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Cup Match campaign cost taxpayer $179,000

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The Government used leftover cash from the 2017 America's Cup to pay a US company to organise a string of Cup Match parties for social-media “celebrities”.

David Burt and his Cabinet approved the “sole source” contract with Mosaic Sales Solutions for a weekend of events, which cost taxpayers at least $179,000.

The Premier attended some of the “Dream Weekend” activities, including one said in a Cabinet memo to be a “unique and exquisite” dinner and a trip on the luxury charter yacht Venetian.

Janeé Bolden, one of the attendees, said afterwards on the Bossip website how the visitors were taken to the multimillion- dollar Tucker's Town home of businessman Chris Maybury and each “received their own bottle of champagne, along with a steel straw”.

Mr Burt said last night that the 2018 marketing campaign represented “extremely good value for money”.

The Premier said Mosaic was paid $179,400 and this included “talent acquisition fees” and payments to island companies.

But The Royal Gazette has seen documents suggesting some Bermudian companies involved in the Dream Weekend were paid directly by the Government and that the true cost of the weekend for taxpayers was higher. At least one local business claimed it was not paid at all.

A government spokeswoman said last night: “Records confirm that was the sum paid to the company.”

She said the former Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism, which was responsible for the event, had since been restructured twice so more time was needed to check the total cost of the weekend.

The Premier said: “Partnerships with recognised media and event leaders like Mosaic are fundamental to increasing our product offering in tourism and developing a brand that matches our price point.

“This is even more important now, as tourism sectors around the world seek to rebuild or even survive as a result of Covid.

“Bermuda's culture is vibrant and enthralling. Our responsibility is to continue to cultivate it and promote it as part of our efforts at making Bermuda stand out in a crowded marketplace. Cup Match is Bermuda at its finest and every effort must be made to attract the world to enjoy it.”

The Cabinet memo said the marketing campaign was to encourage African-American tourists to take an “impulse trip” to the island and convince them to “delve deeper into the culture and attraction of Bermuda” after they arrived.

But a source claimed the contract was put before the Cabinet at short notice on the Premier's orders and led to public funds being paid to a foreign firm to wine and dine so-called “social media influencers” without a tender process and with few measurable results.

The source claimed the true cost was closer to $300,000 and “nothing was really generated for Bermuda out of it”.

But Mr Burt said the campaign generated about 23.17 million impressions across Twitter and Instagram, and that the hashtag #DreamBermuda reached more than 6.7 million potential travellers.

The Premier said “influencer measured engagement” reached 522,382 potential travellers and the social-media reach exceeded that of the WTS Triathlon, which had a reach of 6.5 million and cost more than $3 million to support.

The agreement with Mosaic is understood to have been signed by Jamahl Simmons, then the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, in July 2018.

The source said Mr Simmons had to sign the agreement, at the Premier's request, because two senior civil servants declined to put their names on it.

The source claimed: “Really, a minister shouldn't be signing a contract like that.”

Mosaic's contract was to put on a party at Horseshoe Beach on the first day of Cup Match 2018 and run a “VIP lounge” for “celebrity influencers” and guests of the Government at Somerset Cricket Club in partnership with an island company the next day.

The influencers were taken on a daytime “curated and exclusive tour” by an island tourism ambassador, followed by an evening cocktail reception and dinner with the Premier and guests on the Saturday of Cup Match weekend.

The memo said: “The dinner will be a unique and exquisite affair designed to capture the very best of Bermuda's offering, cuisine and atmosphere.”

The group visited Mr Maybury's home on the Saturday evening and took a cruise on the Venetian on Sunday, the last day of the holiday.

The influencers generated social-media posts with the hashtags #CupMatch2018 and #DreamBermuda.

Mosaic shared the content with a partner company, Contend, which uses artificial intelligence technology for targeted advertising.

The funds for the campaign came from a pot of money left over from the 35th America's Cup.

The sailing spectacle, originally predicted to cost the island $77 million, came in $12.9 million under budget, an independent report by professional services firm PwC found.

The surplus was returned to the Government by ACBDA, the event organisers.

The Royal Gazette has seen an e-mail from Zane DeSilva, Mr Simmons's successor as tourism minister, to civil servants which confirmed that the cost centre quoted in the memo for the funding of the Dream Weekend was one that had “ACBDA credit”.

The Cabinet memo said: “Mosaic has identified local camera people, event holders, designers, and graphic artists to carry out most of the on-island work, ensuring that as much money as possible remains in the Bermuda economy.”

Pink Sand Entertainment — co-owned by Zuri Darrell, the younger brother of Mr Burt's Chief of Staff, Owen Darrell — was one of the companies involved in the programme of events, along with The Pristine Group and Fly High Media.

E-mail correspondence seen by The Royal Gazette showed that Fly High Media still awaited payment in April 2019 for its work on video footage shot at the Dream Weekend more than eight months earlier.

The delay prompted Zuri Darrell to contact Owen Darrell to ask for assistance on the videographer's behalf.

Mosaic, based in Irving, Texas, was awarded the Cup Match contract without a tender process.

The memo, presented to Cabinet by Mr Simmons in July 2018, said the acting director of the Office of Project Management and Procurement granted a waiver, in line with its code of practice.

The government spokeswoman confirmed it was a “sole source waiver”.

The Premier, then also the Minister of Finance, was said in the memo to have no objections to the proposal.

Neither did Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and Lovitta Foggo, the Minister of Government Reform.

Mosaic is understood to have been able to claim “preapproved costs and expenses” for travel and other expenses, such as hotels, food and entertainment, as well as an event fee.

Mr Burt was interviewed by Bernews at Cup Match 2018.

He said: “The Government is sponsoring people, in conjunction with tourism, ... a number of people that are down here.

“We are looking to turn the celebration of Emancipation in Bermuda into more of a holiday to attract more black tourists from the United States.

“As part of the process of which we are engaging in, I will be engaged in some of that over this weekend as well.”

He claimed yesterday that Bermuda Tourism Authority failed after being tasked with devising a marketing strategy for Cup Match and that Kevin Dallas, the former CEO, said he “didn't know how to sell Cup Match”.

Mr Burt said: “As the minister responsible for tourism, I am determined to break the cycle of resistance that still exists to promoting Bermuda to non-traditional markets.

“The suggestion that the publicly funded organisation whose mission it is to sell Bermuda either refused or could not figure out how to sell Cup Match was unacceptable.”

Mr Dallas said last night: “The confidentiality clause of my separation agreement with the Bermuda Tourism Authority precludes me from being able to respond in detail.

“However, I would note that it's a matter of public record that for Cup Match 2018 the BTA hosted actor Broderick Hunter as part of a wider National Tourism Plan strategy to double the number of African-American visitors to the island.”

Details of the Mosaic contract could not be found in the Official Gazette, although government contracts worth $50,000 or more have to be published in it.

Mr Simmons and Mosaic did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Who partied during the #DreamBermuda Weekend?

Angela Yee — TV Host/The Breakfast Club

Raashaun Casey (DJ Envy) — TV Host/The Breakfast Club

Terrance J (Jenkins) — Actor/Producer/TV Personality

Jasmine Sanders — Fashion Model

Cassandra Davis — Fitness Model

Chef Roble Ali — Celebrity Chef /TV Host

Chef JR (Robinson) — Celebrity Chef (Hell's Kitchen)

Roger Mason Jr — Former deputy executive director NBA Players Association

Janee Bolden — Bossip Media Publication

Preston Davis — Complex Magazine

Richard “Younglord” Frierson — RocNation (LTR)

To view a full statement from David Burt and the Cabinet memorandum, click on the PDF links under “Related Media”

Terrance J and Jasmine Sanders (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
The Venetian yacht welcomed celebrity social-media influencers on board during Cup Match 2018 as part of a marketing campaign called #DreamWeekend (Photograph from Robbie's Graphic Designs on Instagram)
The Venetian yacht welcomed celebrity social-media influencers on board during Cup Match 2018 as part of a marketing campaign called #DreamWeekend (Photograph from Robbie's Graphic Designs on Instagram)
David Burt, then the Opposition leader, chats with One Bermuda Alliance MP Cole Simons at the America's Cup in 2017
Gia Casey sips champagne from a straw, alongside DJ Envy, at the #DreamBermuda Cup Match 2018 event (Photograph from DJ Envy on Instagram)
DJ Envy (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Cassandra Davis (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published October 01, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated October 02, 2020 at 4:45 am)

Cup Match campaign cost taxpayer $179,000

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