Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bring the World to Delaware and the World will come to us

A few years ago Gov. Ruth Ann Minner took some heat for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for the slogan “It's good to be First” (Zzzzzzzz). Today, Aisle Say is offering a new one, gratis: “Bring the world to Delaware and the world will come to us.”

I do come up with some strange thoughts from time to time (email my two ex-wives for details), but I've got one that could help all Delaware visitors bureaus realize the dream of putting our state on the map as a world-class destination. Here's the story...

Years ago, my kids and I loved to watch the World's Strongest Man on television. We loved the competition, the larger-than-life contestants, the bizarre events created to test strength and endurance, and the backdrop of international venues, like Malta, Malaysia, Victoria Falls.

I became so enamored of one Scandinavian behemoth, Magnus Magnuson, that I threatened Grant and Grace that if he won, I would change my name to Magnus Magnuson Firestone. They looked at one another, rolled their eyes and set upon cheering vociferously for the guy from Ireland.

Just for grins, I Googled the title recently to get information about the show's management, and spoke to Barry Frank of IMG Media, owner of the brand. He said it was fortuitous that I called: the ten-day event is filmed in September each year, and plans are still adrift about the upcoming season.

In 2008, the show took place in West Virginia, and Gov. Joe Manchin was so delighted with the coverage that he has signed a deal for the event to return in 2012. Frank gave me the governor's cell number for a reference, I kid you not.

The season's 10 half-hour shows and one hour-long final show are broadcast to 70 countries, reaching 80 million viewers, with an estimated media value of $10 million. The company guarantees a minimum of 45 minutes of local exposure. This means face time for Jack Markell and destination venues that best represent the host venue. Frank even suggested calling in our political howitzer, VP Biden, for the opening ceremonies.

The beach, of course, is a no brainer for contests as a staging venue. Others? How about challengers carrying impossibly heavy weights through the garden labyrinth at Nemours with the mansion as a backdrop. Or, man-power moving a cargo plane at Dover's air base. Try hauling NASCAR autos around the Monster Mile, or carrying “Atlas stones” up the steps at Rodney Square.

The host city's cost is $300,000 plus a ton of gratis hotel rooms, transportation, security and board for contestants and crew.

But if this does not seem like normal thinking, consider that these are not normal times. This is a charismatic event, an internationally-recognized show with great traction, and with this one bold stroke, our tourist destinations would be internationally known.

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