Jennifer Hellman at the fair.
Jennifer Hellman at the fair.

Up to $1 million per year for advertising has been spent in previous years to promote the San Diego County Fair at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. This year, for the smaller-scale version called “HomeGrownFun,” the amount is $50,000.

Don’t expect to see TV commercials, newspaper ads and outdoor billboards. Instead, the precious few dollars have been allocated mostly to digital, including email, social media and banner ads, along with some radio, according to Jennifer Hellman, marketing director for the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

“The advertising budget for HomeGrownFun was $50,000, which is about 5 percent of a typical, full-scale San Diego County, which on average is about a million dollars,” Hellman told Times of San Diego.

“Our tickets are all being sold online in advance this year, which is very different from years past, so digital is one click away from our point-of-sale,” said Hellman, who has worked for the past 13 years in marketing roles at the fairgrounds. “Combined with the fact that we had a very compressed timeline and reduced staffing, we didn’t have the opportunity for heavy design, production or long-lead.”

Even this year’s logo of a tractor leaving sunflowers in its wake is not original artwork.

“We actually have our industry friends at the Orange County Fair to thank for our happy tractor,” said Hellman. “They pulled a graphics package together to help us launch our event. Since floriculture is a huge part of San Diego’s top crops, we thought it set the tone of something fun and happy sprouting up again.”

Hellman said she has the flexibility to make advertising reallocations during the four-week event in case a strategy included in the initial plan is not pulling fair-goers.

“Yes, changes could be made,” she said. “The event industry can be unpredictable, and sometimes things don’t turn out as planned and you need to analyze the results you’re getting and adapt accordingly.”

Pandemic-related uncertainties over the past eight months led the fairgrounds board of directors, officially known as the 22nd District Agricultural Association, to replace the San Diego County Fair with HomeGrownFun. The nine-member board is appointed by the state governor to oversee activities at the state-owned fairgrounds.

Instead of 60,000 or so visitors a day the fair attracts during its normal summer run, capacity for the scaled-down HomeGrownFun is 13,000 visitors daily. Face masks will be required for all guests, ages 2 and up, and social distancing will be enforced. People refusing to comply with the face mask ordinance may be asked to leave. Temperature screenings will also be conducted at entry.

There are no Midway games or fun zone, no full-size garden show, no livestock or pet exhibitions, no grandstand concerts, no beer garden and no art, woodworking or collectibles show.

This year’s attractions include more than 280 vendors selling kitchen gadgets, cleaners and collectibles in the Bing Crosby and other exhibit halls, about 40 food booths. Contactless payments, including credit and debit cards, are preferred. Some vendors may not be accepting cash.

Other activities will include a carousel and Ferris wheel, pony rides, a model train, cow-milking demonstrations, San Diego-area musicians performing on the Paddock and other stages and a closing-day fireworks show on the Fourth of July. After COVID restrictions officially end on June 15 with the California economy fully reopening, the fair will add 12 children’s rides in the Midway area.

Hellman also is relying on editorial news coverage to help spread the word about HomeGrownFun.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the support, interest and genuine enthusiasm from the media to cover and support this event,” she said over the weekend. “Opening day felt so special. Reporters are genuinely excited to be covering good news and see the San Diego community coming together again.”

HomeGrownFun began June 11 and runs through July 4, except Mondays and Tuesdays. It opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. When purchasing admission tickets online, guests are required to select a timeframe for entry. Tickets cost $10 per person and children 5 and under are free. There will be no ticket sales at the gate.

Parking passes, priced at $12, also need to be purchased online in advance. Parking is available only at the green Solana Gate on Via de la Valle and the yellow Stable Gate on Jimmy Durante Boulevard.

A full return to the usual San Diego County Fair is expected in 2022.

The “Together Against COVID” campaign.

‘Together Against COVID’ Campaign Wins Advertising Award

The County of San Diego and Multicultural Health Foundation were recently honored at the San Diego American Advertising Awards for the “Together Against COVID” campaign that targeted San Diego County Black communities with accurate, consistent and timely COVID-19 information.

A Silver award was presented in the Corporate Social Responsibility Billboard-Poster category, while a Bronze award was in the Television Corporate Social Responsibility category.

San Diego marketing and communications agency J. Walcher Communications developed the COVID campaign, which included outdoor, radio and TV commercials, print and out-of-home advertising promoting awareness, resources and information. In a statement, The agency called it a “disruption awareness campaign.”

“We wanted to get away from the messages that were starting to fall on deaf ears, the importance of social distancing, mask wearing, by tying our campaign to social justice issues,” said Jean Walcher, president of the agency. “Doug Moore and Robert Borges, our creative director and copywriter, respectively, dug deep into the issue to create a campaign that got attention and drove people to a website for more information.”

The San Diego American Advertising Awards program was organized by the local chapter of the American Advertising Federation.

Once Heard in San Diego, Jim Rome is Now Richest Sportscaster

Nationally-syndicated radio sports talk-show host Jim Rome, believed to America’s wealthiest broadcaster with ties to San Diego, has signed with talent agency ICM Partners for representation, reports Deadline Hollywood, an entertainment industry news website. Founded in 1975 as International Creative Management, ICM represents artists, content creators, broadcasters, authors, journalists and artisans.

Jim Rome

After graduating from the University of California Santa Barbara in 1987, Rome worked for a few years at KTMS 990-AM in Santa Barbara. In late 1990, Rome joined XTRA Sports 690-AM, where his radio talk-show career blossomed. His show became nationally syndicated in 1996. In 1997, he expanded into television, hosting “The Last Word with Jim Rome” on Fox Sports and “Jim Rome is Burning” on ESPN.

Today, “The Jim Rome Show” airs on CBS Sports Radio and streams to more than two million listeners on 200 stations, including KWFN 97.3-FM The Fan in San Diego (weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon).

His cameo appearances in motion pictures have included alongside Michael Jordan in “Space Jam,” Adam Sadler in “The Longest Yard” and Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey in “Two for the Money.”

According to, an online entertainment news web blog, Rome’s net worth is estimated at a staggering $90 million, making him the richest sports commentator in the world. He reportedly is paid $30 million a year in his contract with CBS.

San Diego AMA Webinar Offers Insights on ‘Social Styles’

The American Marketing Association San Diego chapter will host “Social Styles,” a free webinar from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesday, June 23 over Zoom.

Presented by the Fundraising Academy of La Jolla, the webinar will cover the four dominant social styles, including learn, understand, empathize and adapt, which are the four primary approaches for sending and receiving information. The social style model is one of the most valuable methods for finding the best way to approach a prospect, establish rapport, secure a partnership and form a lasting relationship.

Rick Griffin is a San Diego-based public relations and marketing consultant. His MarketInk column appears weekly on Mondays in Times of San Diego.