In the late 1980’s Gaston County native, Michael Sumner founded his marketing agency in the York Chester building on E. 2nd Ave. It was Gaston County’s first ad agency and recently celebrated its 33rd year serving clients.
At about the same time, Sam Robinson, also a Gaston County native, anticipated the slow down coming for area textiles and left a successful career to go to work for another Gastonia landmark, Choice Beverage.
“At that time it was known as Sundrop and was certainly an important part of all Gaston County and the region,” said Robinson. After 30 years of managing one of the area's largest employers, Sam retired from the beverage business and decided it was time for a change.
“I was walking downtown several months ago and was amazed at all the businesses that were opening on Main Avenue; and it was an exciting time for Gastonia”, said Robinson.
As fate would have it, Sam ran into Michael from the Sumner Group, at one of the new restaurants in downtown. “Sam just looked a little bit out of place wondering downtown so I said what are you doing down here” and he replied “I have retired,” said Sumner.
Sumner was shocked because Sam Robinson had so much to do with Choice Beverage’s successful growth for many years.
“This was huge for me because I knew Sam was not the type of person who would retire” said Mike. He continued “Sam Robinson has more experience in competitive branding than just about anyone, not just in Gaston County but in the region. Sam is a quiet leader and is exactly what we need to help lead our agency.”
Back in the 1990s, Sundrop hired the Sumner Group to help coordinate marketing publicity for the U.S. Knee Board Championships they were sponsoring. It was an incredible event at Robinwood Lake, with ESPN-U covering the event.
Sumner remembers “over 7,500 people attended the event, and it was memorable for the entire region.” Local knee board legend Jonathan McDonald won the crown. “We had a lot of fun and I enjoyed my partnership with the Sumner Group.” said Robinson. In addition to this special event, Sundrop has been a sponsor of the ACC barnstorming tour, also coordinated by the agency.
“It’s just been a solid friendship and business partnership so when I had the opportunity to go to work for the agency, that was an easy decision,” said Robinson. He continued, “My wife has coined it, ‘Slammin’ Sammy’s second career!”
Pet Sumner, in line to take over the agency from his parents, has formed an immediate friendship and mentorship with Sam. Pet commented, “Sam has a steadying influence at the agency but we are all giving Sam a hard time about his sweaters. Sam has more sweaters than most men’s stores and I’m even considering going out and purchasing a V-neck to get with the program.”
The agency has made a number of new presentations and has acquired several new accounts. “Like for many businesses, this has been a challenging time”, said agency president Jacque Sumner. “In order to survive and succeed during the pandemic, we changed our marketing strategy for many of our clients, including our own marketing and branding.” She continued, “bottom line, hard work and innovative marketing efforts are still paramount. We have a great team and Sam certainly adds strong branding experience to our agency. We recently held our strategic marketing session and are anticipating strong growth in 2021.”