CU: $764K debate cost delivered $4M value
boulder» The University of Colorado believes the Republican presidential debate it hosted in October was the largest media event in the campus’s 140-year history — and says it has the numbers to back it up.
A university-commissioned analysis found the debate’s publicity value to be between $4.1 million and $4.2 million, well above the $764,102 that the university spent to host 14 Republican presidential hopefuls on Oct. 28 at the Coors Event Center.
Hill+Knowlton Strategies, a global public relations firm based in New York City, estimated that CU earned $3.87 million in media value based on articles that mentioned CU by name and gave some detail about the university, according to a summary report compiled by CU.
CU also earned $250,000 to $332,500 for a short, scene-setting clip of the campus, the university seal, the Flatirons and a Ralphie statue shown during an introduction to the debate, which was broadcast by cable business news network CNBC.
All told, the debate was featured in 4,529 news stories between July and November last year, many of them mentioning CU, and there were more than 10,000 social media engagements.
CU says it spent $54,517 on communications and information technology; $352,057 on police, safety and security; $316,345 on site preparation; and $41,182 on other expenses, such as transportation, parking workers and meals.
Officials said insurance rebates covered the costs — no tuition, student fees or taxpayer money was used for the debate.
The same study found that the debate had a local economic impact, too.
Approximately 200 state residents, 500 journalists, 200 Republican National Committee members and 350 CNBC employees and campaign staffers descended on Boulder for the debate, spending $424,400 to $628,100.
At times, students and faculty were critical of the university’s decision to host and pay for the debate.
A professor said the university’s “obsession with branding” was getting in the way of its academic mission. Students protested the lack of seats inside the Coors Event Center.
Other schools and cities, however, stood by decisions to host high-profile political events, saying they had benefits like increasing alumni engagement.