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Case Study:  Holiday Inn Nashville Vanderbilt

Varallo Public Relations worked with Holiday Inn Nashville Vanderbilt to promote the hotel, its storied 50-year history, and its iconic music venue, The Commodore Grille.

The shared goals for this eight-month campaign included:

  1. Pay homage to the hotel’s history and beginnings;
  2. Showcase the unique aspects of this particular hotel in a city booming with so many options;
  3. Market the Commodore Grille to a broader audience – both Nashville residents and tourists; and
  4. Develop digital and print branded materials for the hotel to use in reaching potential guests.

One of our first steps was to create a logo and branding guide for the 50th Anniversary year. The designed logo needed to follow corporate brand standards and be recognizable across social, print, and any other medium. Working with designer Lisa Dunn of Lisa Dunn Design, we were able to create a retro color palette and logo to pay homage to the year the hotel opened in 1969.

After learning about the history of the hotel, we knew we wanted to tell the stories of the people who had been present and influential in its success over the years – past and present employees, songwriters and musicians, entertainment hosts, and lifelong Nashville residents.

Over the first 4 months of the campaign, we reached out to as many hotel connections as we could find, with each one leading to additional connections who had fond memories or interesting stories to share. In the end, we spoke with more than 50 people somehow connected to the hotel or Commodore Grille.

We pulled the best 9 stories into a monthly feature for the hotel to use for their e-communications, social media, lobby displays, and media relations. We also worked with local videographer Shannon Fontaine to create four video stories.

The stories we were able to share were unbelievable!  Here are just a few highlights we discovered in our research:

  • When it was built in 1969, the hotel was the third largest Holiday Inn in the country, and one of only a few options for those traveling to or through Nashville.
  • Being next door to Vanderbilt University, its close ties to the Commodores were established early, opening the weekend of homecoming that year.
  • In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the lot was originally home to the Hippodrome— a popular roller-skating rink and major event space.
  • The Commodore Grille started as a songwriter venue is the early 80s, almost the same time as the famous Bluebird where they often competed for talent each night.
  • In the early 1970’s, psychic Carol Kennedy stayed at the hotel. During one of her shows at the Ryman Auditorium, she gave out the hotel phone number for anyone to call and get a psychic reading that night.  Switchboard operator Cecilia Polly tells a hilarious story of the phone ringing off the hook the entire night.
  • Steven Farmer, songwriter host for Commodore Grille in the 90s, convinced Vince Gill to play one night in exchange for a slice of one of their popular cheesecakes.
  • Past employees shared many well-known artists who have stayed and played in the hotel over the years from Bob Dylan, Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, Britney Spears, KISS, Prince, and so many more!

The culmination was a 50th Anniversary reception hosted in the hotel’s newly renovated lobby, ballroom, and of course The Commodore Grille.  More than 300 people attended this big event.  VPR surprised the hotel with their own proclamation as well as assisted with Nashville Mayor David Briley to attend and remark on the hotel’s 50th Anniversary.