SeaWorld San Antonio's Journey to Atlantis social media campaign, the first campaign of its kind for the park, was launched in the spring of 2007. Shel Israel came out to visit the park for FastCompany TV to talk about the social media measurement results of the campaign. Fran Stephenson, then Director of Communications at SeaWorld San Antonio, and Kami Huyse were featured in the video. This case study has been featured in a number of books and presentations.
However, since a short video can't answer all of the questions, we felt that it might be time to present an updated case study.
The objectives of the Journey to Atlantis social media program were to:
- Build relationships with the coaster community
- Build awareness of Journey to Atlantis
- Assist in driving visitation to the park
Strategies for Outreach
An analysis of influential voices in the thrill ride community, showed that there was an opportunity for SeaWorld to make inroads using social media as a channel. As a result, a targeted list of 22 coaster enthusiast blogs and forums were identified during the initial research phase.
The primary strategy was to treat coaster bloggers as a VIP audience and to create content to suit their needs. Since the ride is considered a family ride, it was understood thrill seekers might be critical toward the ride and that some negative comments would result as a part of building buzz around the ride. This was not considered detrimental to the project.
A content rich destination Web site was deployed to serve as the hub for content and information. The URL of the site was chosen to allow for future site expansion; however, the plan was to take the site down after the initial ride opening and evaluate the results before launching a more broad initiative. Also, the site was intended as an extension of SeaWorld's corporate site, which didn't have the social media features necessary to quickly launch the campaign.
Implementing the Plan
The in-house SeaWorld team created eleven videos and a 45-photo portfolio that spanned from construction to opening day. These assets were deployed with a Creative Commons license through well known communities such as YouTube, Flickr and Veoh; and they could be easily repurposed by bloggers and viewed by others. They were also used on the SeaWorld Coasters multimedia site with social media networks as the backbone of the project.
Bloggers and the American Coaster Enthusiast group were invited to attend the media launch day and to be among the first to ride Journey to Atlantis. For those that could not attend, relevant content and information was provided, including B-Roll, in the formats requested.
To measure relationships, the campaign was to look at links from coaster sites, attendees at the media day and ongoing contact. Of the initial 22 sites identified, 12 covered the ride, including Theme Park Insider. The campaign received 50 links from unique Web sites, 30 of which were from coaster enthusiast sites. The American Coaster Enthusiasts group brought 30 of its members to ride Journey to Atlantis on media day. These riders later left positive comments on YouTube videos and SeaWorld San Antonio attend its annual meeting in 2008. The relationship is ongoing.
But perhaps the most compelling result was the overall cost of the program and the financial impact compared to other marketing tactics. In order to measure this, we piggybacked on the standard exit survey that SeaWorld generally conducts on a new attraction. The survey was calculated over two weekends of operation. We asked two basic questions: 1) Did you come today to ride Journey to Atlantis and 2) Where did you hear about Journey to Atlantis, whereby we gave them a list to choose from.
We reduced the overall attendance and limited it to those who said they heard about the ride on the Internet, and segmented that group by those who said they came especially to ride Journey to Atlantis. We compared these numbers against our budget for the campaign (including both internal and external costs), which came in at about $44,000, to determine the cost per impression. We did the same across each category (television, etc.). Overall, the cost per impression for the social media campaign was $0.22 versus $1.00 for television.
And also using an internal formula that applies a value to each visitor to the park (per cap rate), we were able determine the revenue that each group represented. We determined that the the online group represented more than $2.6 million in revenue.
The survey was conducted over two weekends in June 2007 during regular operating hours by a market research firm that specializes in developing and maintaining marketing information systems for attractions. A total of 402 questionnaires were completed and returned, yielding a sample size sufficient for estimates about the entire population of visitors, accurate to within plus or minus 4.9 percent at the 95 percent level of confidence. The findings in the report were compared to 66 past “new attraction” surveys conducted for BEC between 1995 and 2005.
The other sources of awareness looked at were television commercials, word of mouth, park brochure or map, saw while in the park, TV or print news story, radio commercial, newspaper ad, passmember communication, Pepsi can promotion, and billboards. By far, Internet outstripped all the others, except television commercials, which came in just under the figure for Internet, which was just under 40 percent of all visitors.
Photo Credit: SeaWorld San Antonio, Flickr