Experts weigh in on the value Doral paying $2.5 million to host Miss Universe

Miss Universe contestants ride floats in Doral on Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015, in their first public presentation for the upcoming competition on Jan. 25. There was also a Celebration of Nations Cultural Festival which took place around Doral City Hall.
Miss Universe contestants ride floats in Doral on Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015, in their first public presentation for the upcoming competition on Jan. 25. There was also a Celebration of Nations Cultural Festival which took place around Doral City Hall. EL NUEVO HERALD

Doral officials are convinced that Sunday’s Miss Universe pageant will pay major dividends for the city because of the worldwide media attention and the 600 million viewers expected to watch on television.

Councilwoman Ana Maria Rodriguez predicts that Doral, South Florida and the rest of the state will “see a cascading economic boom thanks to our vision in supporting this event which is considered to be a Super Bowl in the world of pageantry.”

Experts, however, say there’s no guarantee that having the popular pageant here — it’s actually at Florida International University’s arena in unincorporated Miami-Dade — will turn Doral into a destination for global travelers.

Deborah Breiter, professor at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, said the benefits to Doral may only be temporary.

“People around the world take an interest in Miss Universe. The question I would ask is how long will those impressions last?” Breiter said. “How long will people go home and talk about Doral, tweet about it, share about it? Will the name of Doral mean something? Or will it be something that fades quickly? You don’t exceed a fabulous brand by one event, by one product, or one encounter, it has to be sustained over the long-term. Your brand has to mean something.”

Doral has committed $2.5 million in taxpayer dollars to pageant organizers. But city officials are confident that private dollars from corporate sponsorships will offset the public dollars. So far, city officials and pageant organizers say more than $1 million in sponsorships have been sold with more deals yet to be finalized. If there’s a shortfall, the city will draw on its reserve fund to make up the difference.

The city is spending up to $25,000 on a Coral Gables-based consulting firm to determine the pageant’s actual economic impact, with a final report due later in the year. Doral’s mayor wants the pageant to return in 2016.

The pageant, however, has been a sore spot and topic of debate at Doral council meetings for more than four months. Tensions have been rising since Sept. 12, when the city council committed to pay the $2.5 million to host the Miss Universe pageant.

The money is packaged to promote the city during the show at FIU. The city doesn’t have an appropriate venue to house the Jan. 25 event.

Although Doral Mayor Luigi Boria assured residents sponsorships would cover the city’s investment, many residents are frustrated because they feel this money would be better spent on things like infrastructure and combating traffic issues.

So what exactly does Doral receive in exchange for $2.5million? The city’s agreement, in part, with pageant organizers will provide the following:

▪ Miss Universe will be marketed to take place in “Doral-Miami.”

▪ Miss Universe will promote hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, retail stores, businesses and other amenities located within the city.

▪ At least three minutes of direct and indirect television air time will be used to promote Doral — not including references to the Trump National Resort at Doral.

▪ Three full-page editorial pages and three full-page color advertisement pages in the pageant souvenir program.

▪ A listing on the Miss Universe homepage and ability to use the Miss Universe brand on until one month following the pageant.

▪ The opportunity to host auxiliary events in Doral, as well as meet and greets by contestants. In fact, the city has hosted a slew of activities around the town with contestants — from a parade, to a gift auction, to a swimsuit modeling event.

Other cities have paid substantially more for similar benefits. Moscow paid about $16 million to host the event last year. Before that, Brazil paid $17 million, according to Miss Universe staff.

Victor Matheson, a Holy Cross economics professor in Worcester, Massachusetts, who co-authored a 2006 study titled “Padding Required: Assessing the Economic Impact of the Super Bowl,” told the Miami Herald that the economic impact in host cities for large events like the Miss Universe Pageant, the Super Bowl, boat shows or the Olympics is hard to calculate.

“We don’t have a lot of evidence that these events have a long-term impact on tourism in the host cities,” Matheson said. “Tourism events, sporting events, don’t seem to show any long-term sustained gains. They often come back as a fraction of what promoters have claimed.”

“The question is, why are the viewers tuning in to Miss Universe? When people tune into the pageant, are they looking at beautiful women or the surroundings? My sense is that no one is tuning into Miss Universe to look at their surroundings, they want to look at Miss Colombia who is parading around on stage. When I tune in to the Super Bowl, I’m seeking out Tom Brady. I’m not going to even look whether it’s being held in New Jersey or anywhere else. That’s not why I’m tuning in. It’s the Miss Universe pageant, not the Doral visitors bureau pageant.”

Matheson said it will be hard for Doral to know whether there was an economic boost during the pageant, mainly because “hotel rooms are full anyways during the month of January, especially down in Florida.”

But Rolando Aedo, vice president of marketing and tourism at Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, which has partnered with Miss Universe, said the pageant will pay off for Doral.

“From the outside world, Miss Universe will bring a lot of attention, not only to Doral, but just as much to greater Miami. When the Miami brand is successful, Doral is successful.”

Aedo noted that “50 percent of all [Miami’s] visitors are international, many of those visitors are in the market of Miss Universe. Doral will see a benefit.”

“From a marketing perspective, we know the differences between cities pretty well, however to the outside world we are all one destination, one community... they view us under this one umbrella. There’s a lot of synergy.”

Carlos J. Gimenez, a Miami-based public relations expert, who is also an attorney representing Miss Universe Organization co-owner Donald Trump, agrees.

“There’s no question that Doral will benefit. The reason the pageant is co-branded with Miami on the marquee [Doral-Miami] is because we want people to know outside of Florida that Doral is part of Greater Miami. This event isn’t to promote within the area, it’s to promote outside. Miami is a very hot brand right now. It makes sense, for Doral’s purposes, to tie itself to Miami so that people outside know that Doral is in the heart of greater Miami.”

According to Gimenez, Miss Universe has an estimated 600 million television viewership worldwide — with all but 16 million of that coming from outside of the United States.

“About half of Latin America tunes into the pageant,” he said.

Miss Universe President Paula Shugart called the hosting agreement “a bargain” for Doral.

“You have almost 90 ambassadors from all around the world here, who are all using social media to talk about Doral, who all leave here and become goodwill ambassadors for the community and greater Miami,” she said. “There is nothing that will give you this type of exposure.”

Others are not so sure about what exactly the pageant will produce for the city. Bruce Turkel, a Miami-based brand consultant said an event like Miss Universe “can be very good,” but that “the event and the destination have to have something in common.”

“Destinations can benefit from quality activities that are associated with them,” Turkel said. “But having an event show up once, and then move to another location the following year would probably not create very much brand equity.”

UCF’s Breiter said the city may see success “if somehow Doral can use this as a jumping-off event, a strategic move to make themselves known to host these types of events. It can work, if it’s sustainable — but that’s the key. It would have to be that people from all those places watching, for a long time, will associate that event with Doral.

“And even at the end, there is really no excellent way to analyze it,” she said. “There will always be people who will doubt the benefit of it. But I guess we won’t know until everything is all said and done.”

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