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City unveils new banners to support “Notorious” branding campaign

Municipal officials kicked off the revamped campaign on Oct. 6 by unveiling the first of 73 banners that will be installed permanently on light poles throughout the downtown.

Bootlegging, prostitution and gangsters are part of Moose Jaw’s past, a notorious past that city hall wants to emphasize as part of an enhanced branding campaign.

Municipal officials kicked off the revamped campaign on Oct. 6 by unveiling the first of 73 banners that will be installed permanently on light poles throughout the downtown. About 20 people — including members of city hall, city council, Tourism Moose Jaw and the Downtown Moose Jaw Association Inc. — were on hand to see the first banner revealed in front of city hall.

Having launched the “Canada’s Most Notorious City” slogan in February, the next step was to showcase just how notorious Moose Jaw is, Craig Hemingway, communications manager, explained. The goal was to have the same visual branding as the message.

City hall worked with several partners on the project, such as Tourism Moose Jaw and the downtown business association, and sought feedback about three options from a community group that has been providing advice about branding, he continued.

“It was a dead split between the three of them (options) and it was a really difficult choice,” added Hemingway, who helped spearhead the project. “But what we ended up doing was really going for a design we felt had a modern look, but that had a notorious nod to the 1920s and our past here in the City of Moose Jaw.”

The cost of the banners was $12,960 plus taxes, while the project budget was $30,000. It was funded through city hall’s equipment reserve using the depreciation accumulated from the previous “Surprisingly Unexpected” banners.

There has been an improvement in teamwork among community organizations during the last few years to enhance the city, Jacki L’Heureux Mason, executive director of Tourism Moose Jaw, said. The downtown business association has become more active recently, while Tourism Moose Jaw has been included in more initiatives at the behest of city hall.

“From a tourism perspective, I could not be more pleased with this new rebranding and also with these new banners,” she added. “Anything that makes this city more beautiful and more attractive to tourists is definitely good for us.”

Moose Jaw is well-known for the criminal activities that happened here during the 1920s and ’30s, along with the presence of legendary gangster Al Capone, so the municipality and its partners wanted to celebrate that history and showcase itself as a tourist town, city manager Jim Puffalt said.

“We wanted to be somewhat different because many communities are attractive places to live, and if you look at Moose Jaw, we have a historic downtown and (are) one of the most historic places in Saskatchewan,” he continued.

The pandemic hit the tourism sector in Moose Jaw hard, with the famous Tunnels of Moose Jaw still closed since the shut-down, said Puffalt. However, almost every other tourist attraction has reopened since March. Furthermore, many visitors have migrated to the city to have their picture taken with Mac the Moose.

Moose Jaw has had several slogans over the years, from The Friendly City to Surprisingly Unexpected. However, Puffalt said, the latter campaign was not well received, so city hall met with stakeholders to discuss how best to rebrand the community.

“‘The Friendly City’ is great and lots of cities are friendly, and we are proud to be a friendly city, but we want to stand out above the crowd … ,” he continued, adding the notorious slogan ensures Moose Jaw sticks in Canadians’ heads and encourages them to visit the community. 

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