripple Creek wagers big bucks on marketing and special events. But on the downside, the program often attracts much criticism.

“We are not going to a make everyone happy. We just want to make sure we are on the same page,” commented Mayor Bruce Brown.

Residents, business owners and elected leaders appeared satisfied with the proposed direction, following last week’s workshop. According to Campbell, an informal committee will be formed with one representative for each group and organization, with all sectors of the community served. He also hopes to gain more insight from a possible temporary marketing director, who is involved in promoting the Pikes Peak Marathon.

Campbell refused to disclose the name of the expected interim director, but said the future marketing boss has big connections in the Pikes Peak region. “This will get us through the rough,” said Campbell, in describing the advantage of getting an interim marketing boss on board as soon as possible. The city administrator even noted that this person, if he is well received, could become the permanent marketing chief.

One of the goals, though, is to do more with less money and to have more small events. The city in 2019 has operated with a marketing and special events budget of $704,000, which is slightly lower than previous years. But this amount of money is much more than other small communities in the region

No Shortage of Opinions

Not surprisingly, the public workshop triggered a volley of comments regarding previous marketing pursuits. Some of the most revealing came from David Minter, owner of the Johnny Nolon’s and Colorado Grande casinos.

“What is the aim of the city’s marketing? What is the marketing supposed to do?” questioned Minter.

Minter raised concerns about previous boastful comments about record-setting events and thousands of visitors, when the city is constantly losing betting devices. Jokingly, he noted that he preferred visitors “who spend money,” in outlining his contrasting views with other business leaders. Minter, who once served with the state gaming association, has  gained a reputation for observing the bottom line when it comes to city events and various celebrations

Minter’s comments sparked a plethora of views regarding the city’s marketing scenario.

Other folks presented a variety of ideas, such as having more events in the summer, doing smaller promotional activities, having a program with more community involvement, devising a more unified message and strategy.  “We are shooting in the dark,” blasted one non-gaming business owner.

Michael Lindsey, a fairly new resident, practically received a standing ovation when he presented the idea of forming a steering committee to help craft a better strategic program. “We want this to be successful,” said Lindsey.

This idea was strongly endorsed by the council, who didn’t hesitate in chiming into the discussion. And for a change, the council was quite united on the direction it wanted to take in playing its marketing cards.

Councilwoman Meghan Rozell, who opposed the recent firing of former marketing director Steve Kitzman, and his top assistant, cited the importance of establishing realistic expectations for its marketing effort. She loved the idea of a steering committee, and believes the city should bring in a facilitator to help achieve good results. This idea was supported by other council members, even those who normally disagree with Rozell on key issues.

But again, the idea of what the city is trying to achieve with its marketing was echoed across the council table. Councilman Tom Litherland questioned past efforts, considering the amount of money invested into their program.

“The city is like a business,” said Litherland. “We have shareholders (who are the residents).”

As a result, the councilman stated that the city needs to scrutinize how it is spending these dollars. “Is the marketing effective?  We have to come up with a more effective campaign.”

In some ways, Litherland’s views mirrored those of many of the workshop attendees. Other than Minter, the meeting surprisingly was attended by few representatives of the gaming community.

In a later interview, Campbell said the city hopes to have a temporary marketing director on board by mid-August and to start forming a steering committee. He stated that the initial discussions would be more informal.

The city administrator cited community engagement and increasing the volunteer base as a crucial aspect of their new marketing push. “We want to get a unified message. We are very unique,” concluded the city administrator.