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Challenge: Tell Charlotte's Story During The DNC

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Click on the image to open larger, scrolling view. Six months ago - with much fanfare - the Democratic National Committee unveiled the official logo for the party's 2012 convention in Charlotte. You've probably seen the logo by now - a blue and red circle similar to the Obama Campaign logo. It has the silhouette of a victorious-looking crowd, clasping hands in the air. So we were confused when another convention-related logo surfaced recently. Here is the story of that logo and how it illustrates a tricky balance Charlotte leaders are trying to strike as they prepare for the DNC. Tracy Russ. Photo: Julie Rose Meet Tracy Russ, Chief Marketing office for the Charlotte in 2012 Convention Host Committee. Like all good marketers, he has a special place where he goes for inspiration. He calls it the "Brand Experience Development" room of the host committee. "That's not the official name of this room," he admits with a chuckle. "It's also the staff lounge/junk room/storage room." A Coke machine hums in the corner. The walls are plastered with pictures of Charlotte - street corners, buildings, landmarks - each is a possible opportunity for Russ to display the new logo of the Charlotte in 2012 Convention Host Committee. That logo, by the way, looks nothing like the official convention logo. In fact, you'd probably never guess it had a thing to do with a political convention if you came across it. "Charlotte" is written in bold letters and above it, the Uptown skyline made up of tiny, winding sentences. "Charlotte is a beautiful clean city that offers a high quality of life and the comforts of Southern hospitality, but also a forward-thinking, can-do Southern culture. . . " You get the idea. It's a good-looking logo, perfect for the city's tourism office, but that's not where Russ works. The Charlotte in 2012 Convention Host Committee is a nonprofit that formed when the Democrats chose Charlotte as the convention site. Its duties are laid out in a 50-page contract and essentially boil down to this. "The primary responsibility of the host committee is to raise the private funds to pay for the convention," says Chris Lopez who was in charge of marketing for Denver's host committee where the Democrats held their last national convention. Every host city forms one of these committees. Denver raised $55 million for the convention. Charlotte is on the hook for $36.6 million. There are some hospitality requirements in the 50-page contract, too, but nothing about developing a logo to tell Charlotte's story. Russ says that is "something that the host committee seeks to do because this is an enormous opportunity for the community." His big hope is that everyone who comes to the convention will glance away from the glitzy stage long enough to read the tiny print of the host committee logo and get all warm-fuzzy about Charlotte. "Why it's a great place to live; why it's a place of opportunity; and frankly, why they should come back," says Russ. Charlotte's not alone in trying to get some extra mileage out of the convention attention - most convention host committees do. And they all walk the same fine line between being completely non-partisan, while at the same time existing to support an event that defines "partisan." In Denver, for example, Chris Lopez says the host committee used its own logo and steered clear of political talk in raising money for the 2008 convention. He says Charlotte should, too, "because everybody in Charlotte - whether they're Democrat or Republican - has a stake that the city does it well, comes out of it looking good." The Charlotte in 2012 Host Committee won't say how much it's raised, but it has been challenging. The Democratic Party this year banned contributions to the convention from lobbyists, corporations and political action committees. So the host committee has had to get creative - selling official convention merchandise a year in advance, for example, rather than just during the convention. In the host committee's brand development/break room, Tracy Russ is plotting all the places he can get the Charlotte in 2012 logo in front of convention delegates: "From the moment that they are coming out of that jetway through to getting in a cab to getting to their hotel to on the street, what are they seeing?" says Russ. "What are they hearing? What are they experiencing that all ads up to a Charlotte message?" The extent to which he can do that will depend on how much money the host committee raises above and beyond the $36.6 million the convention requires.