The Seminole Tribe of Florida, in partnership with Hard Rock Cafe International, set out to open two new resort casinos in South Florida this spring.
The Tampa resort, complete with 250 rooms and a 90,000-square-foot casino, was scheduled to open in March, while the Hollywood resort, with 500 rooms and 130,000 square feet of meeting space, was slated for May.
As spring approached, media exposure was needed to gain public interest in the pre-opening and opening of each resort in markets outside the surrounding areas. YPB&R Public Relations was given the daunting task of reaching markets along the Eastern seaboard in an attempt to lure visitors to the new resorts.
YPB&R realized it would be important for potential visitors to see, rather than read about, all that the resorts had to offer.
"The key was visualization," says Rod Caborn, EVP of PR at the agency. "We felt visuals would tell the story better than we could with text."
The team believed that if people could see all the amenities of the resorts, it would pre-empt many of the questions that potentially could be associated with the Seminole Tribe operating a resort hotel and casino.
The PR team also knew that in order to bring people to the area, it was crucial to make it easy for the media to visit the sites. While encouraging media coverage, YPB&R wanted to display the differences between the two resorts without intruding on each one's geographic visitor base.
YPB&R followed through on its concept of visualization with video news packages presented or uplinked to TV stations. In addition, high-quality photos were delivered to newspaper and magazine photo editors. "We wanted to build expectations by using compelling visuals," says Caborn.
To cover all bases, YPB&R then directed its focus to attracting online media. With the increasing growth of hotel booking patterns, the web offered an ideal place for information about the resorts and a possible link to the casino's website for reservations and more information.
The team also worked closely with area convention and visitors bureaus to attract individual media to the two resorts. Arranging desk-side briefings with national travel and meeting trade media based in New York City was key in allowing media far from South Florida to experience the resorts firsthand.
Both resorts have been a success in a state where gambling had previously been restricted to offshore cruise ships and pari-mutuel betting, surpassing 20,000 guests per day for each.
"A great deal of credit was due to the media attention the resorts received," says Will Wellons, VP of public relations at YPB&R.
Because of the agency's extensive media promotions, the coverage value exceeded $3 million over a two-month period while generating more than 500 million impressions of the property. On top of the high-visibility stories in local print and TV media in South Florida, the openings for the two resorts were covered by the AP, CNN, and Fox, along with hundreds of news websites.
"We definitely exceeded our expectations for local and national media," says Wellons. While it's difficult to measure the impact of the media on the resort's future success, the media played a substantial role in bringing the people to the resorts, and the resorts to the people.
"I thought we had great PR on our side," adds John Fontana, GM of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos.
Seminole Hard Rock will continue to work with YPB&R in the future, though no immediate plans have been set.
PR team: Seminole Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos (Hollywood and Tampa, FL) and YPB&R (Orlando, FL)
Campaign: Opening of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos
Time frame: March to May 2004