Memphis plays up role in Elvis' debut to attract tourists

In 1954, Elvis Presley recorded "That's All Right" at Sun Studios in Memphis, an event that many consider to be the birth of rock 'n' roll.

In 1954, Elvis Presley recorded "That's All Right" at Sun Studios in Memphis, an event that many consider to be the birth of rock 'n' roll.

Fifty years later, the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau decided to celebrate that seminal music moment by creating a yearlong campaign that would draw attention to the city and its heritage and boost tourism.

"We looked at 2004 as a real pivotal year in the history of Memphis," says Kevin Kane, president and CEO of the Memphis bureau. "We just thought it was a great opportunity for us to seize the moment and brand the Memphis destination."

Kane and his team enlisted the help of Goodman Media International to help create a campaign that not only celebrated Elvis' debut, but generated excitement about Memphis as a historical destination for music lovers as well.

Strategy

"We decided that we didn't want it to be a local campaign," explains Kane of his reason for choosing a New York agency. "We wanted to take this thing around the world."

To help achieve that goal, the Goodman team came up with the idea of creating celebrity "musical ambassadors," appointed by the mayor of Memphis, who would act as spokespeople for the campaign. Justin Timberlake, Isaac Hayes, B.B. King, Sam "the Sham" Samudio, and Scotty Moore (who played lead guitar for Elvis on "That's All Right") were chosen. Goodman Media then created "Global Moment in Time," an event that would take place in Memphis on July 5, 2004 - 50 years to the date of the original Elvis recording - when radio stations around the world would simultaneously play "That's All Right" at noon and a live celebration would take place in Memphis.

Tactics

"Timberlake really helped bring the national attention," says Goodman Media's Deborah Sternberg, who oversaw the effort. The pop star announced the project during an appearance on Dick Clark's New Year's Eve special.

Goodman then created a New York kickoff event for the media and the public. The agency also sent out more than 500 unusual press kits in January - a guitar case filled with Memphis-centric items, such as barbecue sauce and guitar picks - to music, travel, and entertainment media, among others.

"We thought it would be a good idea to have a press kit that reporters couldn't throw away," explains Sternberg. "I got a few calls saying, 'This is a very unique press kit.'"

Sternberg and her team also did extensive outreach to radio stations to enlist their participation in the Global Moment.

Results

"We hit a grand slam with Goodman Media," says Kane. "It exceeded everyone's expectations. It has just generated millions upon millions of dollars of exposure for Memphis. We're having a good year tourism-wise, and we feel that this campaign, if nothing else, was a great brand awareness campaign for the destination that will help our destination for years to come."

Goodman's efforts won more than 400 print articles and numerous broadcast opportunities, including a two-page story in USA Today, stories in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and a cover story in Northwest Airlines' in-flight magazine.

The Global Moment was also a success. The live celebration drew more than 5,000 people and 150 members of the press. Also, the Global Moment in Time was carried on more than 1,200 radio stations worldwide.

Future

The 50th anniversary campaign is still going on. Last month, for example, "Elvis Week" was held to draw even more visitors to Memphis. The city is also working on related projects with sister city Liverpool, England (home of The Beatles), on other promotions.

PR team: Goodman Media International (New York) and the Memphis Visitors & Convention Bureau

Campaign: 50th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll

Time frame: September 2003 to present (ongoing)

Budget: $125,000

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