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Three little letters become big business

Lena Price November 26, 2012 11

RVA logo triptych

The logo popularized by free stickers, left, has spread to coffee, apparel and more. (Photos by Lena Price)

The ubiquitous RVA logo is getting even more popular.

Hudson News, a national chain of airport gift shops with seven locations in the Richmond International Airport, recently began stamping the RVA logo on clothing, magnets and a diverse array of drinking glasses.

“I don’t think we realized how fast these items would fly off the tables,” said Jamil Siddiqi, general manager of the Hudson stores at the Richmond airport. “And it’s just gotten bigger every week. I’ll put out an order of RVA T-shirts, and a couple of days later I’m placing another order.”

The gift shop has gone through at least 300 T-shirts and just ordered a shipment of sweatshirts to keep up with demand.

“College students have really taken to it, a lot of people buy it to take to family outside of Richmond,” Siddiqi said. “It’s right up there with our Virginia is for Lovers merchandise.”

What started as a campaign to brand Richmond as a creative capital is becoming a lucrative business opportunity for many local shops.

The branding of RVA began about two years ago when Venture Richmond, a few local advertising firms and a class of VCU students repurposed the existing abbreviation.

Economic development group Venture Richmond started to spread the word about the new logo by giving away black-and-white RVA stickers. They caught on fast, said Lucy Meade, the marketing director for Venture Richmond.

Since the campaign launched, Venture Richmond has printed and distributed more than 125,000 stickers. The city has incorporated the new logo into banners, police cars and garbage trucks, and business and universities have used the campaign’s online generator to design personalized logos.

Matt Williams, a partner at local advertising giant the Martin Agency, said that the goal of the RVA project was to provide an outlet for city pride but that the scope has expanded.

“These businesses have been taking it to places we don’t always expect,” Williams said. “We’re always surprised, and it’s fun to watch.”

No one owns the RVA brand, and businesses are free to pull it from the RVA Creates site without asking for permission.

“If people want to use it to make money, they can go ahead,” Meade said. “We put it out there for anyone.”

Carytown Bicycle Company co-owner Braden Govoni worked with a graphic designer to incorporate the silhouette of a bike into the logo.

“We’re not just a bike shop, we’re a Richmond bike shop,” Govoni said. “The RVA logo gave us an opportunity to work with a strong visual design and to tie our branding in with the city.”

And his customers are responding. In about three months, the shop has sold a full order of 150 RVA hats and about 50 shirts.

A Manchester coffee supplier also found a way to integrate the logo into its inventory. Blanchard’s Coffee Company collaborated with RVANews to create an RVA exclusive coffee blend.

Blanchard’s has sold about 30 five-pound cases to local markets like Ellwood Thompson’s, Farm to Family and both Libbie Market locations. It’s also available by the pound online.

Blanchard’s marketing director Stephen Robertson said he was surprised by how easy it was use the RVA emblem. He made a quick call to the Venture Richmond office and found out it would be free to use the logo on the coffee’s packaging.

“Working with Venture Richmond was a really streamlined process,” Robertson said. “It’s obvious they want the logo out there. They want people to use it.”

It’s about to get even easier for Richmonders to pick up RVA merchandise. Early next month, Venture Richmond will launch an online catalogue of RVA products. Any shop that uses the logo can post items to the catalogue.

“We hoped it would take off downtown, but we had no idea how far it would really spread,” said Lucy Meade of Venture Richmond. “It’s been embraced by the whole region.”

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  1. Bryan Miller November 26, 2012 at 7:58 am - Reply

    Kudos to everyone involved with this effort. It’s good to see something created and put into the public domain for all to use without the usual restrictions and fees.

  2. Scott Pharr November 26, 2012 at 8:17 am - Reply

    Check ou http://shop.rvanews.com for more items like this too including pint glasses, wine glasses, black and gold RVA stickers and more!

  3. Ike November 26, 2012 at 9:21 am - Reply

    I absolutely love this campaign and think it’s something Richmond can really be proud of. It does however make me think of the woman in Baltimore who trademarked a popular town saying and the chaos that followed. The fact that this is free to anyone is great, but is it protected from the @$$HOLE that decides to try and claim it?

  4. Troy Bell November 26, 2012 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Nice to see RVA merchandise from Hudson News “take off” at RIC.

  5. Angi November 26, 2012 at 9:53 am - Reply

    I too am so happy to see what appears to be 3 letters take off in pride for our city! Love it, I had relatives from Richmond, England come over this summer and each of them went home with RVA stickers – they were so excited to get them in their gift baskets.Great job to everyone involved, I am a proud RVA sticker displayer, RVA glass drinker and RVA t-shirt wearer!

  6. Angi November 26, 2012 at 9:56 am - Reply

    ** meant to say what appears to be “3 simple letters”

  7. Mark Deutsch November 26, 2012 at 11:24 am - Reply

    It is great to see the “RVA” movement continue to grow – Check it out http://www.RVAgear.com for more RVA items, including some awesome coffee tumblers (I got mine) – RVA truly represents a grassroots, bureaucracy-free interest in regionalism – RVA = Focus.

  8. Donna November 26, 2012 at 11:38 am - Reply

    I’d love to see a miniature license plate with the logo to hang from my bicycle.

  9. Jay November 26, 2012 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    Love the black and gold sticker I picked up for my car.

  10. Gordon Laroussini November 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    The RVA logo promotes our city pride as I market Richmond as a possible retirement location. As the real estate industry does an about face, the RVA logo presents the real Richmond lifestyle as a trendy place to live, recognizing a past full of character and progressive attitude.

  11. Aimie March 13, 2013 at 6:40 am - Reply

    Business decals are often neglected by promoters, but the smartest business owners know that business vinyl decals are actually some of the most highly effective marketing resources on the earth.

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