The team at Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park is excited. And so are we. Denver’s family-friendly amusement park has reopened for the 2021 season.
That’s right. Attractions are back.
Back from What?
Last spring, as COVID-19 spread and communities around the world responded to safety precautions and restrictions, this famed and historic amusement park in central downtown Denver faced some hard choices. Open and operate at limited capacity, knowing that, even with stringent risk-mitigation measures, employees, partners and guests could still be at risk. Or stay closed and weather (quietly) a very unusual business and financial storm. Ultimately the team chose the latter. No roller coasters running, no squeals of joy in the water park, no eerie laughter in haunted houses during Fright Fest.
And Back to Family Fun
2021 is different. Cases are going down, vaccines are widely available, and Elitch Gardens is ready now to embrace a stronger future of providing safe family fun. In addition to working closely with the city and state to elevate all health and safety measures, increasing sanitation protocols, and enacting new communications and procedures to ensure safe social distancing, Elitch Gardens is encouraging employees and guests to continue taking extra precautions necessary to safeguard their own and others’ health. The park also advises guests to buy tickets and season passes ahead of time and online, further minimizing contact and ensuring safety of both employees and guests.
New Business and Marketing Challenges
So here we are. Even with our favorite attractions back in business, there’s no going back to media plans of old. Parks are angling to make up for lost time having closed or operated at significantly lower capacity in 2020. For Elitch Gardens, making up for lost time means increasing ticket and season pass sales and doing so on a reduced budget.
The reassuring news is, as Elitch Gardens’ media agency since 2013, we’ve been down this road before. And we’re adept at channeling available resources to deliver strong results.
New Media Plan
With 2020 came an acceleration in an already relatively stable trend of consumers shifting away from traditional media and spending more time online. So, while our 2021 plan incorporates many of the tried-and-true traditional tactics, we are also building upon growing trends in digital. Denver-area parents will hear about and see Elitch Gardens on radio and TV on the weekends leading into the summer, boosting awareness. Then we shift to digital and social, targeting conversions for ticket and season pass sales in alignment with the park’s schedule. Bringing more digital into the Elitch Gardens media plan also allows for better audience targeting and flexibility. With digital, we can swap out messaging when needed, shift flighting, and really home in on our core audience: moms.
Targeting and flexibility are just as important for the remaining balance of the media mix:
- Publisher partnerships, especially when confined to one or two to allow adequate budget for results, offer innovative technologies to target specific, qualified audiences in an efficient and effective manner. This channel complements digital and traditional media, together extending presence and effectively reaching the audience.
- With TV and Connected TV (CTV), we achieve awareness and initiate our remarketing strategy. Through automated content recognition (ACR), we know who among our audience has seen a broadcast or CTV ad, and we engage them again across other devices. ACR also provides valuable audience insights that we use to optimize campaigns further.
- We extend the reach of radio with streaming audio, which helps to eliminate waste and ensure we capture moms when they’re on the go with their kids.
- Digital and social media placements help to extend the reach of traditional tactics too, and importantly, they offer a direct conduit to online ticket and season pass sales. Targeting across Facebook, Instagram and YouTube aids awareness and allows for detailed targeting parameters. We can also layer in custom audiences built from user behavior on the Elitch Gardens website.
- Lookalike audiences allow us to use social media platforms’ advanced algorithms to target prospects with similar behavioral patterns to known season pass purchasers.
- We follow it all up with remarketing to users of relevant websites, further nudging prospects down the funnel toward conversion.
Behavioral and mindset targeting are the newest power tools in our digital marketing toolbox for Elitch Gardens this year. We are now able to reach our target audiences when they are most likely to be receptive to the park’s messaging based on location, time of day and behavioral factors. We are also leveraging LiFTs (location, frequency and time spent) to reach visitors actively looking for something to do (amusement parks, live entertainment or other activities) in the Denver area. All the while, we continually engage people who have previously visited Elitch Gardens on the grounds that their likelihood of purchasing a ticket is higher than novice audiences.
All in all, 2020 reminded us of the superpower of being flexible. In our social lives, in our recreational pursuits, in our work. Nevertheless, we are thrilled that attractions are back on the menu for families to consider this summer. It’s a joy to continue partnering with Elitch Gardens to engage families about the opportunity to safely create fun memories at the park.
Vladimir Jones is Colorado’s original independent, integrated advertising agency, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We believe in brilliant brands and love making the world love them as much as we do.