By Suzette Parmley
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Major sporting events such as the World Series and Super Bowl, which have the potential to reach a worldwide audience, are a priceless marketing vehicle for a city.
So the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. is wasting no time trying to capitalize. It will hit the streets of Manhattan Wednesday to spread the word about Philadelphia - just hours before Game 1 of the World Series in the Bronx.
The agency's M.O. is relatively simple and inexpensive: Buy 500 to 750 New Yorkers a free cheesesteak at Shorty's, a popular sports bar owned and operated by a Philadelphian in Manhattan, and invite them to come to Philly and sample one here.
"We thank the Phillies," said GPTMC spokesman Jeff Guaracino. "Keep playing well. Our job is to maximize the opportunity for the city and the region."
The Philadelphia Sports Congress, a division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, is estimating a total of $20 million to $25 million in visitor spending from up to three World Series games between the Phillies and the Yankees that will be played here. New York is estimating $15.5 million per game in total economic impact, or $62 million for up to four home games, according to the New York City Economic Development Corp.
"There's no doubt that major sporting events can provide an economic boost for the city," said George Fertitta, chief executive officer of NYC & Co., the city's tourism, marketing, and partnership organization.
Along with the expected boost from Yankee fans flowing into the region's hotels and restaurants for the start of the Phillies' homestand Saturday, journalists from all over will descend on the city. For example, this year's Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., brought in more than 4,500 media representatives from 630 outlets in 28 countries.
"Getting media here changes the opinions of a lot of those who haven't been here in a while," Guaracino said. "They'll be writing about Philly."
And buzzing about Philly. After the Phillies clinched their second World Series berth in two years, NBC talk show host Jay Leno opened his monologue last Thursday by mentioning the team's win, while his bandleader, Philadelphia native Kevin Eubanks, sported a sweater and hat bearing with the Phillies insignia. Then Leno offered Eubanks a Philly cheesesteak after the show.
"There is an immediate payoff," Guaracino said. "The other payoff comes down the line: The beauty shots of Philly provide a second look at a city . . . and the amount of TV airtime that goes to showing off the city that we can't afford to buy."
The free advertising comes in particularly handy for the GPTMC, which had $4 million cut from its budget this year, as Pennsylvania, like many states, grappled with a budget deficit.
Just how much the World Series will persuade more people to visit Philly is hard to quantify, said Jerry Wind, a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
"In terms of how effective it will be, there is no way of answering that because it's an empirical question," he said. "It depends on the specific audience and their reaction in the context of the other things in the program. If they are really focusing on the game, or are they really focusing on the skyline."
Still, Joseph McGrath, president and chief executive of Visit Pittsburgh, that city's tourism and convention arm, said those spectacular skyline and waterfront shots of his city during last month's season opener of Monday Night Football featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Tennessee Titans helped to change perceptions.
He said his agency tracked 21 reasons that it loses convention bids. No. 5 is the perception that Pittsburgh is "not glamorous enough."
"So any time we have visuals that portray us nicely on national TV, it lowers that resistance to the destination based on the glamour factor," McGrath said.