Flush with the success of its “I Was Blown Away” advertising campaign, the Upstate SC Alliance plans to renew it for this year’s BMW Charity Pro Am Golf Classic and, if money is available, to take it to a broader audience on the Internet.
“We have the campaign; we know it works,” Bobby Hitt, Upstate Alliance treasurer and the public affairs and corporate affairs manager for BMW, told the annual meeting of the Upstate Alliance last week.
The promotional campaign, which seeks to dispel stereotypes of the South and capture the true emotion of Upstate, got a warm endorsement from the keynote speaker, Jerry Brown of Seabrook Island.
Brown, a legendary advertising executive known nationally for quirky and successful campaigns, encouraged the Alliance to increase its promotional efforts to attract economic development at a time when competitors are cutting back promotion in the recession.
“I Was Blown Away” showcased the quality of life and friendly business environment of the Upstate through testimonials of newcomers who found impressive but unexpected qualities. TV spots were aired worldwide on the Golf Channel a week before, during and a week after the 2008 BMW golf tournament, a PGA event.
The campaign was judged best in class and best in show in a competition sponsored by the Southern Economic Development Council.
Jennifer Noel, vice president of marketing, said the Upstate Alliance has enough money to renew the campaign on the Golf Channel for this year’s tournament May 14-17, but hopes more can be raised through sponsorships and grants to broaden it. A test run of an Internet campaign proved successful at an economical cost, she said.
President Hal Johnson reported that more than $2 billion in capital investment was announced or was in progress for the 10 counties of the Upstate. That constitutes nearly half of the total capital investment in South Carolina, he said.
The two biggest projects are the $750 million expansion of BMW’s plant and American Titanium Works’ $422 million manufacturing plant in Laurens County and its research and administration center at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research at Greenville.
Construction of the BMW plant is under way, and American Titanium plans to start construction of its new facilities next year.
Johnson and outgoing chairman John H. Miller, president of AnMed Health, urged the membership of the private-public agency to step up their support and not, as Miller put it, “create a foxhole mentality” because of the hard economic times.
“In this economy, we have to think of ourselves as the underdog,” said Johnson.Despite recent successes in the competitive market for economic development, “this year we have to do more,” he said.
Upstate Alliance’s new chairman, Leon Patterson, chairman and chief operating officer of Palmetto Bank, said the group needed to focus on attracting more corporate and public members and sponsors.
“We need to think about the people who are not here,” he said. “Our 180 investors represent a small number of possible members in the 10 counties.”
The Alliance presented its Spirit of the Upstate award to Irv Welling, chairman emeritus of the accounting firm of Elliot Davis.
“Irv was a leader in the creation of our organization and was instrumental in getting the I Was Blow Away campaign off the ground,” said Miller. “It is fitting that the Upstate SC Alliance recognizes him with this prestigious award for his spirit towards regionalism.”
“If you’re not interested in regionalism, stay the hell away from Irv Welling,” said Hitt, who added that Welling often has his hands in Hitt’s BMW pockets for financial support of regional projects.
The award has been given only once before. Carl Flesher, who retired in 2005 as vice president of corporate communications manager for BMW, was the other recipient.