Public Engagement Campaign a Slam Dunk for Memphis

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy, the only research- and ROI-driven agency in Memphis, has engineered the first in-depth endorsement partnership to take place between an NBA team and an airport authority.

On behalf of its client, the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority – the governing body of Memphis International Airport (MEM), RedRover has established a marketing and public relations relationship with the Memphis Grizzlies and star player Tony Allen. The partnership supports the Airport Authority’s efforts to capture community-wide attention with the important and timely message that the airport is on a clear and certain upward trajectory, following the multi-year scale-back and ultimate de-hubbing decision made by Delta Air Lines.

While Delta made these changes, public perception took an adverse turn for the Airport Authority and MEM. Negative sentiment went unchecked while being repeated in the community by citizens, members of the press, and public officials alike. By late 2013, local sentiment toward the airport needed a positive boost.

A breakthrough strategy was needed to communicate the sound plan the Airport Authority had already begun to implement, and the message was a complex one. The five-year, multi-phased Modernization Plan that better aligns RedRover’s client with its new reality as an origin-and-destination airport (versus a hub for Delta connections) needed a local, beloved, larger-than-life face and voice to appeal to the Memphis community.

First Team MEMwas born, so dubbed due to Allen’s recent ranking on the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team list for 2015. Allen is known nationwide for his tenacity, proclivity to work hard and ability to get the job done. Coining the term “grit and grind,” Allen’s mantra has become a phenomenon across greater Memphis. Every one of Allen’s characteristics – tenacity, hard work, grit and grind – is what the Airport Authority has embraced to fully execute the Modernization Plan on behalf of the Memphis community.

“Partnering with the Grizzlies and Tony Allen is helping Memphis International Airport make our whole community aware of the reinvention we’re undergoing,” stated Glen Thomas, the Airport Authority’s Public Information Officer. “This type of proactive communication and engagement with the community is unprecedented for our Airport Authority – though it’s been needed for a long time. We credit RedRover for getting us to this exciting point.”

The First Team MEM campaign quietly launched in late spring 2015 with local magazine and billboard ads – taking advantage of the Grizzlies’ run in the 2015 NBA post-season play-offs. This past week, the community gained full access to the power of the Grizzlies-Airport Authority partnership with the much-anticipated, far-reaching public launch of new airport assets:

  • , the airport’s website, officially re-launched on Wednesday, October 28, after a soft launch for a VIP audience with Allen’s attendance the evening before. In the first 48 hours after launch, visitor traffic increased a skyrocketing 1,300% over the previous’s performance. RedRover designed the new website, altered existing content to make it more engaging for the public, wrote new content, sourced and managed tech partners for “bells and whistles” tools such as the Plan A Flight functionality – a rare offering on airport authority websites – and directed its third-party development partner, a Memphis-based consultancy called eBiz Solutions.
  • The First Team MEM promotional video, a humorous and engaging way to share facts and vision for the airport’s reinvention, launched simultaneously with the website. Featuring both Allen and airport staff, the video’s storyline was inspired by both NBC’s “The Office” and ESPN’s commercials featuring athletes in office workspaces. The concept, script, and production management originated with RedRover, and the firm’s video-production partner, Memphis-based Prodigi Arts, filmed and edited the video and its supporting teaser vignettes. See the FlyMemphis YouTube channel for access to the videos.
  • To stimulate online and in-person attention on the website and video launches, to generate e-newsletter signups, and to amplify the “First Team MEM” message, RedRover conducted a day-long stunt featuring Allen’s likeness. Focusing on multiple downtown Memphis locations on the same day our city was abuzz with the Grizzlies’ first home game of the season, this social media-based “selfie contest” leveraged a life-size cutout of Allen. The RedRover team approached citizens on the street with an invitation to take a photo with Allen and post it to their social networks with the hashtag “betterMEM” (#betterMEM) for a chance to win a $250 Visa gift card, which our team recommended they use for air travel (our client cannot endorse any one airline over the other, so airline gift cards were impossible). The public was also encouraged to visit the new, where a pop-up e-news subscriber drive was taking place. The subscriber drive was also incented with a chance to win a gift card for air travel. In all, impressions on the Airport Authority’s online platforms during this marketing stunt reached 4.35 million across multiple assets.

In addition, MEM’s key messages of more flights, more airlines, and lower prices will be advertised abundantly in the FedExForum where the Grizzlies play – all season long, including in-person sponsorship appearances. The Grizzlies’ in-arena fan base and the typical MEM leisure and business passenger have significant demographic overlap, enhancing the purpose of the partnership.

RedRover’s staff involvement with the Airport Authority has touched every one of the agency’s 15 team members due to the robustness of the client’s multi-faceted strategic plan. Key RedRover personnel serving the airport include:

  • Lori Turner-Wilson, founder and CEO, and Catherine (Kitty) Taylor, marketing director, who led the agency’s competitive bid to win the account, conducted the research on which the strategic plan is based, and developed the strategic plan.
  • Charles Vance, who directs the day-to-day implementation of the strategic plan.
  • Carl Cottam, Julianne Watt, and Kennon Adair, who developed the concept and executed the project for both the First Team MEM video and the re-launch of

In the six months since the strategic marketing plan has taken off, the Airport Authority has seen marked improvements in the objectives RedRover is aiming to achieve on their behalf. Based on the most recent passenger survey findings:

  • Awareness of the Airport Authority’s post-hub Modernization Plan has risen 15%, while satisfaction with the plan increased eight percentage points.
  • Passenger satisfaction with their overall experience at Memphis International has risen 7%.

For more information, please contact Catherine (Kitty) Taylor at RedRover.