A-B theme parks realign ad duties at DDB, GSD&M

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Anheuser-Busch Cos. is consolidating its SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and other theme park accounts at two longtime agencies as it looks toward a more extensive national marketing campaign.

The move is part of a realignment of Busch Entertainment Corp. under VP-Corporate Marketing Michael LaBroad, who moved to the entertainment unit in April from the brewer's domestic beer operation. The marketing shift, which began in January and is nearly complete, also involves partnering with companies such as Wal-Mart Stores and Motorola.

GSD&M, Austin, Texas, will handle creative on the $15 million-plus SeaWorld account. DDB Worldwide, Chicago, will continue to handle the $10 million account for Busch Gardens parks and adds two water parks in Williamsburg, Va., and Tampa, Fla., as well as the soon-to-be-opened Discovery Cove in Orlando. DDB had handled the Orlando and suburban Cleveland SeaWorlds. A-B park Sesame Place near Philadelphia will use a regional shop.

The agencies also are picking up all outdoor and print creative, some of which had been handled by Busch Creative Services in St. Louis.

"We wanted to make sure no one got hurt. This was not a creative dissatisfaction at all," Mr. LaBroad said, noting ads for different parks within the same family were not consistent. "They were both excellent, but it's really hard on the creative front to maintain a consistent presence if there is more than one cook in the kitchen."

The work was shifted without a review.


Mr. LaBroad said this realignment is part of a plan that will see more money directed at advertising. For the first time ever, a Busch park -- Discovery Cove -- was advertised during the January Super Bowl pregame show. Busch Entertainment also will advertise during the March 26 Academy Awards, as it did in February during the Grammy Awards.

Mr. LaBroad would not comment on spending, but indicated it would be greater than the estimated $5 million now dedicated to each park.

In the first 11 months of 1999, A-B spent $9.5 million on Busch Gardens advertising and $14 million on SeaWorld. Spending on all parks could top $50 million this year. The BEC parks are the third-most-visited in the country, after Walt Disney World and Disneyland and Premier Parks' Six Flags family.

In addition to partnering with Wal-Mart and Motorola, Busch Entertainment is looking at deals with automobile, food and telecommunication companies.

As part of its deal with Motorola, Busch will rent out Motorola's pricey two-way Talkabout Radios inside the expansive parks.

"What Motorola really likes is that for $5 or $10 a pair, a consumer can try a product that in the stores sells for between $150 and $200 a pair," Mr. LaBroad said.

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