The Baltimore Grand Prix and The Branding of a Great City

Unlike many, I don’t see the Baltimore Grand Prix as defined by a few races and the Labor Day weekend. The Baltimore Grand Prix, if we are determined to do it right, is about the branding of a still great city. It is a step in taking back our image from Homicide and the Wire. And the success or failure of the Baltimore Grand Prix will not be determined by a tally of weekend hotel stays and restaurant tabs. It will be determined by follow up.

Much has been written about the downsides. We’ve heard from disgruntled residents, people worried about the noise, the perceived misdirection of funds, and the diversion of government from “what it should be doing.”

I get all those things…and I respectfully disagree.

Government is about larger things; and larger things do not get accomplished without ruffled feathers. But it’s more than that. Thanks to HBO, Baltimore has become known as a place where exciting things happen…but most of them are unsolved. That’s not how it should be.

The Mayor has to be Baltimore’s champion – not just its steward. And it takes more than slogans on repainted benches. It takes some excitement – something eye-catching.

Now I know that there are people out there anxious to report the verdict on the Grand Prix first thing Tuesday morning. Those people remind me of folks who step on the scale after one workout expecting to see a measurable difference. You can’t. You get results by continuous effort over a long period. And you begin to notice results in little ways. A looser collar here, a bit more energy there. Not risking collapse by walking up the steps to the third floor.

Similarly, the Grand Prix is (or should be) part of an effort to showcase the city as a destination. A place where businesses should be. Anyone with any understanding of marketing knows that one initiative does not establish an identity – not for a company and not for a city.

I applaud the Mayor for taking a chance; for giving Baltimore a shot to be known for something beyond the headlines.

There is an old saying that sports headlines trumpet man’s successes while news headlines only trumpet his failures.



If that’s the case, can anyone argue that Baltimore needs more sports?

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