A unicorn, aside from being a rare mythical creature, is most often described as something that is highly desirable but difficult to find. For marketers, perhaps this definition applies to finding the most efficient way to reach parents and kids.
The word “efficient” is a term that doesn’t get its due. One could argue that efficiency should be the primary goal of any business venture, as “achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense,” will inevitably lead to greater profitability.
Why then, do we rarely hear sponsorships, brand partnerships and other strategic alliances described as efficient? Maybe it’s because many do not pass the test. Mass market sports and entertainment properties offer millions of eyeballs, but not the specific audiences brands need, while niche opportunities deliver targeted demos but require multiple “buys” and offer no turnkey activation, thus making them more expensive propositions than they first appear.
But when it comes to reaching parents with young kids, one sector passes with flying colors: marketing partnerships with zoos and aquariums. While merely connecting with this hard-to-reach audience is sometimes considered a victory for marketers—due to the tremendous demands on their time and attention—zoo and aquarium alliances are able to go well beyond name or product exposure, delivering tangible engagement and a relevant environment for brand storytelling.
Specifically, here are the four key factors that set these venues apart from other marketing opportunities.
1. Reach parents and kids at the same time. And not simply when they are occupying the same space, but when they are spending rare uninterrupted time participating in a shared activity.
It’s no secret that technology has created individual media islands, making it nearly impossible to communicate a brand message to a family simultaneously, with even young children playing games or watching YouTube and TikTok videos on their own devices while parents are on their tablets, phones and smart TVs streaming Netflix and ESPN+.
But beyond simply reaching a dual audience with a single effort, zoo and aquarium partnerships capture the essence of experiential marketing by tapping into the emotional aspect of families sharing memorable moments—positioning brands as both authentic participants in those experiences and contributors to bringing parents and kids together.
Brands become partners not only to the zoo or to the aquarium, but to their consumers, moving the relationship from transactional to meaningful.
2. Reach parents and kids when they have time to engage. Although other activities may be enjoyed together by moms, dads and their young children, a visit to a zoo or aquarium with plenty of unstructured time spent strolling the grounds and observing exhibits has clear advantages for marketers.
Compare an interaction with a branded experience during the average three-to-four-hour zoo or aquarium visit to “arrive-watch-leave” sports, music and entertainment events that require sponsors to shoehorn activations into breaks in the action or during the limited time families spend hustling through concourses on the way to seats, concessions, restrooms or the parking lot.
3. Reach parents and kids without interference. Zoos and aquariums provide environments uncluttered by the overwhelming number of marketing messages and ads clamoring for attention at stadiums, arenas, theme parks, fairgrounds and other venues.
Zoo and aquarium brand partners can focus on immersive and impactful interactions without having to spend additional dollars on bells and whistles simply to be heard above the roar of many other marketers (just the animals!).
4. Reach a highly targeted audience in massive numbers. In a typical year, more than 195 million people visit U.S. zoos and aquariums, dwarfing attendance numbers for theme parks, pro sports, concerts, etc. On top of that, nearly two-thirds of those visitors are parents with kids under 12 years old, making these venues unique in offering not only a mass market at scale, but also one that is highly targeted.
Zoos and aquariums may not be home to unicorns, but given their ability to deliver the level of efficiency that no other partnership can offer, perhaps they represent a marketing unicorn hiding in plain sight and in a fresh environment that some marketers didn’t realize existed.
And of course, truly maximizing the efficiency of these partnerships requires a central point of contact for brands, a role that Allionce Group is pleased to play.