Preston Kelly Begins Purple Reign as AOR for Prince’s Paisley Park

Minneapolis indie helps keep the artist's outsized legacy alive for fans

paisley park
Besides being a museum about Prince, Paisley Park is also a working production complex with a performance space. Paisley Park

Key insight:

Despite their genuine outward warmth and friendliness, Minnesotans are fiercely loyal to the natives who contributed to the state’s culture, especially after their deaths. In sports, for example, hockey icon Herb Brooks and Minnesota Twins star Kirby Puckett remain important fixtures.

But ask any Minnesotan, and they’ll likely beam with pride at any mention of Prince. It’s also entirely possible that people from the state, at some point, have gone by iconic Paisley Park. Initially built in 1986, it was Prince’s 65,000-square-foot home and music wonderland in the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen.

After the music icon died unexpectedly in April 2016, his estate moved quickly to convert the property into a museum. After some mild red tape, Paisley Park opened permanently in late October 2016. The sprawling space includes artifacts from Prince’s personal collection such as awards, concert wardrobes, musical instruments, artwork and even motorcycles. It’s also a working production complex with a performance space.

Last month, Minneapolis independent Preston Kelly was named AOR for Paisley Park. This plum assignment put the agency at the intersection of global culture—and posed the challenge of navigating the lack of tourism during the pandemic. Yet, even with Paisley Park’s doors closed, the agency continues to move ahead with new brand work slated to launch later this year.

While fans are unable to visit the collection of artifacts and iconography in Minnesota, Paisley Park executive director Alan Seiffert noted that the museum continues to develop online content and activities that are “authentically Prince … but not literally Prince.”

“We were mindful of where [the pandemic] could go,” he said. “And it’s forced us to keep the spirit and essence of Paisley Park through better social and online experiences.”

At the end of March, the museum initiated the Paisley Park Challenge, encouraging people to perform their favorite Prince song. Earlier this month, people were asked to post themselves wearing Prince-inspired fashion.

The user-generated content supplements the museum’s own activities, including surprise pop-up concerts (the first featured Minneapolis rapper Nur-D to benefit Minnesota artists affected by Covid-19) and other live events, including one being broadcast on Facebook Live today at 2 p.m. CT that features an unboxing of new artifacts.

According to Preston Kelly CEO Jennifer Spire, the agency’s key contribution to Paisley Park is looking at how it engages fans while the destination is solely digital, and beyond.

“We are changing the marketing approach to the museum. It’s really about experiences,” she said. “We’re focused on keeping the fan base engaged, bringing them in from all over the world. That’s our focus while we continue to build a strong marketing infrastructure for Paisley Park behind the scenes.”

Looking ahead, Seiffert and Paisley Park plan on forging ahead with some events, including previously planned concerts, a movie and music series, and its annual four-day celebration honoring the legacy of Prince, initially scheduled for the beginning of June that attracts many out-of-state and international fans.

“We’ve had to push those [events],” he noted. “But we’ll scale up based on new dates and what our peers at other museums and cultural attractions do. We want to approach it in the right way.”

What’s beneficial about the partnership is that, as travel resumes, both Paisley Park and Preston Kelly are in the same market.

“We work with clients all over the country,” said Spire, whose grandfather worked in advertising during Madison Avenue’s heyday and was a partner in the Miami Office of McCann Erickson. “But being local helps with collaborations, and there’s something to be said for being in the same room together every day.”

Though Seiffert and Prince’s estate considered a roster of agencies for the assignment, having a local partner that understands the core traffic drivers (Spire estimates that one-third of Paisley Park visitors are from Minnesota), along with global opportunity, became a huge plus.

“I’m used to working with major brands and agencies,” added Seiffert, who has vast experience in entertainment at large companies like Fox, Viacom, the NBA and NBC. “Our goal was determining how to bring Paisley Park to life, to celebrate and honor the musical brilliance and legacy of Prince. It was important that we chose a world-class global agency that understood and is a part of the local community.”

@zanger Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.