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UMass Lowell study shows there really is a lot to like about Lowell

By Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online. By CHRISTOPHER SCOTT Sun Staff

LOWELL -- Lots of people are finding a lot to like about Lowell.

A UMass Lowell study of the impact of the city's marketing campaign and its slogan, "There's a lot to like about Lowell," found attendance up at all sporting and cultural events. The 22-page study by the college Office of Communications and Marketing was presented to City Council last night.

"(The marketing campaign) is working and it is effective," James Cook, president of the Lowell Plan President, told councilors. The Lowell plan oversees the campaign and shares the costs with the city.

"It started out three years ago as an image campaign and now it's more event-driven," Cook said. "It has proven to be a critical piece of the city's revitalization. The bottom line is, we've got a great product here and we need to keep telling people about it."

The advertising campaign is completing its third year, and the study evaluates the second year, or fiscal year 2000, when $300,000 was spent on marketing.

The study found:

* More than 1.4 million people visited Lowell or attended events in the city from July 1999 to June 2000.

* The public-relations initiative of the marketing campaign yielded a steady stream of positive media stories.

* Spots on WBZ-AM radio in Boston were particularly effective.

* Public officials and business owners say the campaign is making a difference and should continue.

The report was based on attendance figures at the city's various attractions, such as the Spinners, Lock Monsters and museums, and on dozens of interviews.

UMass Lowell spokesman Chris Dunlap acknowledged the report isn't a precise barometer.

"Marketing is more art than science," she said.

However, Terry Flahive, chairman of the Lowell Plan's marketing subcommittee, and Thomas McKay, a member of the Lowell Plan board of directors, couldn't say enough about the ads.

As general manager of the Lowell Memorial Auditorium, McKay sees the impact the ads have had on attendance.

"In the last year we've had 12 sold-out shows, and just a few years ago that would have been unheard of," McKay said. "Today, promoters aren't hesitant to send the talent to Lowell."

To fund the campaign's fourth year, which begins July 1, the city is proposing to spend $250,000 and the Lowell Plan $100,000. Judging from comments made last night, the city appropriation will survive the City Council's budget sessions, which begin Saturday.

"I must urge my colleagues to support this," said Councilor Edward "Bud" Caulfield. "There are many cities out there spending a lot more than us."

City Manager John Cox was complimentary of the Lowell Plan and in particular the job it does spearheading the campaign.

"It is something that really works," said Cox. "And we know it works -- it benefits everything we do."