Memphis International Airport Better MEM Campaign

Public Relations Campaigns - Small Airport

In the wake of the loss of its status as a Delta Air Lines hub, Memphis International Airport (MEM) began a transition to origin and destination operations. The loss of the hub had also brought about significant criticism from the public and media and the airport’s image was in need of an overhaul. In response, MEM increased its level of marketing and communications, as well as its presence in the community. Taking an aggressive, proactive approach, MEM partnered with a local marketing firm, RedRover, to assist with its efforts, which included:

1. A rebranding campaign that featured a new logo, tagline, and color palette
2. A partnership/sponsorship with the Memphis Grizzlies and forward Tony Allen, which included cross-promotions, advertising, in-game promotions, and digital media creation. Allen served in a celebrity spokesperson capacity. The Grizzlies were chosen as a partner because local data shows NBA ticket holders and air travelers are significantly overlapping audiences. While the partnership was announced in the spring, most of the promotional work began in the to coincide with the start of the NBA season.
3. Redesigned website, including several new features including "Plan a Flight."
4. Comprehensive ad campaign, including print, internet, billboard and video ads.
5. Redesigned e-newsletter
6. First Team MEM Video
7. Social media communications and promotions

Key messages included:
--Emphasizing that MEM had a clear vision for the future, and that the airport had made significant progress since the Delta de-hubbing through air service additions and lower average airfare.
--Promoting the new website and its new features.
--Positioning MEM as a local hometown entity, moving away from its association with Delta.
--Creating excitement and increasing engagement through social media interaction and promotions

Entry Statement

1. Project Goals: 

Increase general market's satisfaction of the Memphis International Airport.
Increase general market's satisfaction with the Memphis Shelby County Airport Authority.
Drive traffic to redesigned airport website,
Deliver messaging about progress at the airport: lower fares, added flights.
Increase MEM's reach with its constituents through a new redesigned e-newsletter.

2. Production: 

1) Brand Modernization: Along with the new tagline, "Take Off With Us," the evolution of the MEM logo emphasized the airport's transition to a local airport, not a carrier hub. The logo emphasizes the word "Memphis" to further drive home this message. A fresh color palette and more engaging, conversational messaging rounded out the brand modernization. The logo and tagline were created by our marketing agency, RedRover. Implementation of the new branding and printing were coordinated in-house.
2) Grizzlies Partnership/Tony Allen as Celebrity Spokesman: When communicating to a critical public, a respected and beloved spokesperson is needed. The heart and soul of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, Tony Allen (“The Grindfather”), was selected as the campaign front man – reminding us all of the determination and heart it will take to grind through the post-hub recovery. 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 cultural phenomenon across greater Memphis.
Every one of Allen’s characteristics—tenacity, hard work, grit and grind—is what MEM has embraced in its efforts to reinvent the airport, and something that we felt would resonate with the local community. First Team MEM was born, so dubbed due to Allen’s ranking on the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team in 2015. Marketing through the Grizzlies included in-arena advertising at home games and game sponsorships with exhibiting space in the busy corridors. Airport staff manned tables at certain sponsored games, and passengers signed up for the MEM external newsletter in order to be eligible for drawings that included gift cards, round trip airfare vouchers, and tickets to Grizzlies away games. Our marketing firm, RedRover assisted us in negotiating the partnership with the Grizzlies and the spokesperson contract with Tony Allen, setting up meetings between the Airport Authority and Grizzlies staff, and assisting with managing the elements of the partnership.
3) Relaunch: In October 2015, MEM introduced a redesigned website. The new site had a more consumer-friendly tone than the previous site, with tools and included information passengers had indicated as most important: flight details, parking, way finding and more. The new site's most appealing feature was a “Plan Your Flight” tool that allows passengers to search for available nonstop and one-stop flight options, then be linked to the airline directly to book the flight, making the website the only "one-stop-shop" to find every Memphis flight. RedRover assisted MEM with the redesign, creating the graphics and design elements, assisting with copywriting (most copy was created in house), and coordinating the launch event and promotions associated with it. A subcontractor of RedRover, eBiz Solutions, created the back-end programming for the project. The airport's Community Outreach area served as the project coordinator, revamping the copy and creating navigation pathways, with heavy involvement from the airport's IT area. The day-to-day website management is handled in-house.
4) Advertising: Advertising: MEM's campaign included advertising through local business and lifestyle magazines, targeted billboards and online display ads to help elevate community-wide awareness that a Better MEM is in progress. Video spots were also broadcast as commercials at local movie theaters. Outlets were carefully selected to reach traveler and influencer audiences. RedRover was responsible for the concepts and design, and worked with the airport to create copy and messaging. RedRover also serves as the media buyer for the airport. The ad runs were as follows:
• MEMPHIS Magazine - Full and half-page ads over 12-months, (204,000 impressions)
• Inside Memphis Business - Full and half-page ads over 12-months (720,000 impressions)
• Lamar Outdoor - Four area billboards over 12-months (42,524,976 impressions)
• Digital advertising across the Google network including,,, and similar sites (1,354,103 impressions)
• Digital advertising and placement on over 12-months (640,000 impressions)
• Video commercial - Pre-movie advertising at local Malco theater over eight weeks to promote launch of new website, (48,000 views/impressions)

5) Newsletter Launch: To combat criticism that previous airport officials didn't communicate effectively to the public and didn't address big issues proactively, MEM issued a revamped monthly newsletter, "Notes." Sample: RedRover assisted with design and distribution, while the newsletter is created, edited and managed in house using RedRover's "Rovermail" distribution and tracking system.
6) “First Team MEM” Video: Tony Allen has repeatedly been named to the NBA’s annual First Team All-Defensive list. When we wrote and directed a fact-heavy video about the airport improvements that are creating a Better MEM, Tony Allen added humor and an engaging, public- friendly delivery. Airport officials made acting debuts, and “First Team MEM” launched with a teaser video leaked to a popular blogger, with the full video being aired first privately to a reception of board members, community leaders and media prior to going public. Video shorts/teasers appear in the NBA arena, on websites, at local movie theaters and in the airport. RedRover coordinated this project as well and came up with the initial concept and promotional ideas. The airport's Community Outreach area and RedRover worked together on the script, and a subcontractor of RedRover, Prodigi Arts, was responsible for the videography and editing.
Full Video:
7) Social Media: MEM supplemented many of these efforts with social media interaction and promotions. For example, on the website launch day in October 2015, a social media contest took place using #BetterMEM, a Tony Allen photo opp for “man-on-the-street” engagement and an incentive of a $250 drawing for air travel. The airport also worked to create a fun, engaging and interactive presence on social media, mixing in humor and levity as well as addressing passenger concerns and complaints with a more measured tone. The social media is handled in-house on a daily basis, with some assistance from RedRover with certain messages or promotions.

3. Evaluation: 

The campaign was very successful on virtually every front.
--Customer satisfaction has improved by 13% since MEM conducted its base surveys.
--In addition, the general market's satisfaction with the Airport Authority as the governing body of MEM has increased by 23% during that same time period. See page 1 of the attached "Dashboard" document.
Note that the attached goals document included a goal of "increasing the general market's awareness of MEM's modernization plan." While this was an initial goal and awareness initially increased significantly, the modernization project was delayed and MEM reduced its communications the first half of 2016.
--MEM earned more than 150,000 potential impressions through the in-game Grizzlies sponsorship and tabling opportunities. LED advertising in FedEx Forum added another 701,000 potential impressions.
--More than 78% of Grizzlies fans were able to identify MEM as a sponsor by the end of the season.
--Total media value was $247,000 for the Grizzlies partnership launch and website launch.
-- The website had more than 2800 visitors and 6500 page views in the first 48 hours after the launch.
--Overall website growth has been tremendous since the launch. Since 4th quarter 2015, MEM has seen an increase of of 971% in total unique views and 1,069% in total visits compared to quarters 1-3 in 2015.
--The revamped "Notes" newsletter (referred to as "Rovermail" in the attached results dashboard) added more than 850 new subscribers from the Grizzlies partnership alone through the in-game sign ups, and a 50% increase in overall subscribers between October 2015 and May 2016.
--The newsletter's average click to open rate is 17% above the industry benchmark average and the open rate is 18% above the benchmark average.
--The Tony Allen mockumentary video received more than 3,000 views during the first 48 hours of its launch, and eventually received more than 60,000 views. It was covered in the local and national media as well. The video has since been edited and a new version posted with some changes to the voice over.
--Facebook saw a 714% increase in followers from 1st quarter 2015 to 2nd quarter 2016 (6,422 total followers) and had an average engagement rate of 7.91% (60% above industry average).
--Facebook also experienced a 575% increase in total impressions and a 503% increase in total reach between 4th quarter 2015 and 2nd quarter 2016 (vs. the period between 1st quarter 2015 and 3rd quarter 2015).
--Twitter experienced a 135% increase in followers between 1st quarter 2015 and 2nd quarter 2016, with a 5.9% engagement rate (103% above the benchmark average).
--Twitter had more than 2 million impressions between 1st quarter 2015 and 2nd quarter 2016.
--One of the best examples of the campaign's success came from an unlikely source. During the years of the Delta hub operations, a Facebook group, Delta Does Memphis ( was created as a means of discussing and criticizing the Airport Authority and the airline. The group grew to more than 5,500 members. In acknowledging that he now felt that the airport was headed in the right direction, the founder of the Facebook page shut down the group and posted a blog about the airport's progress:

Media Coverage:

4. Budget: 

Branding: $20,000
Grizz & Tony Allen Partnership: $200,000 ($156K for Grizz and $44K for Allen)
Website Redesign: $80,000
Advertising: $135,000
Video Production: $18,000
Enewsletter: $6,000
Social Media: $3,000