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Fireworks light up Centennial Olympic Park

Fireworks displays for this year’s July 4th celebrations were scaled down this year because of the economy.

But someone forgot to tell Centennial Olympic Parkl.

Mark Banta, general manager of the park, defied the recession Saturday night by putting on a fireworks extravaganza that was 25 percent bigger than previous years.

It was a phenomenal display. Fireworks of all colors not only sparkled in the sky. But fireworks fired up from the roofs of nearby buildings, creating the sensation of hundreds of shooting stars — creating a candy for the eyes. There even was a curtain of fireworks that resembled a Niagra Falls-like waterfall.

Then came the grand finale, and the announcer thanked everyone for coming. But he quickly added that the show wasn’t over. And then the fireworks resumed with even a grander finale.

Clearly, Centennenial Olympic Park, which is managed by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, did not short-change its visitors on Saturday.

So why did Centennial spend more money on fireworks while others were trimming their budgets?

“Brand. Brand. Brand,” Banta said.

As many successful businesses know, the time to invest in marketing is in a down economy when your competitors are vulnerable. It is a wonderful opportunity to gain market share and position a company for when the economy bounces back.

While Centennial Olympic Park is not a business in the true sense of the word, Banta believes the message is the same.

The crowds for Saturday night’s July 4th celebration were bigger than ever. And Banta was pleased with the weather and the entertainment, headlined by rock group Vertical Horizon.

Still, it costs at least $40,000 to put on a mega fireworks display. While Banta didn’t tell me how much he spent for Saturday night’s display, he did say it was more than $40,000.

So how does Centennial manage to come up with the dollars to put on the extravaganza?

Banta credited the four sponsors of the event — WXIA, Q-100, Coca-Cola and AirTran. By only having four sponsors, the event is not over-cluttered with advertisements and commercial messages.

In return, Banta said the sponsors have been willing to continue investing in the July 4th celebration because of the visibility.

Next year, we’ll see if Banta’s brand theory works, and whether Centennial will continue to gain ground when compared to other July 4th celebrations in town.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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