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Museums, Theme Parks and Attractions: How Cause Marketing Can Boost Business

swamp plane landing in florida everglades imax

The economy is still dragging and will continue to do so for a while. Some areas of the country, such as tourist destinations, theme parks, museums and waterparks will not begin to recover until 2010. Here I propose a new (and inexpensive) idea to cost effectively generate revenue: cause marketing.

By Gina Trimarco

If you’re not familiar with cause marketing, it is a process in which businesses and charities or causes form a part-nership with each other to market an image, product or service for mutual benefit.
alligator floating at the florida everglades
If your business is strapped for marketing dollars this year, you’re obviously not alone. And if you’re a non-profit entity that relies on grants and corporate giving, 2009 is going to be rough. Companies will have a harder time justi-fying corporate giving without a guaranteed return on investment, and the governmental and other grant-giving agencies are already reporting that giving will be reduced by at least 20% in 2009.

So this is the perfect time for non-profit and for-profit businesses to partner with each other. To give you a better idea of what I’m talking about, I’ll give you  some examples of partnering that I’ve done in the past as a theater di-rector.

IMAX 3D Myrtle Beach and Global Awareness Project.

The Global Awareness Project (GAP) is a non-profit organization that helps bring awareness to other non-profits by using all forms of art. Its primary project is the crea-tion and distribution of a calendar that features area non-profits and art from local artists. The project distributes approximately 25, 000 calendars at a cost of about $10, 000. To help raise money, the Myrtle Beach IMAX 3D Theater in South Carolina hosted a film festival that featured independent films and an art display. A red carpet was rolled out and local photographers acted as paparazzi for the attendees. The use of the theater was free for GAP, which sold tickets to approximately 300 attendees. In return, the theater garnered a ton of free publicity in local newspapers and on TV. It also gave exposure to the theater’s new digital projector, which could lead to future facil-ity rentals. Most importantly, the partnership positioned the new theater as a community asset.

IMAX 3D Myrtle Beach and Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity is famous for building homes for people in need, but you may not know that the homes are not given to the families for free. To obtain a home built by Habitat, owners have to pay a mortgage and put in sweat equity during and after the building process. The cost is far lower than an average home because Habitat raises money and in-kind donations to offset costs.

The theater held a fundraiser for Habitat as the kick-off event for the launch of Hurricane on the Bayou. The tim-ing and cause were perfect for the theater. Habitat usually uses a golf tournament as its fundraiser but wanted to at-tract more women, so it added the IMAX event as a Day Two option and called it “Stix & Flix.” Use of the theater was provided at no charge on a slow day in September. Habitat sold tickets at a premium price that included a screening of Hurricane on the Bayou, and a ticket for a future visit to the theater. This event garnered publicity, goodwill, and return business from local customers.

Navy Pier IMAX Theatre and Make A Wish Foundation.

This was a sporadic partnership that enabled MAW to bring children to the Navy Pier IMAX Theater in Chicago if it was their wish to see an IMAX film. There was no charge to the children or their family members. The theater was seen as a community asset for its involvement.

Navy Pier IMAX Theatattractions marketingre and CARE.

CARE is a leading humanitarian organization that fights global poverty with a special focus of working with poor women. I connected with this organization through Imax Corporation and was instantly impressed with their mission and how they conducted business as a non-profit. To launch Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey, the theater hosted a CARE fundraiser with a screening. To make the event even more exciting and special, we brought in percussionists of all kinds to have a jam session for the attendees after the film. We helped CARE publicize the event and sold tickets through the box office. All proceeds were donated to CARE, which did not have to pay for the use of the theater. The theater received free publicity and goodwill.

These are just a few ideas of what can be done in the area of cause marketing. As with all marketing ideas, they don’t necessarily work in all business models. If you run DMR films, for example, you may not be able to change your film schedule to do events that last several hours. And clearly no one wants to disrupt business during peak seasons. But you can get creative. Look at your shoulder or non-peak seasons. You still have to operate so many hours per day per your lease, so why not give back to the community when your employees are just waiting around for customers?

More than ever, this is a great time to consider cause marketing through in-kind contributions, such as venue do-nation, free tickets for fundraisers, and volunteerism. There are many non-profits that are dying for help with staff-ing for their fundraisers or writing a press release. If you or your employees have the skills and the time, you can create goodwill for your business. Eventually, the goodwill and free publicity will turn into revenue!

Gina Trimarco was theater director with the IMAX 3D Theatre Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, and the Navy Pier IMAX Theatre in Chicago. She currently provides marketing consulting and employee motivational training for service and entertainment companies through Carolina Improv Company. For more information go to

Originally published in the January 2009 issue of LF Examiner. Reprinted by permission. (C) 2009 by Cinergetics, LLC.

Images courtesy MacGillvray Freeman from “Hurricane on the Bayou”.

See also:
MacGillivray Freeman’s “Grand Canyon Adventure” Nominated for Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing

MacGillivray Freeman’s “Grand Canyon Adventure” Nominated for VES Award for Outstanding Visual Effects
Marketing and Customer Service: What are You Really Selling, and to Whom?
The Attractions Industry Press wants to be your Marketing Partner

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