The folks who market the late Elvis Presley on Monday will unveil the first national ad campaign for Graceland, The King's 13-acre estate in Memphis, in an effort to rock 'n' roll tourism there this summer and strike up the brand. TV spots and a dedicated website will feature the theme "Discover your Inner Elvis" in a summer-long promotion that also commemorates the 30th anniversary of Presley's death.
"We consider it our responsibility to share the legacy of Elvis with visitors," says Paul Jankowski, chief marketing officer of Elvis Presley Enterprises. Graceland was Presley's primary residence during the 20 years leading up to his death in August 1977. It's an important source of revenue for EPE and its parent company CKX, whose assets also include American Idol and marketing rights for boxer Muhammad Ali.
Tourist spending at Graceland rose 12.1%, to $13 million, in 2006 vs. 2005, CKX reports. Many visitors paid the highest fee for VIP tickets that, among other things, enabled them to go to the front of the lines. But attendance was flat at 554,193, which the company says was partly due to high gas prices. Still, CKX is investing heavily to generate interest in The King. "CKX has given us the ability to explore a lot of ideas that had been floating around a long time," Jankowski says. On the table:
•Inner Elvis. The new ad campaign is "the most we've ever spent on advertising," Jankowski says.
The ad, which will run on cable networks including Lifetime, Oxygen, and E!, features a woman dressed as Elvis performing on stage at his famous Aloha from Hawaii concert. At the end, viewers see that she has imagined the scene after looking at a jumpsuit on display at Graceland.
The new website, DiscoverElvis.com, will offer Graceland news and admission discounts.
•Competition. Taking a page from Idol, Elvis impersonators can compete in the "Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest." Regional winners from a 20-city tour will compete for more than $10,000 in prizes and a recording session in a finale during Elvis Week, an annual Graceland confab filled with special events.
•New products. Elvis will appear on a limited edition Reese's candy this summer in a promotion that gives consumers instant-win prizes including a trip for two to Graceland and an Elvis car.
American Greetings also will use the anniversary to expand its line of Christmas tree ornaments. Three decorations designed as jukeboxes play songs as an Elvis image appears on a small screen.In addition, American Greetings will feature Elvis this fall on greeting cards, including a new line of audio cards.
•More Elvis, more Graceland. Cirque du Soleil will produce and develop an Elvis-themed tour and has signed a deal with EPE for a permanent Cirque de Soleil show in Las Vegas based on the life, times and music of Elvis. The show is expected to open in November 2009.
CKX also wants to freshen and expand Graceland with a bigger visitors center, new attractions, shops and a boutique hotel. The company last year acquired 22 acres of land surrounding Graceland as part of the plans.