FY 2018 Marketing Grant Guidelines

Sarasota County Tourism Marketing Grant Program | Administered by VISIT SARASOTA COUNTY | Mission: To make Sarasota County the Must-experience destination on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

VISIT SARASOTA COUNTY (VSC) is excited to offer one on one marketing support to entities desiring to market their program, event or festival outside of Sarasota County to garner attendance from tourists.

The purpose of the program is to stimulate and enhance the tourism marketing of programs, projects and events in Sarasota County. Total budget for this grant program for FY 2018 (October 1, 2017 – September 30, 2018) is $90,000.

Municipalities, local agencies, business associations and nonprofit organizations located in Sarasota County are eligible to apply. If you are a private business or a nonprofit with paid staff and a budget over $100,000 you must be a paid partner of Visit Sarasota County. Partnerships with VSC begin at $450 annually and provide you visibility on VisitSarasota.com, in the VSC Visitor Center Outlets, and a listing in the annually printed VSC Visitor Guide. Partnership questions can be directed to Bernie Gottschalk at [email protected]

The objective of this program is to provide marketing support for innovative and collaborative ideas that drive tourism to Sarasota County in non-peak periods, which is why events held “in season” are not eligible. This program is envisioned to help projects get off the ground or expand so that these projects eventually will succeed without the financial assistance of the VSC marketing program.

Funding decisions are based on the strength of the applicant’s ability and intent to attract visitors and lodging nights from outside Sarasota County from November 1, 2017 to September 15, 2018, except for the period from January 1, 2018 through April 1, 2018. Projects or events that fall within the January 1 to April 1, 2018 timeframe are ineligible for funding. It is the intent that marketing and promotion expenditures for events from this joint marketing campaign will be expended outside of Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto and Charlotte counties to drive overnight visitation.

Marketing support funding per project is $10,000, to be expended directly by Visit Sarasota County. The Nine (9) highest scoring applicants will each receive $10,000 in marketing support.

Selection Process –

Visit Sarasota County will compile a marketing grant selection panel to review all marketing grant requests received. This panel will consist of three to five (3 – 5) representatives from the hospitality industry within Sarasota County, and two (2) additional VSC staff members, as they will have a good grasp on what programs will best be able to attract tourists. 

Benefits for those selected –

For those entities that are selected to receive marketing support, VSC will set up a meeting to

better understand the program itself, and will start discussing objectives, markets, and will work together to shape the advertising campaign. These elements could be digital/traditional advertising, Radio, Television, social media engagement or other elements as determined by the collaborative team. VSC is only able to purchase advertising direct through advertiser, and is not able to pay for items such as printing collateral or purchasing promotional items for this program.

Applicant must have available assets to build ads such as high resolution photos and logos. Please note that the grant recipient itself will be responsible for designing the creative elements needed, such as logo, ad or commercial. VSC can make recommendations for graphic designers and production companies, if needed. 

To apply –

The application process opens Monday May 1, 2017. Applications must be received by the VSC by Monday August 8th, 2017 no later than 4:00 p.m. An award decision will be made by September 21, 2017. Applications are completed and submitted online at https://app.wizehive.com/apps/vscmarketinggrant2018. (You must create an account/login to apply.) Please contact Matt Murphy at [email protected] if you have any questions or need help regarding the application process. 

Program Guidelines:

  1. Recipient must be a marketing partner with Visit Sarasota County. As a marketing partner with VSC, your program will receive a listing on VisitSarasota.org, and inclusion in our Visitor Center and Visitor Guide. Municipalities and nonprofits with no paid staff and an annual budget less than $100,000 are exempt from being a paid VSC partner.
  2. Projects must be tourism related and will be judged based upon the project’s ability to drive awareness of the destination and/or drive visitation to Sarasota County.
  3. This grant aside, please outline the marketing plan for this event. Please include the targeted market(s).
  4. All applications must outline the target demographics outside Sarasota County.
  5. A single applicant may be considered for more than one grant in the same project year, but the events or projects must be distinctly different. There must be a separate application for each event. No applicant will be considered if it has applied for and received a Cultural Tourism Grant from the Sarasota County Arts Alliance for the same project, program or event. No applicant may receive funding under any other VSC or Sarasota Sports Commission Sponsorship program for the same project, program or event.
  6. Only one grant per project. If two organizations are involved in a project, they may not both separately apply for grants. It would be considered one application.
  7. All projects must demonstrate plans to use at least one method of tourism tracking or measuring return on investment (ROI) that they will share with VSC. This could be tracking from the purchased media, this could be pulling zip codes from ticket sales, or could include a “on the ground intercept survey” of which a sample survey is included at the end of this document.
  8. All final reports must be submitted to the VSC no later than 30 days from the event date or project completion date. These metrics will help better shape the marketing grant program as it moves forward.
  9. Sponsorship recognition for the VSC must be provided at the level reflected by the amount of the grant award. By signing agreed media plan before media is contracted by VSC, recipient will acknowledge that they have received the correct VSC logo from VSC. 
  10. Applications with incomplete information or that fail to meet the guidelines will be deemed ineligible.

As this is a grant where VSC purchases media directly from the advertiser, as a reminder, non-allowable expenses are as follows:

  • Annual operating expenditures of the organization
  • Legal, medical, engineering, accounting, auditing, or other consultant services
  • Salaries of full-time staff or supplements for salaries of existing staff, or employment of personnel not directly related to the event
  • Real property, capital improvements, including but not limited to new construction, renovation, restoration and installation or replacement of fixtures
  • Tangible personal property including, but not limited to, office furnishings or equipment, permanent collections or individual pieces of art
  • Rental of buildings
  • Advertising or media distribution within Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte or Desoto Counties.
  • Stage production costs
  • Interest on or reduction of deficits or loans, or expenses incurred or obligated prior to or after funding period
  • Travel, accommodations, and personal expenses for organization staff or board members
  • Events which are restricted to private or exclusive participation, private entertainment, food or beverages
  • Attendance at conferences and seminars
  • Endowment
  • Entertainment expenses
  • Fellowships or scholarships
  • Law enforcement or public works expenses
  • Alcohol or tobacco products

Sample Survey (as mentioned in program outline)

  1. Are you a full-time or part-time resident of Sarasota, Manatee or Charlotte County?
  2. Are you a day tripper, coming for this event from out of the area and returning home this evening?
  3. Are you visiting? If you are, are you staying in paid lodging or with family/friends?

If yes, what is your home city?

Optional Questions:

  • If a visitor in paid lodging, where are they staying and for how long?
  • How did you hear about this event?
  • Is this your first time in Sarasota County?