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ICAS 2003: ANN Talks With ICAS About The Future of Air Shows

By ANN Correspondent Rob Milford

The big announcement at ICAS was all about national sponsorship for all kinds of aviation events. Only problem was… the lawyers said “hold off on naming names” so the impact was not as spectacular as it could and should have been. ICAS Marketing Director Deb Mitchell (pictured below) has been working on this project for months, and she told ANN that it will signal a “defining moment” and a “major shift” in how airshows do business, and it will impact everyone, from performers to promoters, to the volunteers who make so many airshows happen.

“We’re talking about major national sponsors…name brands, Fortune 500 companies” she said…”this will move the industry forward and it will become more of a business, when we help these companies promote their products.”

It had been a fast and furious few days in getting the show ready, and then being available from 6AM until Midnight, and talking to pretty much all the attendees, but Mitchell was still “fired up” over the announcement. “This will be a major shift, in a positive direction. It has huge potential to increase attendance and revenue. It will help shows of all sizes, military and civilian.”

“Without naming names, let’s look at a couple of examples: You don’t see major package goods companies, like Proctor and Gamble or Nabisco involved in Aviation. We think with more than 40 percent of our audience being women, and a large number of young families, we are the perfect marketing event for showcasing and promoting products. That leads to increased sales in a given market. ICAS has more than 400 events on the calendar for 2004, with millions of people. This is attractive and affordable to national sponsors, and no one has ever developed this market.”

One place the ICAS sales team won’t tread: Your local brewery. “Seems like most airshows have their own, local deals with the beer distributors. Those are well established relationships and there’s no reason for us to go there.”

I asked about the challenge of maintaining “collective memory” at airshows, where there seems to be a steady turnover of people, in both management and staff positions: “We have 25 to 30 percent of new attendees to ICAS every year. By offering the Air Show University classes,,, we’re hoping to get them up to speed quickly, and still offering them exposure to the acts, and what needs to happen now, in the off season, to help to guarantee a successful event.”

On the gripes about the Dallas location and Hotel: “We’re in an unusual situation, needing so many rooms, but our trade show being too big for most hotels, and too small for most convention centers. Going to a convention center would increase the cost of a booth. Dallas IS different, and we’ll be heading back to Las Vegas in 2004, 2006 and 2008, Orlando in 2005 and 2007.

Look for the ICAS announcements of these major national sponsors in the next few weeks, as well as how it will impact an airshow near you. Think about more in-store promotion, more advance publicity in different venues, and more banners and commercial displays at the airport.

FMI: www.airshows.org

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