Chamber and partners awarded five COVID-relief marketing grants

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Chamber and partners awarded five COVID-relief marketing grants

Mon, 10/26/2020 - 12:52pm -- tim


Corey Potter of Mondo Mediaworks flying a drone over Bennington shops as part of a video series funded by the Restart Vermont Regional Marketing and Stimulus Grant Program. Photo credit: Southwestern Vermont Chamber.

Vermont Business Magazine The Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce and partnering organizations were awarded five different COVID-relief marketing grants by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) recently.

The Restart Vermont Regional Marketing and Stimulus Grant Program through ACCD provided grants to organizations for efforts and activities related to economic recovery, consumer stimulus, marketing, or tourism related projects to support businesses that have suffered economic harm due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The grants are intended to enable local, regional, or statewide organizations to implement campaigns and initiatives that will increase consumer spending, support local businesses, and advance community recovery efforts.

Eligible applicants included downtown organizations, chambers of commerce, regional development corporations, municipal economic development/community development departments and committees, local community/economic development organizations, statewide business organizations, or other similar groups.

The Southwestern Chamber of Commerce and supporting organizations submitted five different applications focused on marketing the region and providing consumer stimulus programs:  

“The Shires of Vermont Travel Video Suite” submitted by the Chamber and Mondo Mediaworks out of Brattleboro, Vermont is a collection of videos that will be taken of various scenes throughout Southwestern Vermont. These scenes will be put together into various thematic commercials focused on recreation, lodging, dining, retail and culture/attractions.  The chamber and Mondo Mediaworks will then deploy those various commercials across social media platforms owned by the chamber including The Shires of Vermont brands.  

“We hope to boost the videos with additional funds to enhance the reach and penetration.  We’re looking to create iconic videos for our region of Vermont, introducing The Shires of Vermont to our neighboring states in a sleek, modern, dynamic way,” adds Matt Harrington, Executive Director of the Southestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce.

Merck Forest and Farmland, in partnership with the Southwestern Vermont Chamber, submitted a grant proposal on behalf of the Shires Outdoor Adventure Recreation (SOAR) group under the Chamber of Commerce. 

The grant funds will be used to create and implement a flexible marketing and communication plan that highlights the various recreational assets and knowledge of the area to residents and visitors.  The project will lean on six key marketing vehicles including new vibrant recreational photography, dynamic and modern videography, narrative-based writing, targeted social media, print media and finally, other collateral pieces.

By linking assets throughout The Shires of Southwestern Vermont and branding it as a recreational destination rather than a milestone on the way to somewhere else, the campaign will assist in introducing recreational opportunities to travelers.

"The Shires of Southwestern Vermont are filled with superlative recreational experiences unlike other places in the world or even Northern Vermont. This campaign will help pull those superlative experiences into an effort to attract more people to try out recreation in Southern Vermont," said Rob Terry, Executive Director of Merck Forest and Farmland about the campaign.

The Shires of Vermont Destination Marketing Organization, an organization within the Chamber of Commerce, submitted a grant application focused on implementing a loyalty program across Bennington County covering five business sectors: retail, restaurants, lodging, attractions and food producers. The program will be a mobile phone app and the promotion will run for five weeks with $1,000 of rewards and incentives given away each week and built into the app.

The theme of the program will be to “Explore The Shires of Vermont Safely with Friends & Family.” Businesses can sign up at no cost and travelers can download the app to participate.

With a 1.7 million engaged audience reach, New England Newspapers Inc. (NENI), in partnership with the Chamber, submitted a grant that will work to design a digital marketplace for the holiday season for many small businesses and consumers.

“The Shires of Southwestern Vermont Digital Holiday Marketplace,” will aim to bolster consumer spending during the 2020 holiday season. The marketplace will provide more than a $3,000 worth of digital presence, at no cost, to the first 75 approved businesses for their first 30-days on the platform. 

The digital solution includes a digitized ad, resting on high-traffic NENI URL(s) and delivering more than 500K impressions over the course of the promotion. 

Each of the participants will receive a digital landing page with directory-style data, Google map with locations, hours of operation, social media links to the business and consumers may email/print/share the page to their friends and family. 

Bennington Banner ad director Susan Plaisance said, “COVID-19 has created a challenge for our local businesses, and the impact has wreaked havoc on the vitality of our community, so I felt that it was our obligation to step up and help.  The Bennington Banner is the town square of Bennington County, and it is our responsibility not only to provide the news but to assist our neighbors with their business needs.”

Finally, the Town of Bennington submitted a grant, in partnership with the Chamber, for the efforts around Garlic Town, USA which happened this past September.  Bennington, Vermont became “Garlic Town, USA” for one day in celebration of all things garlic and agriculture in lieu of the annual Garlic Festival. Garlic Town, USA featured pockets of original Garlicfest vendors, or what the organizers called “Cloves” all throughout downtown Bennington for that Saturday.

Each Clove had a handful of garlic and produce vendors for people to visit. The event, which was a mile-wide in downtown Bennington, also featured sidewalk sales from local businesses, music and food at local restaurants, and the inaugural Garlic Bulb River Derby where over 100 rubber garlic bulbs were dropped into the Walloomsac River and raced towards the finish line at The Bank of Bennington. 

The week leading up to the event had restaurants adding garlic-themed dishes to their menus for a “Garlic Town Restaurant Week.” 

Many businesses in downtown Bennington said they felt a big bump in sales that weekend and loved seeing people out and about. 

Harrington said, “This grant will retroactively assist with reimbursing our partners and vendors the cost to make the event possible including a new logo design, supplies, and creative marketing efforts.  We received great feedback from the community and businesses alike; we hope to be able to do something similar again.”

Harrington continued, “We’re excited that we were able to join forces with a great variety of partners to pull some of the federal funds down to Southwestern Vermont.  We hustled to get these grants in because we know the need is great.  These funds won’t solve all our challenges, however we hope they will create a good foundation for marketing the area to the rest of the country and world.  Now is the time to push forward on marketing Vermont, especially as people are watching Vermont in its effectiveness of managing the pandemic.  Many of our chamber members continually ask for marketing assistance and help with putting The Shires on the map to support their businesses.  We believe the assistance from these grants will help us do that!”

Harrington finished by saying, “We want to sincerely thank the ACCD committee for the awarding these grants, the State of Vermont for its effectiveness in getting these grants down to every level, and our national delegation for helping Vermont receive these and other much needed funds.”

Each grant awarded was $10,000. Grant applications were due August 31st with approved grant notifications going out on October 15th. The grant funds must be expended by November 30th of this year and a final report sent to ACCD afterward.

For more information on The Restart Vermont Regional Marketing and Stimulus Grant Program visit: https://accd.vermont.gov/covid-19/regional-marketing-grants

Source: Bennington 10.26.2020. The Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce