True or False: Elvis’s manager came up with “I hate Elvis” badges to earn money from his haters.

Francis Lanzano Contributor
True or False: Elvis’s manager came up with “I hate Elvis” badges to earn money from his haters.

Answer: True

Everything about this is interesting including the man, the myth, and the legend who benefitted from this brilliant idea. And no, we’re not talking about Elvis, we’re talking about his ground-breaking manager, Colonel Tom Parker.

Born in 1909, Colonel Tom Parker managed Elvis Presley’s career from 1955 to 1977, overseeing virtually every aspect of the star’s life. This was somewhat unheard of at the time and his success with Presley defined the role of talent management that seems commonplace today. (Look no further than Scooter Braun who represents Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, and Martin Garrix just to name a few.) While Parker may have broken the mold, it didn’t come without a cost that many said was unfair to his client. While most managers took compensation in the range of 10–15 percent of earnings, Parker took as much as 50 percent toward the end of Presley’s life. An even split is arguably too much, but the man many people say was cheated, Elvis himself, defended Parker by saying, “I don’t think I’d have ever been very big if it wasn’t for him. He’s a very smart man.”

Smart man indeed. While Colonel Parker instantly understood his young singer was becoming the hottest act around, he also thought the attraction with Elvis might be a fad. Therefore he sought to make the most of the ride by promoting him every possible way he could. Elvis sang, dance, starred in movies, and created “the first all-out merchandising campaign ever aimed at the teen market.” While there was a major love affair with Presley, Parker knew Elvis wasn’t immune to detractors. Therefore he devised a way to make a profit even from his haters by creating buttons and badges that said, “I Hate Elvis” and “Elvis is a Jerk”.

According to CBC, “when Elvis went into the army for a two-year posting in 1958, this sustained merchandise marketing helped keep his image alive. When he returned in 1960, it was as if Elvis hadn’t skipped a beat.” Parker not only built a brand, but he built a blueprint for how to manage talent for many years to come.