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The grassy lot adjacent to Siesta Key is used for parking during the Siesta Key Crystal Classic and serves as a source of revenue for its budget.
Siesta Key Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012 5 years ago

Crystal Classic organizers prep for future

by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

Tervis Tumbler will spend at least $10,000 for a sand sculpture and other promotional goodies on display at the Siesta Key Crystal Classic Master SandSculpting Competition.

Last year, Tervis spent $5,000 for the November event, which generated an estimated $2 million in economic impact for Sarasota County and packed the beach with 35,000 people. So far, the event has generated more sponsorship money at this point than it had at the same time in 2011, said Sarasota Council of Neighborhood Associations President Lourdes Ramirez, who is overseeing sponsorships as part of the Crystal Classic Steering Committee.

The Tervis sponsorship covers roughly 4% of the total budget for the event, said Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce board member Cheryl Gaddie. Most of the costs are covered by attendance, but nabbing big sponsorships is crucial because profits are donated to Mote Marine Laboratory.

The effort has been successful thus far, said Ramirez.

“I think we’re going to exceed last year,” Ramirez said. Beating last year doesn’t seem like a stretch with real-estate development companies Neal Communities and Benderson Development already committed to the event. The latter is considering doing as Tervis has, and Neal’s $5,000 was the second sponsorship signed, Ramirez said.

To start working on long-run materials to draw sponsors, the Crystal Classic Steering Committee plans to have event workers posted near entrances of the competition, which takes place from Nov. 8 through Nov. 12, to collect attendees’ zip codes. That way, organizers can start to document attendance and estimate the number of out-of-county tourists the event draws, said Donna De Poalo, who is overseeing marketing for the event.

Organizers will run online advertisements with the Tampa Bay Times and radio commercials with CBS Radio, De Poalo said. The Crystal Classic Facebook page has 182 “likes” so far.

“A lot of the marketing is focused on the internet,” De Poalo said. She has been posting pictures of winning sculptures and will soon post questionnaires from the 12 teams of competing sand sculptors.

The data collection is a requirement for some grants, which can ask for economic impact studies before disbursing county, state or federal funds. Event organizers have applied for a $10,000 grant from Visit Sarasota County, formerly the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau, to go toward advertising outside the county.

The biggest financial incentive events offer to a locality is bringing in tourists from outside the county. The money they spend on hotel rooms, restaurants and souvenirs goes directly to the county.

When the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce announced that the American SandSculpting Championship was moved to Nov. 16 because of a date conflict with the Crystal Classic, Lee County became a target for advertising, De Poalo said.

The Crystal Classic budget has earmarked funding for hands-on local advertising as well. There will be sand-sculpting classes starting Oct. 7 that will likely run weekly through the month, De Poalo said.

“That will get people in the sand-sculpting mood,” she said.

In the end, the biggest factor driving the event is collaboration, Gaddie said. Café Gabbiano is an in-kind sponsor of a VIP party Nov. 8, and Gateway Siesta Key Hotel is offering special rates, which may include a chance for guests to meet one of the 24 master sand sculptors attending the event, De Poalo said. If the attendance trend continues, the Crystal Classic could bring 45,000 people to Siesta Key during the four-day competition.


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