Bradenton’s Bad Timing Really Embarrassing
Editor’s note: This article also appears on Sportstalkflorida.com as it is a regional issue.
Living in the state of Florida has brought a few realities. It’s hot, the beaches are a place to visit all of the time. Its going to rain and of course there is a lot of tourists. Last year, the state of Florida had 25.8 million visitors come into the state. Of course, whats not to like about Florida–okay, we don’t really have to answer that.
With Florida’s main industry being tourism, its not hard to imagine some businesses and cities would like to advertise their great location and try and draw more business to the industry.
That’s what Visit Bradenton tried to do and unfortunately for them, it caused a huge backlash. Bradenton is home to the Pittsburgh Pirates among other training facilities. The Tampa Bay Lightning is currently facing off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final. These two things may not be related but they are after Game 1.
Visit Bradenton had their name on rally towels and gave them out at Consol Center and may have inadvertently looked like they were supporting the Penguins when they tweeted back to the Pens on Twitter.
Say what you will about Lightning fans, but they are passionate and they did not like how “friendly” Visit Bradenton happened to be to the opposing team.
The hashtag “#boycottbradenton” started trending throughout the game and fans made their presence be known on Twitter. It wasn’t a good look for Visit Bradenton and obviously a statement was going to be issued in order to clarify or explain why it looked like Bradenton doesn’t support the local team.
“We’re the agency thats charged with promoting visitation to the Bradenton area and our staff and stakeholders truly love the Lightning and we hope to cheer them all the way to the Stanley Cup, but at the same time as a convention and visitor’s bureau, we have objectives to drive visitors to our areas in the most unique and effective manner,” Bradenton Area Convention Visitors Bureau executive director Elliott Falcione said in a phone interview with Puck Daddy’s Josh Cooper. “This is one tactic we used that we felt and now know will be effective.”
While that makes logical sense but at the same time it does kind of look like, at least to the more fanatical fans, that Bradenton doesnt support the Bolts. To the citys credit, they are a big advertiser with the Lightning but it doesnt mean this isnt a bad look. The Lightning, the regions team, is in the postseason in one of the final two rounds. Wouldnt it be better to hop on and support the team in ones own backyard first?
“It’s a great way to get our brand in front of a demographic that meshes with our visitor profile,” Falcione explained in a statement to clarify the situation. “It’s about economic development for our region, the entire region which includes Tampa.”
It’s a tough situation of balancing regional support for a more national, economic support but there are a few things that make this a bad look. The first would be the timing, if it was a regular season game no one would probably care. The fact that it’s the ECF makes a huge deal as the Lightning try to battle back to the Stanley Cup Final. Timing is everything on this.
Not to mention, theres the mentality aspect of it.
Lightning fans take a lot of criticism about their team. Unfortunately, they feel a bit hostile when it comes to their beloved hockey team. From every Canadian player supposedly, wanting to leave to go play in the “Center of the Hockey Universe” also known as Toronto. Oh, and there’s always the attendance issues for Florida teams along with the ice “being unplayable.”
Face it, Lightning fans are touchy and warranted or not, they blew up and Bradenton happened to be the victim through a harmless towel giveaway.
So try to be a bit understandable if the Lightning fans tweet “et tu Brutus” to Bradenton and try and boycott them. Well, maybe not that understandable or sympathetic, but its the playoffs and Lightning fans want the region to buy in. It also didn’t help when Visit Bradenton issued a follow-up and some fans viewed it as a doubling down of sorts.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau’s entire budget is funded through tourism taxes, so no local taxpayers’ funding was used for the promotion per Nicholas Azzara, the information outreach manager for the County’s Administration office, but still it’s just a case of bad timing and the perfect storm of events.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that money used for the promo came from local tax payers’ dollars. That is incorrect, as stated by Visit Bradenton, the money comes from tourism taxes.
image via visitbradenton.com