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BC Ferries spent $2 million on Olympic ship wrap project

British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. spent $2 million on a promotion that included wrapping new vessels in Olympic logos, a project a spokesperson says was good value for the boost it gave BC Ferries and provincial tourism.

Many of the details are redacted from records BC Ferries released last week in response to an unnamed individual's freedom of information request. They do, however, show that it cost the publicly-owned ferry company just under $1.2 million to have the 3M supplied logos made and applied to the Coastal Renaissance, Coastal Celebration and Coastal Inspiration.

According to a June 22, 2007 letter outlining the agreement with VANOC, the body that managed the Olympics in B.C., BC Ferries was responsible for up to another $850,000 for a media event in Germany where the ships were built.

The company was also to make the ships available for at least four other Olympic media events, according to the letter from VANOC executive vice-president Dave Cobb to BC Ferries president and CEO David Hahn.

It was money well spent and much cheaper than the roughly $10 million it would have cost BC Ferries to become a full Olympic sponsor, said BC Ferries spokesperson Mark Stefanson in an email. "Please note that BC Ferries was the only company approved by VANOC to be granted use the Olympic rings, while not being a full fledged sponsor," he wrote. "BC Ferries was not going to entertain a full sponsorship."

The media events came in cheaper than expected, he said. "The actual cost was closer to $800,000 and it also covered a major media event in London, England in May 2008 when the last of the three ships, the Coastal Celebration travelled up the Thames River to Tower Bridge."

That event was "very successful" in promoting both the 2010 Olympics and tourism to B.C., he said. "BC Ferries and B.C. tourism interests derived significant international publicity in the UK, Germany and Europe for hosting these events," Stefanson said.

"BC Ferries also derived a great deal of international and national exposure for helping to promote the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and B.C. tourism during the lead up and duration of the games," he said. "From our perspective, it was a great success and a marketing coup."

He also noted that the ships came in $20 million under budget and several months ahead of schedule.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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