Licensees team to position Elvis as king of marketing

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Elvis Presley's name hasn't been king with marketers for the last few years. But a number of major Elvis license right-holders are pooling their efforts to bring more of Elvis into TV commercials and integrated marketing campaigns.

Elvis Presley Enterprises, which handles all non-music licensing for the Elvis Presley estate; RCA Records, Mr. Presley's long-time record label; and Williamson Music, the publisher of most of his music, are working together to sell Mr. Presley's image and music.

"We can now find a worldwide advertiser that can not only generate money, but, attention, in keeping him the icon that he is," said Michael Omanksy, senior VP-strategic marketing for RCA Records. "Maybe it's a fast-food chain, maybe it's a car manufacturer."


One effort already airing is an Energizer Co. commercial via TBWA/

Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., that features a late-night gas station attendant whose camera batteries run out as he attempts to photograph Elvis Presley pumping gas into his car. The spot uses video from a 1970s Elvis concert, "Aloha From Hawaii."

And the Elvis licensors are working together on an upcoming Summer 2000 event, based around the re-release of the 1970 documentary, "That's the Way It Is," produced by MGM Distribution Co.

Initially, there will be a new CD compilation, bearing the name of the documentary. Additionally, MusicLand/Sam Goody stores and Gibson Guitar Corp. are working on a broad-scale consumer promotion. Turner Classic Movies is in discussions about airing the film. There also will be a re-release of the movie in home video and DVD formats.

For many years, major advertisers were not actively sought by Elvis license right-holders because there was little cooperation between the companies involved. The Elvis estate, which runs Elvis Presley Enterprises, had been working independently from other Elvis license holders, making deals for all non-music products-T-shirts, telephones, coffee mugs, etc.


Up until the mid-1990s, there wasn't any consistent marketing for Elvis Presley's music. Since then, RCA Records has been improving the brand name, releasing periodic compilations of Presley's music-often timed to the anniversary of his death and around the holiday season. The label regularly sells $40 million to $50 million in Elvis Presley music per year.

"We now have a five-year plan," Mr. Omansky said. "I already know what box set is coming out this summer, next summer, and on the 25th anniversary [of Presley's death] in 2002."

"We now basically, have one-stop shopping," said Marty Olinick, VP-licensing for RCA Records.

For the last few years, RCA Records has been somewhat active in inking licensing deals with feature films and TV shows. Elvis songs, such as "Blue Moon," appeared in the Barry Levinson-directed "Liberty Heights." Other films and TV shows featuring Presley's songs included "Forrest Gump," "Friends" and "Veronica's Closet."

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