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Sparks shortchanged again
by Harry Spencer - Tribune Columnist
Oct 09, 2009 | 836 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If you caught the picture of the new RSCVA logo in this space last week, you know that the city of Sparks was once more excluded from its rightful position of being identified as both contributor and member of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority.

The new logo, pretty generic in design, got the full treatment from this area’s largest “critics corner” when those members, who meet regularly at the Gold and Silver Inn each morning for Kaffee Klatch, caught sight of the new artwork. One said, “It looks like a nameplate for an automobile, probably an Edsel!” Another countered with, “No, I think it looks more like a shoulder patch for a prison guard!”

Other comments were too brash for publication in a family newspaper. The general consensus that particular morning was, “If the RSCVA is supposed to hire marketing geniuses who are the best at their craft, why does it consistently have to pay enormous fees for outside consultants to tell it where and how to sell this region?”

No one at the round table had an answer.

Getting back to the consistent omission of the name of “Sparks” in any of its promotional efforts (other than the fact that the Rail City is part of the overall name of the organization), the RSCVA has had an on-again off-again relationship with the idea of including “Tahoe” in its marketing arsenal.

Several years back there was heated, and often acrimonious, debate on including “The Lake in the Sky” in RSCVA advertising. The general thought in those days was that such a move would unfairly benefit only one of the hotel/casinos that supply the RSCVA with room tax money and that entity was Harrah’s, who had properties in Reno and Tahoe. Strangely enough, the only Harrah’s lake property was the one at the south end of the lake, which is in Douglas County. This meant that none of the room tax funds from Harrah’s Tahoe ever reached the coffers of the RSCVA anyway.

What promoters of the inclusion of Tahoe were trying to do was take advantage of the worldwide game of the famous lake and tout the fact that the best way to see and enjoy Tahoe was to take up lodging in Reno or Sparks. In essence, these advocates were trying their best to promote that portion of the lake that has its shores in Washoe County. After many years of controversy, it seems that today the RSCVA caved in to promoting Tahoe and that is one of the reasons for its inclusion in the new logo.

However, what that new logo fails to do is incorporate a catchy slogan to make it more memorable.

As mentioned here last week, RSCVA’s new offering, “A Little West of Center,” was effectively shot down by Reno Mayor Bob Cashell, who summed up the general feeling of localites when he asked, “What does it mean?”

As mentioned previously, most major cities in the country all have catchy and effective slogans. One of them, Las Vegas, which used to be our competitor but has managed to leave us in the dust, a few days ago decided that it is tired of messing around with new slogan and is returning to its iconic, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” If the top tourist destination in the country is willing to go retro and reincarnate something that was a huge success originally, what’s wrong with this area doing the same thing?

Reno is known worldwide as “The Biggest Little City in the World” and Sparks sobriquet that has the longest history is “The Rail City.” Recently, Lake Tahoe went for “Big Blue” in all its advertising. In this same vein of consistency it is probably well to hearken back to a time in the 1960s when a clever tourist promotion was devised by Tom Wilson, who was at that time the owner of the most prestigious advertising agency in the state of Nevada. Faced with the challenge of coming up with a promotion that would keep visitors in this area for a day or two beyond their normal stay, he created a scheme that he entitled, “The Silver Circle.” It came complete with an easy to read map that showed how a visitor could drive a complete circle, on excellent roads, of approximately 100 miles (not all in one day) and in doing so, take in the excitement of Reno and Sparks, the supernatural beauty of Pyramid Lake on a real Native American reservation, take the short trip up the Geiger Grade to historic Virginia City, travel down through equally historic Gold Hill, move on to state capital Carson City, take Highway 50 to Tahoe and around the lake to quaint Truckee, Calif. and then some 30 miles back to the Reno-Sparks area.

While the idea was extremely well received by those in the lodging business here, it was quickly shot down by the major casinos in Reno; the owners feared they might lose some slot and table play to the few gambling venues that existed in Virginia City, Carson and the lake. Too bad that happened, since it would have been a magnificent way to create a “tourism area” that would have given this region more to promote than any other spot on the globe.

Since it is still a gem of an idea and since it would be the one thing that would ensure more room nights — the lifeblood of the RSCVA — it is strange that it has not been actively pursued.

In those long-ago days when the room tax money went to the Reno/Sparks Chamber of Commerce and its spending was overseen by the PR men of the major properties who had banded together to form the chamber’s Promotion Committee, their mission statement was, “First, let’s get them here and then we can all vie for our piece of the action!”

That same philosophy might work today if the RSCVA doesn’t mind taking a “for free” suggestion and advancing it as their own idea.

Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.

Editor’s note: Harry Spencer’s column is sometimes a mix of reporting and opinion. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.
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Sparks shortchanged again by Harry Spencer - Tribune Columnist


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