Showcasing Culinary Heritage in Tupelo
Tupelo, Mississippi, is synonymous with one mega-star: Elvis Presley. The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll was born in the city in 1935, and over the years, Tupelo has become a must-visit for music lovers the world over. But Tupelo is more than Elvis — much more. For one thing, it’s a culinary hot spot with a deep south food heritage, offering visitors an array of flavorful experiences and unique eateries. In order to revitalize the city and attract a new, younger audience (some of whom might not even be familiar with Elvis), TURNER set about establishing Tupelo’s reputation as an emerging culinary destination.
What We Did
After researching current foodie trends, TURNER focused on building awareness of culinary stories that are truly unique to this lesser-known destination through pitching and hosting targeted media. For instance, did you know: that Tupelo honey isn’t from Tupelo BUT Mississippi’s first and only meadery is? Or that the best loaded BBQ baked potatoes you’ll ever have will be found inside a still operating bait and tackle shop?
Elvis remained a good hook, of course. We leveraged Tupelo’s Presley roots, putting together an Elvis-inspired culinary guide on Pinterest featuring F&B spots with highly visual tributes to “The King” and menu items that offer a twist on his favorite peanut butter and banana food combination. The PR campaign was threaded through social media with an “Eat Like a King” #FoodieFriday initiative, complete with an accompanying landing page of Elvis-themed eats.
To continue building momentum, TURNER pulled together a “Taste of Tupelo” gift box mailed to select writers. This allowed us to break through the clutter of email and allow real-time samplings of culinary creations inspired by the destination’s iconic history and hometown hero (such as Neon Pig’s bacon jam for holiday gift guide opportunities).
Awareness of Tupelo as a top emerging culinary destination – which was created entirely through the 12-month media relations campaign – exceeded expectations. TURNER’s efforts generated more than 43 articles about Tupelo’s culinary scene in 2019, including food-centric feature stories in Food & Wine and Forbes. Additionally, Budget Travel named Tupelo as a “best southern food city you haven’t tasted yet.” Collectively, the coverage earned more than 188,707,346 impressions.
Tourism tax revenue in Tupelo soared to a 12.95 percent increase in 2019, nearly quadrupling the average year-over-year increase (doubling our initial goal) and hit over $5 million in tourism tax collection for the first time in history. Similarly, the Tupelo Regional Airport saw a 22 percent increase of ticketed passengers in 2019 from 2018, indicating an increase in visitation to the destination. As a result, Contour Airlines — the sole airline at Tupelo Regional Airport — expanded from a 19-passenger plane to a 30-passenger jet in 2019 to accommodate the increased demand.