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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Bringing More Action to the Zoo

The Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA), the non-profit organization that has supported the Los Angeles Zoo as an integral partner for half a century, recently agreed to invest $2.6 million annually to promote the zoo and to assume responsibility for its marketing, public relations and site rentals. In light of substantially declining city funding for the zoo, our goal is to fill the gap by raising the zoo’s visibility, growing attendance and increasing revenue to ensure the zoo’s financial future. This spring the City Council will vote on this issue, and GLAZA requests the support of the Los Angeles business community to persuade Council members that this is a winning deal for the city and the zoo. The need to increase the zoo’s revenue is critical. Facing a long-term budget deficit, the city has slashed the zoo’s annual general fund support from $10.6 million in 2006-2007 to $263,000 in 2013-2014. This has resulted in lost staff positions, restricted schedules for education exhibits and limited programming. Clearly the zoo must increase its revenue to ensure its strong financial future. GLAZA is funding and launching a dynamic marketing and branding strategy to build the zoo’s brand recognition and make it a top-of-mind destination. Our marketing proposal is an integral part of the zoo’s new three-year business and marketing plan that was designed by zoo and GLAZA leadership to ensure a strong financial future for this cultural gem located in the heart of Griffith Park. The plan creates a financial model for the zoo that will raise its visibility and attendance in the face of stiff competition from the myriad entertainment options available in the Los Angeles region. The zoo plans to introduce appealing new animal-focused visitor experiences, similar to the popular behind-the-scenes encounter with the zoo’s Indian rhino. GLAZA has participated in the growth and success of the zoo since 1963. Through this long-term partnership, GLAZA already mobilizes the community to support the zoo by raising funds from corporate, foundation and individual donors to support zoo programs and facilities. GLAZA also manages one of the largest membership programs in the region, coordinates zoo concessions, produces award-winning publications and recruits and trains 800 volunteers and docents. For years, the city budgeted only $800,000 annually for zoo marketing, resulting in attendance between 1.5 and 1.6 million visitors each year, which represents only 12 percent market penetration in the Los Angeles region. Seeing the potential for growth, GLAZA designed its $2.6 million marketing and public relations effort to reach new zoo audiences, encourage repeat visits and raise market awareness of this cultural asset. To that end, GLAZA will implement a revitalized branding campaign, targeted advertising, extensive use of social media, corporate sponsorship initiatives and production of additional events and outreach. We project these efforts will increase zoo attendance by 5 percent annually during the first three years. Additionally, our plan will leverage the unique zoo environment by marketing the facility for private and corporate events. This initiative not only has the potential to create new rental revenue to support the zoo and its programs, but it will also expose many new audiences to this magical place. Just last month, the zoo hosted the Los Angeles Kings’ annual appreciation night for their season ticket holders, allowing 3,700 Kings fans to experience an exciting evening at the zoo. Early results of our marketing strategy are very promising. Since July GLAZA has forged new relationships with businesses and other non-profit organizations. We have secured $1.57 million in corporate sponsorship revenue from enthusiastic business partners who believe in the zoo as a vital community asset. Additionally we have obtained more than $250,000 of promotional media and a $120,000 annual Google AdWords grant. Attendance has risen 3 percent during the same time period in 2012, and Web traffic has increased by 18 percent year-over-year. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city administrative officer both support the zoo’s business and marketing plan. Now we must receive the required City Council approval. Most businesses would welcome an offer by a trusted long-term partner to fund a creative new marketing and branding campaign designed to increase awareness of the business and grow its revenue. We know that the future of zoo, its programs and the animals that live here depend on this vital, dynamic plan, and our hope is the City Council will recognize how critical this plan is to the zoo’s financial health. Their vote to approve this new initiative will be a win-win for the city, the zoo and the residents of Los Angeles. Connie Morgan is president of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association.

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