April 17, 2007 / 2:43 AM / 12 years ago

Graceland lures Elvis fans 30 years after King's death

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The King left the building 30 years ago but the home where he died, Graceland, hopes to mark the occasion in August by luring droves of Elvis Presley fans with an advertising campaign launched on Monday.

Print ad displaying the Ultimate Tribute Artist contest are seen in this undated handout photo. The King left the building 30 years ago but the home where he died, Graceland, hopes to mark the occasion in August by luring droves of Elvis Presley fans with an advertising campaign launched on Monday. REUTERS/ Handout

Events to mark the 30th anniversary of the rock ‘n roll legend’s death have begun, with Elvis impersonators taking part in contests in 23 locations as far apart as Australia and England. The finals will be held in Memphis during Elvis week running from August 11-19.

Cirque du Soleil is developing an Elvis-themed tour and has signed a deal for a permanent Elvis show based in Las Vegas from 2009 while American Greetings is planning to expand its line of Elvis Christmas tree decorations and greetings cards.

In a bid to boost tourism at Elvis’s 13-acre (5.26-hectare) estate in Memphis, the company that markets the late star, Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. (EPE), has launched a nationwide ad campaign with the tag line “Discover Your Inner Elvis.”

Television spots feature a “soccer mom” in a replica Elvis bejeweled jumpsuit playing Elvis, while print, online and billboard adverts feature a Graceland visitor in a jumpsuit wearing Elvis-style sunglasses.

EPE spokesman Todd Morgan said the campaign tapped into people’s sense of connection with Elvis, who was recently listed by Forbes magazine as the second highest earning dead celebrity after Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. Forbes estimated Elvis, who died on August 16, 1977, aged 42 of a heart attack, earned $42 million in 2005-2006 from marketing and product licensing.

“Elvis had a great ability to reach people, and there is usually an aspect of his character or his style that people connect with,” Morgan told Reuters.

Since opening in 1982, Graceland has developed into a travel destination, visited by about 600,000 people a year.

But entertainment mogul Robert Sillerman’s company CKX Inc. bought about 85 percent of EPE in 2005 and he has said he wants to significantly boost these numbers. Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis’ daughter, owns the rest of EPE.

During Elvis week about 30,000 people visit Graceland but Morgan predicted the special events and publicity surrounding the 30th anniversary could double numbers this year.

The events include an overnight candelit vigil outside Graceland on August 15 and August 16.

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