On July 5, 1954, a truck driver hoping to record two songs as a birthday present for his mother walked into a Memphis recording studio and changed music forever.
Elvis Presley's recording of "That's All Right" has long been regarded as the birth of rock 'n' roll, and in 2004, Memphis and the rest of the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of that historic moment.
Long a leader in rock memorabilia, the Hard Rock Cafe turned to Coyne PR to help it piggyback on those celebrations and promote the Hard Rock brand throughout the country.
In 2003, the Hard Rock conducted a mobile marketing tour, bringing a collection of its memorabilia to cities around the country. That tour was not supported by PR or advertising campaigns and experienced minimal success. With the rig still available, the team decided to bring the tour back on the road, supported by a major PR push and augmented by several in-cafe promotions.
"We wanted to position Hard Rock as the authority to tell the story of 50 years of rock," says John Gogarty, VP at Coyne. "By positioning ourselves as the authority, we inherited that mantle as the leader in rock history."
Hard Rock's 50 Years of Rock Mobile Tour traveled to 14 cities, but unlike the year before, it mixed in locations that did not have caf?s. "We took it on the road to places that typically won't be able to see our memorabilia," says Brian Siemienas, senior director of marketing for Hard Rock. "We felt that we could improve the number of impressions by going to large-scale events, like concerts and NASCAR races."
To promote the tour, Coyne's team pitched "early and often" to local and national media, as well as to in-flight magazines.
"When we'd go into a local market like Denver," Gogarty explains, "we would target the morning show, the weather guy, the newspaper rock reporter," any media outlet that could bring out the public to see the memorabilia.
In its cafes, Hard Rock offered a special anniversary item - Elvis' Favorite Meal, which consisted of pork chops and gravy, vegetable soup, and apple pie ? la mode.
The cafes also participated in the Global Moment in Time, a worldwide effort thought up by Goodman Media for the simultaneous airplay of "That's All Right" on July 5.
Attendance at the memorabilia tour more than doubled from 2003, with some lines stretching 30 minutes to an hour long.
"We ended up with lines that actually prevented people from going through it, so we probably reached our maximum efficiency and volume," Siemienas points out. "And the reaction of the people that came through was terrific."
The media exposure was equally significant, with an estimated 70 million consumer impressions from stories in such publications as USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, Chicago Tribune, and The Baltimore Sun. Every market also saw TV and radio coverage, and the story reached a national audience when Good Morning America's Tony Perkins conducted four live segments at the tour's stop in Washington, DC.
Although exact numbers are not available, Hard Rock officials say that diners also lapped up Elvis' beloved pork chops and gravy.
With another mobile tour planned for this summer, the PR team is considering ways to get even more out of the campaign, including adding more dates and a new advance team that would work one or two cities ahead of the tour, Gogarty says.
Coyne also will handle the New York cafe's move to Times Square, as well as the opening of a new casino in Biloxi, MS.
PR team: Hard Rock Cafe (New York) and Coyne PR (Parsippany, NJ)
Campaign: 50 Years of Rock Mobile Tour
Time frame: March to September 2004