Fayetteville tourism panel picks new marketing firm, approves 2024 budget

The Experience Fayetteville office is visible in July 2019 on the downtown square in Fayetteville. (File photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette)
The Experience Fayetteville office is visible in July 2019 on the downtown square in Fayetteville. (File photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette)

FAYETTEVILLE -- The city's Advertising and Promotion Commission decided to hire a new marketing agency and approved its budget for next year during Monday's meeting.

Commissioners selected Outright, a marketing agency in Washington, D.C., as its third-party advertising firm. The commission also approved a $6.1 million budget for next year. Both votes were 7-0.

The commission will hire Outright for $19,500 monthly, or an annual total of $234,000. Outright will come up with media campaigns to promote the city and work with Experience Fayetteville staff.

Experience Fayetteville is the city's tourism bureau. The commission governs the bureau.

Outright was chosen among three other qualifying applicants, including its current vendor, Sells Agency in Fayetteville and Little Rock.

Sells Agency has done marketing for the commission since 2002. Mike Sells, president and chief executive officer, said he was sad to see the partnership end, but that the agency has gained several new clients and expanded work with existing clients over the past two months.

"Having a 22-year partnership with a client is extremely rare in this business and from what has been communicated to us, the longevity of our partnership is the reason they felt it was time for a change," he said. "We are extremely proud of the work we have done for Fayetteville and the results we have achieved consistently throughout the time of our partnership. We wish Experience Fayetteville the best moving forward."

The retainer fee budgeted for Sells Agency this year is $174,000.

Commissioners praised the past work of Sells Agency but said they looked forward to what Outright could bring to the table.

Commissioner Andrew Prysby served on a selection committee with Experience Fayetteville staff to select the marketing agency and said he appreciated Outright's data-driven approach. He said a consideration among the committee was the lack of a local office with Outright.

Working remotely became commonplace after the pandemic, and having an outside perspective could be a positive, Prysby said.

"They might look at things in a different way," he said.

The intention is for the contract with Outright to last three years, although the commission could end the agreement within one year if it is not satisfied, said Molly Rawn, chief executive officer of Experience Fayetteville.

The $6.1 million budget for next year includes an anticipated $29,000 deficit that the commission can cover with its existing balance, Rawn said. This year's budget is about $5.6 million.

Rawn included $200,000 for TheatreSquared in next year's budget. The commission in 2017 committed $3 million toward TheatreSquared's construction, made in payments of $200,000 over 15 years. Whether to continue the payments recently became a point of discussion among the commission.

Rawn said she plans to work on a revised agreement that would have the theater company present its financials annually to the commission and have a commissioner or Experience Fayetteville staff member on TheatreSquared's board. The commission would review the revised agreement, and if approved, it would be sent to TheatreSquared's board for consideration.

Additionally, Clinton House Museum is slated to receive up to $50,000 next year, down from $60,000 budgeted this year. In 2020, the commission decided to shift responsibility of the museum's operation to the nonprofit board that supports it as a cost-cutting measure. The museum's budget before the decision was about $250,000.

The commission plans to make $971,000 in capital improvements next year. Major projects include renovating the Experience Fayetteville office at the downtown square for $511,000; replacing chairs at the Town Center for $155,000; and overhauling the Town Center's audio and video components for $150,000.

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By the numbers

The Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission budget for 2024 breaks down as follows:


Hotel, motel and restaurant sales taxes — $5,208,000

Rental income — $587,340

Other — $210,000

Event income — $60,000

Sales — $46,500

Parking revenue — $27,000

Interest income — $25,100

Advertising income — $3,500

Total — $6,167,440


Operating expenses — $2,390,159

Payroll — $2,085,144

Other — $800,000

Tourism support — $511,500

Rental/event expenses — $409,669

Total — $6,196,472

Source: Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission


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