May 14th, 2003

Marketer Urges Town to Sell Endorsements for Revenue

By Thomas Dolan
Buffalon News

Amherst officials who are anxious about budget problems should consider selling endorsements to banks, grocery stores and even drugstore chains, a promoter claims.

Also, the town could raise new revenue by providing residents’ names and addresses to direct mail advertising companies, according to Daniel J. Kelly, president of Kelly Enterprise.

Kelly, brother of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, Monday pitched what some officials seemed to regard as the Hail Mary pass of municipal finances.

How about designating HSBC the official bank of Amherst? Or, perhaps, Wegmans as the town’s official grocer, Kelly suggested to the Town Board.

Likewise, officials could target residents who take part in recreation, youth and senior citizen programs for "direct mailings"—junk mail, in other words—from interested companies, he also proposed.

All for a fee, of course.

"Amherst has never done direct mailings . . . but I would like to have an opportunity to do a mailing to those folks," Kelly told Town Board.

Money generated by the endorsements, mailings and other marketing efforts could help Amherst close a projected $10 million budget hole for next year, Kelly suggested.

Still, the proposals seemed to stun some officials.

"We’re talking about the selling of government. . . . There’s a question of appropriateness here," Board Member Daniel J. Ward said, interrupting Kelly.

Ward also questioned whether it would be legal for Amherst to grant an exclusive endorsement to a bank or other business without allowing other competitors a chance to win the same arrangement.

Other officials questioned whether the town’s endorsement might create stress for businesses that are left out.

"If you offer exclusivity, somebody’s going to get mad," Ward summed up.

But, according to Kelly, Amherst already offers exclusive naming rights at the Pepsi Center and maintains similar marketing arrangements with companies that sponsor other town programs.

Several California cities also have such deals with private companies, he says.

"We’re not reinventing the wheel here. We’re just taking it to the next level," he said.

Kelly, an Amherst resident, says he came up with the idea while watching a recently televised Town Board meeting and hearing officials complain about budget problems.

"Every day you wait, it’s a day you don’t put revenue into your pocket," he told officials.

Under the plan, Kelly would administer the new marketing program in return for 25 percent of any revenues generated.

Company endorsements and the mass mailings were among several suggestions he came up with after he polled Amherst department heads. Now, the ball is in the hands of the Town Board, Kelly told officials.

Supervisor Susan J. Grelick said town officials will draft a policy regarding the proposals and discuss the matter at a meeting next month.

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