Client: South Main Association, Memphis, TN
PR Team: Archer/Malmo (Memphis) and a volunteer committee of PR and
Campaign: Second Annual South Main Arts Festival
Time Frame: Three months leading up to the April 28 festival
Budget: $2,500 for expenses, PR work pro bono
Scores of travelers once frequented South Main Street in downtown
Memphis, getting on and off trains at historic Central Station. The
neighborhood grew up in the first two decades of the 20th century, but
as the train station deteriorated, owners gradually vacated many of the
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 assassination at the neighborhood's
Lorraine Hotel accelerated suburban flight from the area.
In recent years, however, developers converted many older structures
into lofts, often with shops and art galleries occupying ground
The renovated train station reopened with Amtrak service in 1999, the
city christened South Main its arts district, and boosters organized the
area's first street festival in 2000.
Cynthia Ham, EVP of Archer/Malmo, lives and works in the area, and was
recruited to head up PR for the second annual South Main Arts
Her goal was to attract interest in the overlooked neighborhood from
city leaders, potential developers, and Memphis' general citizenry.
Organizers strove to position South Main as a unique neighborhood,
highlight its history, and showcase its business potential. They also
wanted to top last year's attendance of 2,500.
Choosing not to bet on raising money through concessions and attractions
at the free-admission event, Ham's crew sought sponsorships to pay for
performers and facilities. Organizers also moved the festival's date to
attract more attention. In 2000, the event took place during the second
week of the city's month-long Memphis in May festival, competing with
Ham promoted "Memphis in May" in years past, and called on that
experience and her extensive contact list to recruit sponsors. Her team
secured stage sponsorships from the University of Memphis and Michelob
Light, and lots of free air time from Clear Channel Communications,
which runs six stations in the city. The alternative weekly, the Memphis
Flyer, also printed an insert about the festival, which the
association's meager budget partially funded. The sponsorship value
Media relations activities began months in advance, when the association
announced a poster design contest. The winning poster was unveiled six
weeks before the festival. Marketing committee volunteers prepared press
kits and positioned themselves at festival entrances to assist
The association also hosted a VIP party for city leaders, and Ham's
group put together a Web site, www.s-main.com, not only to promote the
festival, but to provide year-round information about the
An estimated 10,000 visitors attended the festival, drawing record
business to neighborhood shops and galleries.
"It's just a shame we can't do it four times a year," says Pert
Whitehead, proprietor of The Charcoal Store, which sells grilling
supplies and yard ornaments.
"It brought a lot of new people into the store."
A couple of local TV stations covered the festival heavily. The city's
daily paper, The Commercial Appeal, wrote about the poster contest and
ran advance features, but did not cover the event itself.
Organizers circulated a survey among businesses and sponsors, and got
mostly positive responses. The association made enough through
concession sales and attractions to purchase light-pole banners for the
Two businesses interested in title sponsorships for next year's festival
have contacted Ham, and the association authorized her to negotiate with
them. She plans to be a consultant for 2002, but will turn most
nuts-and-bolts PR work over to others.