America's Greatest Family Resort basks in the glow of national coverage
"We can be heroes just for one day." - David Bowie
IT WAS ALMOST SURREAL ON THE Ocean City beach last Friday night. On a makeshift road that led to the beach in front of 34th Street, there sat at least $10 million worth of television production equipment that chronicled the OCBP's victory in the South Jersey championship for a national audience on ESPN.
Guess what all you other beach patrols? The OCBP is baaaacccck.
ESPN's "50 States in 50 Days" had landed in Ocean City and the Ocean City Beach Patrol was not about to let any of the other South Jersey beach patrols upstage it. However, the night really wasn't about the South Jersey lifeguard races. Instead it was about the exposure Ocean City received on ESPN, which went live during the races. And the segment ESPN put together ran again and again on SportsCenter late that night and the next morning.
I know because I had about 20 current Ocean City lifeguards huddled in my living room watching the coverage last Friday night, their pride almost exceeding their suntans and their washboard stomachs.
Can anybody come up with a price tag on the amount of advertising OC got from ESPN's coverage of the South Jerseys? I mean every time the piece ran it showed how Ocean City had been voted the No. 1 family beach resort in the country by the Travel Channel. And add that to USA Today voting Ocean City's Boardwalk as one of the top 10 in the country and you have a national exacta for Ocean City. While the Northeast sweltered in a heat wave, Ocean City looked mighty inviting.
We'd like to give credit to Mark Soifer, Ocean City's crafty public relations czar for all this. However, it was the OCBP itself that brought ESPN to America's Greatest Family Resort, led by OCBP Chief Tom Mullineaux and his staff, who did an outstanding job running the race and putting on a great face for Ocean City.
Ocean City has been hidden in Atlantic City's shadow this summer with all of the attention Casino City has received for adult entertainment: beach bars, exotic babes and big-time concerts. But when it comes to family entertainment, Ocean City is everything Atlantic City is not and will never be again. That's not a criticism of Atlantic City; that's just the way it is right now and how it has evolved and how the movers and shakers want it to be in Atlantic City. The recent survey conducted by the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority basically told us as much. When people are coming to Atlantic City to gamble and party, they are leaving their children at home.
That's where Ocean City comes in, and what should be a regional approach to marketing the entire southern New Jersey area, with all due credit to CRDA's Curtis Bashaw and his Summits at the Shore.
If Atlantic City is for adults only, Ocean City is for families of four and more. And for lifeguard races and miniature golf and hermit crab races.
The OCBP won the title for the 30th time in the 66-year history of the event, scoring 14 out of 15 points by winning the singles and the swim, and finishing second in the doubles race.
And this time, the whole ESPN world was watching and you could almost feel the pangs of jealousy from the spin doctors in Atlantic City.
What they were watching was not only an event, but also an image that not even the founding fathers of Ocean City would ever have imagined.
Just for one day, everybody was a hero in America's Greatest Family Resort.
Chuck Betson can be heard every Friday at 8:30am on ESPN�1450AM radio with a sports segment on the Hurley in the Morning show.
“The races are really cool, it’s a really big South Jersey culture thing."