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VOL. 129 | NO. 182 | Thursday, September 18, 2014

Airport Authority Approves RedRover Contract

By Amos Maki

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Memphis International Airport should have a new team of storytellers on board.

The Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority board has voted to engage Memphis-based RedRover Co. LLC to help inform the public and other stakeholders about the evolving nature of Memphis International Airport.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

The Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority board voted Thursday, Sept. 18, to engage Memphis-based RedRover Co. LLC to help craft a multi-platform communications and image campaign for Memphis International, which is transitioning from a Delta Airlines hub to an origin-and-destination airport.

“The scope of services for this contract, in a very tight nutshell, consists of marketing, advertising, media relations and community affairs – and that’s the tip of an iceberg, quite frankly,” said Scott Brockman, president and CEO of the Airport Authority. “As we get ready to reinvent the airport, this is a very critical, important function.”

The anticipated commencement date for the one-year contract with up to four, one-year renewal options is Oct. 1. A contract price must still be negotiated.

RedRover beat out six other finalists – The Carter Malone Group LLC, which came in second place, Caissa Public Strategy LLC, Hemline LLC, Howell Marketing Strategies LLC, Sullivan Branding LLC and Walker & Associates Inc. – to land the job. If negotiations with RedRover prove unsuccessful, the Airport Authority could then engage The Carter Malone Group.

Airport Authority officials said the marketing and communications push was desperately needed in the wake of several high-profile events, including Memphis International earning a reputation as a high-priced hub for Delta and Delta's subsequent reductions in service.

But Delta's reduced presence has allowed for more competition from other carriers, including lower-cost options such as Frontier Airlines and Southwest Airlines, and an operational shift from an airport dominated by connecting flights to one focused on origin-and-destination traffic. Since November, Memphis International has added 22 new flights outside of the Delta system.

In addition to major operational changes, the airport is embarking on a multi-year plan to consolidate airline, food, beverage and retail concessions into the B Concourse, a project that will also add moving walkways, wider corridors, larger boarding areas, higher ceilings and improved natural lighting.

RedRover will be asked to assist with getting the message about the new Memphis International out to the public and other stakeholders.

“We’re not hiring this firm to put lipstick on a pig,” said Jack Sammons, chairman of the Airport Authority. “As I sit on airplanes three times a week and hear the guy behind me looking out the window asking why in the hell we’re spending all this money on construction, where the airplanes are and what we’re doing, that tells me we have a lot of work to do as far as communication goes.”

“I think the public, when you explain to them what we’re doing and the vision of a modern terminal and all the energy that’s going to create and the opportunity for our vendors to thrive, it’s only going to create more excitement, and when we go meet with network planners the buzz is out there that Memphis is on the rise,” said Sammons. “I think short of hiring a heart surgeon, this might be the most important hire any of us makes for a long time.”

Lori Turner-Wilson, RedRover founder and CEO, said she looked forward to helping Memphis International, which a 2012 University of Memphis study said had an annual economic impact of $23.3 billion, get its message across.

“This is an organization on the cusp of significant change and needing a hand in telling that story, and we couldn’t be more excited about that,” said Turner-Wilson. “This Airport Authority has a huge impact on the economic development of this city, and we have an equity stake in making sure it’s successful.”

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