Lt. Gov. Dardenne wants tourism budget reinstated

January 27 2011 | Latest News
Re-branding the state is first on the list...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

By Ed Anderson

BATON ROUGE -- Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne unveiled the state's new "Pick your Passion" marketing campaign and logo Wednesday as a way to rebrand the state's tourism image after it took a hit from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

"The human gumbo that makes up Louisiana represents the cultural diversity that sets us apart from any state in America," Dardenne told an estimated 400 tourism industry officials at the state's annual Tourism and Travel Summit. "Not only is there plenty to see and do, but what you will find in Louisiana is unique and authentic. Ours is one of those rare places that evokes a passionate response."

The logo features the word "Louisiana" spelled out in purple, with the two I's replaced by exclamation points to denote excitement, Dardenne said. The phrase "Pick your Passion" is emblazoned in red script under the Louisiana logo.

He said the bright colors are used because they are generally regarded as strong, passionate colors. "It is not so subtle," he said. "It (the logo) evokes passion and feeling and excitement."

Dardenne said the new marketing theme will be featured in the state's $4.3 million spring advertising campaign -- if lawmakers approve financing. He said he came up with the slogan and asked an advertising consultant to design the logo.

The lieutenant governor, who serves as the secretary of the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, said that if lawmakers on the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget do not authorize some budget changes in his office to free more than $3 million, the state's spring ad campaign will be at $1 million or less.

Dardenne said that he wants to use $1.3 million that had been earmarked for help in marketing the Sugar Bowl and a $2 million surplus in another area of his agency to augment the $900,000 to $1 million now set aside for tourism advertising.

He said Sugar Bowl officials have offered to give back the $1.3 million this fiscal year and in the one starting July 1 because it has a surplus.

"If they (lawmakers) fail to do so, we will be with a little less than $1 million to launch the most important ad campaign in recent years," Dardenne said of the post-oil spill efforts. A recent study for the department shows that the state is projected to lose about $295 million in tourist dollars through 2013 as a result of the negative perceptions caused by the oil spill.

The image of "an oily pelican is ... burned in the minds" of the public, Dardenne said. The ad campaign, he said, should replace that image with one of "two pelicans sunning on a clean beach."

Dardenne said although BP has pledged to come up with $30 million to help boost tourism advertising and marketing, his office will get $6.5 million of that, and the rest will be turned over to parishes and regions to promote their own areas.

None of BP's $30 million has been received yet, he said.

Dardenne said that the $6.5 million is one-time money and will be used to augment the state's ad budget.

Instead of just patching together an advertising budget, Dardenne said a better solution would be to ask the Legislature to allow him to keep the revenues generated by a special .03 percent tourism sales tax that generates about $20 million a year. The money from the tax goes to finance the tourism office's marketing and advertising budget.

He said $3 million to $5 million of that budget now goes to help promote and market the Essence Festival, the Sugar Bowl and the Independence Bowl in Shreveport. Dardenne said that years ago, those events were financed out of the state general budget. In the last few years, the Legislature has required the state tourism office to finance promoting them.

"I hope to come to the Legislature -- with your help -- to redirect certain parts of the budget" back to tourism advertising, he told the group.

"That will be a tough task in light of budget shortfalls that the Legislature will have to grapple with," Dardenne said. "I remain hopeful the office will be afforded that flexibility. ... I want to start the discussion (at the April session).

"I hope to be able to convince policymakers that redirecting a significant portion of the dedicated sales tax revenue to line-item events interferes with our ability to develop a meaningful overall campaign. I hope to return to prior practices of using state general funds for these purposes and using our dedicated revenue for advertising and marketing the state more aggressively.

"It is really our money."