Beaufort News

Town, county to get ad air time as part of Heritage deal

Expect to see recurring television commercials promoting the beauty and tranquility of Hilton Head Island during this year's Heritage golf tournament.

Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday to accept TV advertising spots that normally would have gone to the title sponsor of the island's annual PGA Tour event.

The Heritage Classic Foundation, which runs the tournament, has received the rights to 32, 30-second spots each on the Golf Channel and CBS.

The foundation has asked the town and Beaufort County to split the 32 spots on the Golf Channel and hopes to sell the 32 spots on CBS, recouping part of the $4 million in reserves it committed to the tournament to secure a spot on this year's tour schedule.

The town will receive 16, 30-second advertising spots on the Golf Channel during the Thursday, April 21, and Friday, April 22, broadcast of the tournament, or during other PGA Tour broadcasts on the Golf Channel throughout the year.

The town would get the advertising space in exchange for the $1 million it committed to this year's tournament. The money came as part of an effort to save the 2011 tournament, which does not have a title sponsor and was in danger of not getting a date on the 2011 tour schedule.

Beaufort County also committed $1 million to this year's tournament, which is April 21-24 at Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines.

The town originally committed the $1 million with no strings attached.

"We are now being offered something of value in exchange for our contribution," wrote town manager Steve Riley in a memo to Town Council.

A normal buyer on the open market likely would have received the 16, 30-second ad spots for less than $1 million, Riley said.

"But I think we should view this as part of our efforts to help bolster the tournament, and not so much as a hard-line business proposition," Riley wrote.

Riley said the spots also would be an opportunity for the town to expand its target audience beyond prospective tourists and include potential businesses and residents. The funding the town gives the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce for advertising, which comes from accommodations taxes on overnight lodging, is restricted by the state to activities that attract visitors.

The $1 million to the Heritage, which comes from the town's general fund, does not have such restrictions. The town still would need to find about $100,000 to produce new TV ads.

Riley said some of that money could come from an emergency advertising reserve account, which council tapped last month to give $160,000 to the Heritage for advertising. The emergency fund has about $1.5 million in accommodations and hospitality tax dollars.

The town has used money from the account in the past two years to pay for additional advertising through the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, to offset the effect of the national recession on island tourism. The council also dipped into the account after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Money to market the town to potential residents and businesses would have to come elsewhere from the budget, Riley said.

Council authorized Riley to work with the chamber and other partners to produce the commercials.

The chamber will solicit bids for the work as the town's designated marketing agent, Riley said.