CAMPAIGNS: Branding - FL hotel sheds its Nashville identity

Client: Gaylord Palms Resort Hotel and Convention Center (Orlando, FL)
PR Team: Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown (Orlando, FL)
Campaign: A New Sun Over Florida
Time Frame: August - April 2002
Budget: $50,000

In August of 2001, the Opryland Hotel was poised to become Orlando's newest addition to the hospitality hub of America. Marketers worked aggressively to ensure that the Florida-themed convention center and hotel stood out in the minds of meeting planners. And with a nationally recognized name, 1,400 rooms, more than 400,000 square feet of meeting space, and a climate-controlled atrium bigger than Wrigley Field, they had a lot to work with.

However, as the marketing campaign progressed, it became clear that there was a problem: While the Florida resort featured miniature recreations of historic Floridian destinations such as Key West, St. Augustine, and the Everglades in its atrium, the Nashville hotel featured a country-music theme. "The Opryland name applied in Nashville, but in Florida it was a little confusing, says Suzanne McGovern, vice president of the PR division of Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown (YPB).

With only six months before the resort's opening event, parent company Gaylord Entertainment's corporate management needed to rebrand the resort as Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center, creating a separate identity from the Nashville hotel.

Strategy

"We needed to erase the name that was aggressively marketed for more than two years, and replace it with one that had no relationship with its target audience of meeting planners, says Rod Caborn, senior vice president of the PR division at YPB.

That in mind, the campaign needed to differentiate Gaylord Palms from the Nashville resort, clarify and educate those who had already been marketed to, emphasize the resort's role as a convention facility, and publicize the opening.

Tactics

McGovern and other YPB staffers quickly and carefully followed up with contacts to clarify the confusing change. Many asked if the hotel had been sold. "It was a phone-a-thon, McGovern says.

The next step was to get media placement. Because of the size and innovative features of the resort, the YPB team recognized the opportunity to generate story ideas across a wide spectrum of audiences. There were angles on the technological innovation of equipment in the meeting spaces, the design and architecture of the atrium and hotel facility, childcare facilities and techniques, a nautical angle, and even landscaping and horticulture approaches. "We tried to generate a lot of interest in this property. We wanted to make phones ring," McGovern says

Prior to the opening, 250 individual journalists stayed at the resort as part of eight promotional press trips.

The next step was to publicize the opening event, strategically held on February 2, 2002 at 2pm. Dave Jones, CEO of the Opryland Hospitality Group, announced, "We'll see you on 20202."

The event itself featured Florida Governor Jeb Bush as a keynote speaker, a black-tie concert emceed by country-music singer Vince Gill, and indoor fireworks.

Results

Media coverage included features and photos in the Los Angeles Times, the Houston Chronicle, the Miami Herald, Southern Living, Florida Trend, AAA Going Places, and meeting trade media, as well as TV and radio coverage in several large markets. McGovern estimates that the coverage received would be equivalent to $3 million in advertising.

More importantly, however, is that meeting planners responded positively, and the resort saw the pre-sale of 1 million room nights before it had even opened.

Future

Though YPB's contract for the rebranding of Gaylord Palms ran out in April, McGovern says that Gaylord Entertainment is looking to develop the brand by opening other regionally themed hotels around the country.

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