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Case Study

Nothing Short of Shifting Public Opinion

Memphis International Airport

Memphis International Airport serves 4 million passengers per year with 583 weekly flights to 39 destinations. The majority of their customers originate or arrive in Memphis, meaning as an origination and destination airport they predominantly serve family, friends and colleagues in Memphis and play host to thousands of tourists and visitors. MEM is also the proud home of the FedEx World Hub.

T H E   C H A L L E N G E

Delta Airlines de-hubbed Memphis International Airport (MEM) in 2013 as part of a national trend that many Delta hub cities experienced. The result was a massive decline in air service to and from Memphis. Despite not being responsible for the dehubbing of MEM, the Airport Authority was harshly criticized for the departure in the court of public opinion, which put its reputation in jeopardy

T H E   D R E A M

Dramatically shift what was a barrage of negative public opinion to a far more positive, future-focused dialogue about the airport’s Modernization Plan.

T H E   S T R A T E G Y


Notably shifting public opinion is no small task and must begin with deep research. As the kick-off to our signature Growth Optimization (GO) strategic planning process, the RedRover pack leveraged its deep market research bench to collect perceptions about the airport from community leaders, in-airport vendors and various citizen groups through dozens of stakeholder interviews. We validated those qualitative findings through quantitative surveys to both the flying and non-flying public in the market — as the non-flying public was notably influencing public opinion despite their lack of first-hand experience with MEM — to uncover what citizens love most about Memphis and what makes Memphis feel like home to them.

Why? As a newly focused origin and destination airport (vs. a hub), MEM had the opportunity to position itself as the catalyst for bringing its residents’ friends and loved ones in to enjoy what Memphians love most about their city. Lastly, we evaluated the strongest airport, hospitality and tourism marketing strategies across the globe with an eye on campaigns that notably rallied the public around a shared fate.

Storytelling, Web and Omni-Channel Advertising

The strategy that would win hearts and minds included: (1) coordinated, intentional and transparent straight-talk about the state of the airport from champions all across the market, (2) visual storytelling to bring the future modernization vision for the airport to life, and (3) aggressive promotion of declining fares and increasing destinations. To deliver these messages we rebranded MEM, built a new website and developed a series of large-scale omnichannel campaigns including email, social, display advertising, TV advertising and paid search.

Influencer Marketing

Given the current state of public opinion, we recognized an opportunity to leverage a spokesperson whose values were aligned with those of the airport to ensure that our messaging broke through. As a result, we inked the first-ever airport/NBA spokesperson deal in the country by engaging beloved Grizzlies star Tony Allen, who graced every campaign message about “A Better MEM in Progress.”

Once Tony was traded from the Grizzlies, the door opened up for a new spokesperson. There was no better person to fill Tony’s shoes than Penny Hardaway, the beloved hometown hero and former NBA star who returned to Memphis to coach the University of Memphis Tigers basketball team. Penny and MEM — it just made sense.

T H E   R E S U L T S

The completed course allowed the CRVA to easily disseminate important information to a large audience, spanning across departments, positions, brands and locations. The modules unified more than 100 staff members around a shared vision for exceptional service, resulting in a high-performing team and raving customers. With the ease of the e-learning platform, the CRVA has been able to keep learning alive over time.

Ready to take the next step?