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Ad campaign for Olympic Games?
Travel Council wants to make deal in promoting Utah for tourists

In a twist on the game show "Let's Make a Deal," the director of the Utah Travel Council told Utah lawmakers they could keep what was behind Door No. 1 -- about $236 million in projected tax revenues from the 2002 Winter Games.

Or, as game-show host Monty Hall would say, lawmakers could trade it for what's behind Door No. 2 -- the possibility of a prize several times greater.Dean Reeder, testifying before the Business, Labor and Economic Development Committee, was trying to drum up support for an advertising campaign touting the scenic and cultural wonders of Utah that can be tied into the Olympics.

"Whenever we can tie the Utah brand to the Olympics, it is a tremendous opportunity we should not ignore," Reeder said.

Reeder told lawmakers he was not a fan of advertising when he took the job at the Travel Council. Since that time, he has become a convert.

Reeder cited studies that show for every $1 million the state spends in tourism advertising, it gets $34 million in return. That translates into $2.5 million in new sales tax revenues alone, not to mention what it does to boost tourism-related employment, income taxes and property taxes.

Reeder has a tough sell in front of him. In the past, members of this same committee have repeatedly tried to cut Travel Council spending. The council's national advertising programs were a primary target of the budget cuts.

If lawmakers were reticent to spend money on advertising, Reeder said they should look at three prominent examples of how advertising paid huge dividends.

One was a paid advertising campaign by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offering free Bibles to those who called a toll-free number. The missionary effort was hugely successful, Reeder said.

"The Church was not shy about spending significant amounts of money . . . and it paid returns," he said.

Another example was the fact Olympic sponsors were willing to spend $50 million to be sponsors of the Olympic Games. "That's just to touch the rings," he said. "It is the price of entry. They will spend three times that amount (on advertising)."

The third example was the tremendous tourism success resulting from an Arizona advertising campaign coupled with the Phoenix Open golf tournament, which occurs when most of the nation is in the throes of winter cold.

Lawmakers generally are nervous about any additional financial commitments to the Games, although they were intrigued by Reeder's predictions about increasing the state's tax coffers even more.

A study by the governor's Office of Planning and Budget predicts $236 million in increased state and local tax revenues directly associated with development of Olympic facilities, Olympics employment and actually hosting the Games. It also predicts about $120 million in additional state and local expenses related to the Games.

That still leaves a net increase of $116 million. That's money the state gets without doing anything more than what it is doing now.

"My question," Reeder said, "is do you want to know what is behind Door No. 2?"