SPONSORS ARE JOINING PILGRIMAGE TO COMMEMORATE ELVIS' DEATH

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MEMPHIS, Tenn.-Sponsors are starting to get all shook up over Elvis Presley.

As thousands converge here this week for the 18th annual commemoration of the late singer's death on Aug. 16, 1977, several official sponsors will be present for the first time to soak up the vibes.

Capitalizing on growing worldwide nostalgia and popularity for the "King," handlers of Elvis' legend this year have signed Harrah's Casino, Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Memphis and novelty manufacturer Valdawn.

"It's Elvis, the music, the legend," said Cherrie Hughes, advertising and promotions manager for the Graceland estate, which organizes licensing deals as well as this year's new sponsorship program surrounding the anniversary of Mr. Presley's death.

The event begins Aug. 8 and is expected to attract more than 40,000 from around the world, with international media coverage.

As usual, Elvis Week will culminate in a huge candlelight vigil on Aug. 16 at Mr. Presley's gravesite on the back lawn of Graceland.

The presence of sponsors at this year's events could lead to negotiations for one overall sponsor next year, Ms. Hughes said.

"We anticipate having one next year," she said. "It won't be a title sponsor, and we aren't necessarily looking for one that is music related."

No further details were available about the pricing or structure of Presley sponsorship deals.

Steaming up cyberspace

Mr. Presley is also creating a sensation in cyberspace with his recent return to the Internet.

His swivel hips and sequined suit lit up the Internet briefly last year, then vanished in November after the Elvis fan's creation ran afoul of copyright laws.

But Elvis is back in a way that won't make managers of the Presley estate act like hound dogs: Elvis Presley Enterprises recently launched two e-mail addresses, GRACELAND@icomm.com and ELVIS@icomm.com, to answer questions from Elvis fans. The organization is also planning an official Elvis home page on the World Wide Web full of merchandising information and Elvis tidbits.

For Elvis Week, Harrah's will sponsor the Elvis Reunion Concert and the Elvis Fan Club Presidents Breakfast. The Coca-Cola bottler is backing daily, festival-like events held on the Graceland grounds, while Valdawn, an Elvis Presley Enterprises licensee, will sponsor the Elvis: Wild & Country dance. Harrah's will also have an Elvis show at the casino in Tunica, Miss., on Aug. 10 featuring an Elvis stylist.

Elvis is "top attraction"

"We are sticking our toe in the water," said Jackie Pinner, Harrah's sales and entertainment manager. "We want community mega-events that are important and reach an audience responsive to our product. Elvis is a top attraction here."

In the past, CBS, NBC and ABC have all telecast their early-morning shows from the Graceland lawn. This year, no live U.S. programs are scheduled, but foreign media visitors will include the Asia Network, Brazil magazine, "Good Morning Germany" and the Hispanic News Channel, plus "Extra," "Entertainment Tonight" and CNN.

Elvis lives!...... At least in the hearts of fans at Graceland commemorating his death, as well as sponsors seeking to reach those fans.

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