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New Effort Tries To Shake Up Graceland

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Twenty-eight years after Elvis Presley's death, his Graceland home still draws a steady 650,000 visitors each year. But the new owners of Elvis Presley Enterprises think they can boost that figure by 25 percent next year with increased marketing that includes Graceland's first TV spots, additional appeals abroad and bonus tours to attract repeat visitors.

"We never had a brand awareness problem. Everybody knows who Elvis is, but we want to remind them that his home is in Memphis," said Jennifer Burgess, director of marketing for EPE since 1997.

Entrepreneur Robert Sillerman purchased controlling interest in EPE from Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis' daughter, in February for $100 million. He used the asset to form CKX, which began trading March 1 on Nasdaq.

Previously, EPE has relied on billboards along highways leading into Memphis and print ads in travel magazines. EPE spent about $200,000 on ads last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Burgess said the advertising budget for this year is up 15 percent, still a modest sum but enough for two television spots produced by independent Thompson & Co. in Memphis that broke last week.

The spots, tagged "Graceland. Where Elvis lives," feature archival footage of the King and target mothers age 25 to 54, who make most family vacation plans, noted agency president Mark Robinson.

The major change on site at Graceland is the addition of a $55 tour (other options are $18 and $27), which opens new areas in an effort to lure repeat visitors.