New Orleans seeks parade of sponsors to alleviate Mardi Gras costs

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Budget constraints following Hurricane Katrina have prompted New Orleans to offer 2007 Mardi Gras corporate sponsorships, as the city aims to offset some of its holiday event-related expenses.

New Orleans hired media buying club MediaBuys LLC to gain this support.

"We offset the cost by licensing fees and sponsor packages," said Chick Ciccarelli, CEO of MediaBuys, Los Angeles. "Our goal is to offset the cost to pay for sanitation, police, emergency services and the fire department, which would normally cost around $5.3 million."

Packages designed by MediaBuys for 2007 include an original television special with a celebrity lineup, increased media exposure and various local event and hospitality incentives. Proceeds from the program, conceived to restore tourism to New Orleans, will be directed into the city.

"Last year was an off year for Mardi Gras because of Hurricane Katrina," Mr. Ciccarelli said. "There were only 300,000 to 700,000 attendees. But we are expecting next year to be normal, which will have around 1.2 million people."

A new feature of the two-week event beginning in February will be a concert, televised nationally in early March. The two-hour special will focus on the history, music and food of the parade. It will star celebrity artists and will be the first broadcast of Mardi Gras on a national level. A talent lineup has yet to be announced.

Sponsors can choose from local advertising packages, which may include placements in The Mardi Gras Guide, ad runs in The Times-Picayune and spots on local radio and cable television. Placements at www.nola.com and www.mardigras.com are available as well as billboards from CBS and Marco Outdoor, mobile video streams and parade route branding.

MediaBuys sent 8,500 direct mail pieces to corporations and agencies. E-mail blasts also were sent to advertisers. Interested parties can find more information at www.mediabuys.com/mardigras.

In 2006, MediaBuys finalized a deal with the city's first-ever official Mardi Gras sponsor. Glad Products Co. contributed an undisclosed amount, offsetting the Mardi Gras public safety and sanitation expenses. It also donated 150,000 trash bags and coordinated volunteers for the cleanup.

"This year we are telemarketing into corporations and working with about 10 different ad agencies around the country to attract attention," Mr. Ciccarelli said.

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