Councillors voted to endorse a unified marketing campaign to support the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships — mere minutes after narrowly voting down almost the exact same plan.
During their regular Tuesday (Jan. 15) meeting, councillors voted 8-7 against a proposal to spend an additional $100,000 on the Welcoming the World to London promotional campaign. The campaign would be focused around a unified marketing campaign featuring the slogan Canada’s London and an accompanying logo featuring a maple leaf in place of the second letter “o” in the city name.
After more than 30 minutes of discussion, Councillors Bill Armstrong, Stephen Orser, Nancy Branscombe, Matt Brown, Dale Henderson, Paul Van Meerbergen, Denise Brown and Harold Usher ultimately voted against the plan. However, council soon found another way to ultimately spend that $100,000 and support the unified campaign.
After several councillors expressed support for the general idea of the campaign, they voted 11-4 to support the initiative.
That support, however, only came after agreeing the Canada’s London logo would be redesigned to remove the iconic maple leaf from the word “London” and incorporated it into the logo in some other way. With the agreed to changes, only Branscombe, Matt Brown, Van Meerbergen and Denise Brown maintained their opposition to the campaign.
Prior to those two discussions — along with an ironically unanimous vote in support of doing whatever council can to “assist wherever possible” the successful hosting of the event — Elaine Gamble, the city’s director of corporate communications, laid out the details of the Canada’s’ London marketing plan. In particular, Gamble spoke to how a number of community partners and professional marketing people came together to say the city needed a unified marketing campaign to take advantage of the “once in a lifetime” opportunity that hosting the championships provides.
Ward 13 Councillor Judy Bryant enthusiastically put the campaign on the council floor, saying the plan gives “the whole community of London the opportunity to get involved in something global.”
The $100,000 funding request — which was unanimously supported by the Corporate Services Committee earlier this month — would to be drawn from the city’s budget contingency reserve. In addition, Gamble explained how an additional $100,000 is being raised through various community partners.
Once Bryant put the motion on the floor, the tone of discussion changed dramatically and old opponents of the skating championships — who have long lamented spending additional money of the event — took the opportunity to have their say once again.
Ward 11 Councillor Denise Brown, who has spoken against many of the additional spending projects London has already invested into the championships, said she couldn’t support the campaign in light of the city’s difficult financial position. Brown said the $100,000 could better be spent on local recreation services or other homeless initiatives.
“We have already spent $4 million on this event. That is a lot of money, and now we are being asked to spend more,” Brown said. “I can’t support it whatsoever. Just because we have it doesn’t mean we have to go spend it.”
Brown, along with councillors Stephen Orser, Nancy Branscombe and Harold Usher, would go on to have issues aside from the financial, each pointing to various concerns around the proposed Canada’s London logo. Orser and Branscombe both discussed concerns with “logo confusion” while Usher said the stylized letter involved in the logo would make it nearly impossible for the “multicultural and ethnic people right here in London” to read.
In maintaining her long opposition to further spending on the championships Branscombe questioned what the ultimate objective of the Welcoming the World to London campaign would be.
“Is this a marketing plan for this event? And if it is, I think the money is going to be wasted. If it is a rebranding exercise, then I am quite distressed about how this fell out of the sky,” Branscombe said. “I don’t see there will be any direct benefit to the City of London from a marketing campaign around an event we are already hosting.”
Having long been the chief spokesperson of budgetary restraint, Mayor Joe Fontana has also been steadfast in calling for the city to take any and all steps to support the championships. That support continued on Tuesday.
In particular, Fontana called out several members of council, suggesting they should “do their homework” around what the true benefits of hosting “the single biggest event this city will ever see.”
And perhaps more significantly, Fontana said, he continues to be frustrated by those who aren’t willing to embrace the benefits that he and others predict will come from London hosting the world March 10-17.
“I am getting a little tired since the announcement we were going to get the World Figure Skating Championship, it has been a real puzzlement to me why we can’t celebrate what is going to happen to this city,” Fontana said. “There will be some incredible benefits that will accrue to the city because we are prepared to invest in ourselves, market ourselves for the future.”
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