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Las Vegas unveils new slogan, honors Kobe Bryant on Strip

Updated January 27, 2020 - 8:16 am

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority on Sunday canceled the rollout of its newest advertising campaign activities after the stunning death of former Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant and his daughter.

A 60-second television spot aired as scheduled during the Grammy Awards telecast, but several other rollout activities tied to the campaign were scrapped, including a coordinated display of the “What happens here, only happens here” slogan on 26 resort marquees across the valley.

Instead, the LVCVA asked its resort partners to show a message in the Lakers’ purple color scheme that read, “L.A., OUR HEARTS GO OUT TO YOU.” with an #RIPKOBE hashtag.

LVCVA President and CEO Steve Hill issued a statement Sunday afternoon acknowledging that the helicopter accident that killed the star and his daughter, Gianna, as well as seven others, resulted in postponing events planned around the campaign launch.

“As many are aware, we were prepared to launch the newest advertising campaign for Las Vegas during the Grammys telecast on Sunday, Jan. 26,” Hill said.

“In light of today’s tragic accident that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and others on board, we are postponing any activity planned on the Las Vegas Strip until a future date. The hearts of everyone in Las Vegas are with the families and friends of those lost, with all of Los Angeles and with his fans around the world.”

Twain, Tyler in ad

In the TV ad spot, there was a sparkly Shania Twain on horseback beneath the Fremont Street Experience canopy; dance-pop songstress Christina Aguilera in one of her iconic — and far-out — costumes; and UFC heavyweight mixed martial artist Francis Ngannou pounding some poor opponent into submission.

And the grand finale: Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler wooing the crowd at one of his Park MGM residency shows to finish the phrase when he screamed out, “What happens here …”

There were acrobats, clubs, runways, dance floors, lights, confetti, water features, a thrill ride and color, color, color, all hitting viewers at light speed — a perfect recipe for a Grammy audience. There were tight shots, long shots and images of the city’s neon explosion of light shimmering on the desert floor from a lonely two-lane road leading into Vegas.

Once the ad aired, social media and coordinated technology were poised to take over. But all of that was canceled.

The LVCVA had planned strategically placed “Instagram traps” — in essence, free social media advertising opportunities — for people to snap pictures with the new slogan in booths at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, the Bellagio fountains, the Linq Promenade, McCarran International Airport’s Terminal 1, Wynn Las Vegas and The Venetian.

The message was then programmed to appear on the marquees. The tribute to Bryant was used instead.

Billy Vassiliadis, CEO of R&R Partners, the LVCVA’s advertising consultant, said the LVCVA and his team collectively agreed that promoting Las Vegas — particularly to a Los Angeles audience at a major awards show — was not appropriate.

“We try as much as possible to be as sensitive as humanly possible with tragedies like this,” Vassiliadis said Sunday. “Offering Las Vegas during something like that is not just inappropriate, it’s in poor taste and harmful.”

Vassiliadis said the LVCVA’s resort partners were universally in support of postponing the campaign rollout and agreed to try to place the tribute to Los Angeles and the Bryant family on their marquees.

“Everybody had the same kind of feeling,” he said. “Everybody had the same reaction and sensitivity. Vegas is such a sports town and all and and we’re like first cousins with L.A. You’ve got to be sensitive. Steve (Hill) and the team talked to them a couple of hours ago and they’re all on board. After a couple of days go by, we’ll talk about some alternatives on when it’s appropriate for a robust launch.”

2001 campaign curtailed

It wasn’t the first time that the LVCVA and R&R Partners had to pivot quickly on an ad campaign rollout.

The city was on the verge of releasing its “Adult Freedom” campaign when terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Vassiliadis said other campaigns were curtailed after the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting on the Strip on Oct. 1, 2017.

He said several people were coordinating different aspects of the campaign rollout, and when the word was given to cancel they all went about changing their plans.

“We’ve got 40 people right now, and everybody’s assigned to different channels,” Vassiliadis said. “They were assigned to pushing this stuff out, and they’re now pulling it back.”

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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