Everyone Loves An Origin Story
Yeah, that's me getting Force Choked in that photo. You might be asking yourself, how did I get there and what does this have to do with Rocky Bearboa? Well, way back in 2012, I approached the powers that be and asked if I could contribute to Hard Rock Orlando's brand new social media efforts. Magic City Mayhem was already a few years old and I had experience with content creation and engagement. They said yes and just like that, I was the only server with access to all of Hard Rock Orlando's social media platforms. I was working a lot of shifts back in those days and spent lots of time in the cafe. This enabled me to really take ownership of all the social and for awhile, I was the only person posting anything! I was sharing photos from inside and outside of the cafe, random Hard Rock facts and trivia, and we even dabbled in viral memes and got retweeted by verified accounts like Star Wars! While all of that was generating great engagement for all of our channels, it felt like we were missing something.
Keep 'em coming! RT @HardRockOrlando: It's the new planking. It's called #Vadering http://t.co/AUPIyLGju4
— Star Wars (@starwars) April 4, 2013
Take It Personal
Most of the content I was posting was just "stuff" and a clever caption with it. Photos of the building itself, memorabilia, and the Cadillac were most popular. Occasionally, a photo of a fellow Hard Rocker would get posted. This would happen to help promote something in retail or celebrate some sort of anniversary. Believe it or not, less than 10 years ago, everyone wasn't trying to be in all the social posts. Not everyone had their own platforms to promote and at times, it was kind of hard to get other people to be in photos or content. Looking around at the countless toys and vinyl figures I had on display in my house gave me the idea I was looking for!
A (Rock) Star Is Born
The plan was to create a 3-dimensional character to serve as somewhat of a personification of all things Hard Rock Orlando's social media. At the end of a shift in April 2013, I asked if I could have one of the stuffed bears from the retail store. Without hesitation, our AGM marched right in to the Rock Shop and handed me one right off the shelf! And this is where the fun began. The bear's first mission was to create some UGC (user generated content) and get Hard Rock's followers to give him a name. All I posted to Instagram was his photo and a short backstory how I stumbled upon an abandoned bear on my way out of work. He was to be adopted as the cafe's social media mascot, and I was taking name suggestions. Lots of great names started pouring in, but one stood out the most. The comment simply said "Rocky", and I knew that's what his name had to be. I can't remember exactly where his last name of "Bearboa" came from, but 245 days after my first post, Rocky Bearboa the social media mascot was born.
Adventures Of A Boy And His Bear
I became known as "that guy that carried a teddy bear with him" for awhile, but it was worth it. Besides now being able to add a personal touch to our posts, having Rocky on the roster gave me another huge benefit. Taking full advantage of our location! Sure, being the World's Largest Hard Rock is pretty cool. But being the World's Largest Hard Rock that's in between two theme parks is even cooler! I thought a great way to help spike our engagement was to bring Rocky into the parks! This lead the way to Rocky being featured on Universal's Instagram page, invited as media to the Blue Man Group Orlando's 1,000 show, and was the main attraction at the Cafe's 1st (and only?) "Tweet Up"!
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A Respectable (but short?) Career
The first few months were filled with guests just coming in for a photo with Rocky and multiple road trips to visit other Hard Rock Cafes around the country, and even the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! People still talk about his Local Legendary Burger Eating Tour to this day! But after awhile, I finally got a new opportunity which knocked me down to one day a week in the Cafe, but over to the VIBE department. You can learn a little more about the VIBE tour guide HERE. This meant Rocky went down to one day a week too (because I was claiming him as my IP). I'd keep him in the Attic while I gave tours of the building and he would be part of the grand finale. Eventually, after almost 13 years, I left Hard Rock for good. And yes, the bear came with me.
I've kept his social accounts open all these years, and on a very rare occasion he gets to go to the park for a visit. Maybe someday he will find his way back to Hard Rock or maybe even a new place that has a shirt in his size. But for now, he looks over me at my desk and I like to look at him as a reminder that I was Rocky all along.