Airport marketing budget: $170,000

Airport marketing budget: $170,000

September 29th, 2011 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

A proposal to shorten Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport's name is one part of a bigger effort to bolster brand awareness and showcase the facility as an economic engine for the city, an official says.

"There was wide support" for the name change among airport leaders Monday when it was introduced, said Christina Siebold, the airport's marketing chief. "It's just one piece of the overall puzzle."

But not everyone believes the airport should be dealing with name changes and new logos.

"People are going to use the airport because of service and connections -- not as a result of the name over the door," said Jimmy Campbell, a longtime travel business owner in the city.

An advertising company hired this summer by the airport to develop and implement a new branding plan Monday unveiled the proposed name: Chattanooga Airport.

Big Communications of Birmingham, Ala., said it creates simplicity and "an honest statement of self-awareness."

Siebold said Airport Authority members are expected to decide on the proposed change by year's end. Other work by Big Communications for the airport so far included offering a new logo featuring its aviation symbol of "CHA," a tag line linked to the name change and preliminary proposals for ads.

Siebold said the Alabama company, which has special expertise in promoting airports, was paid $30,000 for the work it has done to date. Airport officials Monday approved spending another $140,000 for the company to finish its work, including developing ads and making media buys. Siebold said most of the amount approved Monday will go to buying TV and print ads.

The airport official said the money comes from the airport budget. No city taxpayer funds are used.

Siebold said the amount being spent for the rebranding campaign isn't out of line with ad spending in previous years. Over each of the last five years, the airport has spent between $75,000 and $133,000, Siebold said.

In addition, the airport is spending $35,000 this year for Waterhouse Public Relations for public relations, event management, media relations and the facility's in-house ad program, she said.

The marketing chief said that with growth in airport passenger boardings, the time is ideal to launch such a top-of-mind awareness campaign to help woo more service. The advertising will communicate the city's positive aspects, showcase the airport's economic power and explain how greater use of the Chattanooga airport helps provide more future air service options, she said.

"We have a positive momentum in terms of passengers, but we need to keep going because more passengers equal more opportunities for the airlines," Siebold said.

Through August, airport boardings are up 5.92 percent to 200,715 passengers compared to a year ago, figures show.

But Campbell, who heads Cleland Travel Planning, said there are other issues with which the airport ought to deal besides its name.

"Metropolitan -- not sure that's one of them," he said.

An Airport Authority member, Gene Veazey, noted Monday that travelers from Dalton, Ga., Cleveland, Tenn., and other areas close to Chattanooga use the airport. But, he added, many people already say Chattanooga Airport.

Siebold said the rebranding effort is similar to the process that every savvy business follows when launching a product to a new market.

"We have a great product here at the Chattanooga Airport and we are excited to introduce it to our newest potential customers, and reintroduce it to our longtime neighbors," she said.