Walmart’s new store near the campus of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville differs from a typical Walmart Supercenter; it caters almost entirely to a university community. Unlike typical Walmart Supercenters that offer a wide array of fresh produce and baked goods, the unique two-level store features a large frozen foods section, cosmetic department, and university merchandise—including apartment and dorm items. It was the first tenant to open in the new University Commons development, and Lovell was asked to implement the corporate grand opening “playbook” and generate publicity.
Strategy and Tactics
Lovell Communications secured participation of community leaders, program participants and special guests while managing logistics of the event and developing media relations and community engagement strategies.
Local media were invited to both a media preview day and the actual grand opening celebration.
From the greater Knoxville community, Lovell engaged the Bearden High School ROTC to present the colors, First Presbyterian Church Choir to sing the national anthem and a prayer offered by its pastor, and the UT radio station 90.3 'The Rock” provided entertainment. Local dignitaries including both City and County Mayors attended and spoke along with the president of the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce.
More than 200 people attended the grand opening and Lovell secured favorable news coverage from all five local media outlets. Stories appeared in the Knoxville News-Sentinel and the University of Tennessee Daily Beacon and two TV stations conducted live remotes with interviews from the site that ran during morning news segments the day of the grand opening. All three local TV stations captured footage from the morning celebrations that ran on their evening news programs, leading to four additional online stories. And 90.3 “The Rock” conducted a live call-in segment from the event and interviewed a Walmart regional general manager about the significance of the new store to the campus community. We were proud the client felt the grand opening exceeded expectations and raised positive brand awareness for Walmart in the Knoxville community, commenting: “Great job team! I’m very proud of you—you are officially G.O. pros!”
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