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Jack O'Lantern Spectacular + Winter Woods Spectacular

Carving out a new marketing strategy for two of Louisville’s biggest holiday events.

Marketing Strategy + Marketing Campaigns + Advertising
Jack O'Lantern Spectacular + Winter Woods Spectacular

In 2020, the Louisville Parks Foundation partnered with VIA Studio to help them drive their small-but-mighty non-profit forward to achieve the new direction they’d laid out in their strategic plan, and to help them market their two biggest fundraisers: the massively popular Jack O’Lantern Spectacular and Winter Woods Spectacular events.

And then COVID happened.

Working in deep collaboration with the Louisville Parks Foundation team, we crafted and executed a comprehensive, flexible, thoroughly modern marketing strategy for these two events.

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The Goals

While selling tickets to these events is obviously goal #1 - this year, we identified another goal: connecting LPF’s three audiences so that we drive year-round awareness of the Louisville Parks Foundation.

Between ticket sales and awareness PLUS the pandemic, we settled on these priorities to achieve these goals:

1) Communicating that the event was still happening and that it was safe (and a drive-thru)

2) Adapting to a media landscape that had changed dramatically (more people at home, less driving, etc)

3) Utilizing the massive Jack O’Lantern fanbase to help grow Winter Woods Spectacular

4) Getting people opted-in to Louisville Parks Foundation messaging.

Here’s how we pulled this off:

The Strategy

Powered by LPF’s extensive historical data and our own user-focused, iterative digital campaign experiences, we planned a comprehensive, targeted, yet flexible campaign that spent their precious media budget wisely and allowed for adjustment as we gained insights during the unusual 2020 holiday season.

This plan included overlap between all three audiences in our reach - Louisville Parks Foundation, Jack O’Lantern Spectacular and Winter Woods Spectacular. For each event to be successful, they’d all need to work together. And at the end of the day, they all need to support the Louisville Parks Foundation.

The plan, in summary can be distilled into these priorities:

1) Early, often communication about the events on every platform

2) A steady, audience-focused ramp-up in media spend and coverage

3) Weekly observation, tuning of and experimentation to maximize effectiveness

4) Driving long-term engagement:  sharing, following on social and subscribing to LPF email news.

With this year’s events being drive-thru only and based upon past year trends, we identified the need to push for early ticket sales as soon as possible, pulling the ticket-buying curve back a few weeks (from late October to early October) and reducing sell-out nights in the last two weeks of October. To do this, we began seeding social platforms with organic and paid posts early in August, and then ramping up after the Labor Day weekend.

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The response, engagement and frankly the need for an event like this was beyond our expectations. As October approached, we ramped up the media spend, folding in traditional advertising like transit boards, billboards, TV spots and live appearances. In addition, we broke new ground for LPF by running geo- and demographically-targeted streaming audio ads with Spotify, and targeted streaming video ads on national channels like HGTV and more.

To capitalize on this fervor and excitement and drive long-term engagement, we ran overlap campaigns that drove Jack O’Lantern fans to follow the Louisville Parks Foundation and we worked directly with the ticket selling vendor to ensure that there was an opt-in for the Louisville Parks Foundation email list.

This mixture of digital, traditional and social advertising deepened engagement with existing audiences, while enhanced targeting and audience expansion grew their digital audience with new reach.

To bring the Jack O’Lantern audience to the Winter Woods Spectacular event, we used remarketing in concert with engaging creative executions to make Winter Woods fans out of our Jack O’Lantern fans.

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For Winter Woods, this “snowball effect” of leveraging the Jack O’Lantern audience coupled with a similarly targeted, ramp-effect schedule drove the event to new heights of awareness  and engagement.

Finally - the effectiveness of email was critical to the Louisville Parks Foundation’s success. We worked with LPF to consolidate their audiences into a single, opted-in Mailchimp mailing list of Louisville Parks Foundation-engaged members. Now, LPF can communicate year-round with a massive audience of park fans.

The Results

The Louisville Parks Foundation grew its digital audience 22% in 2020 - and increased their email audience many times over, despite running an in-person event in the middle of a pandemic.

Their events combined drew tens of thousands of carloads to their largest fundraising events.

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