NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Busch Entertainment Corp., a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, is unveiling a social-media brand campaign today that playfully raises awareness for its theme parks, which include SeaWorld and Busch Gardens. The cross-platform effort comes just in time for summer, the entertainment company's biggest season.
Ad Age spoke with Exec VP-CMO Joe Couceiro, who has been at the company for 28 years, about the new campaign and its branded app, Worlds of Discovery Photo Adventure, which he said he considers "one of our more creative efforts." The app invites consumers to find hidden differences between two seemingly identical pictures on Facebook, the iPhone and a microsite via Facebook Connect. New York-based Buddy Media worked with BEC for the campaign.
At a time when theme-park attendance has been down -- although holidays such as Easter and Christmas remain a big draw, he said -- the app is designed to bolster existing marketing initiatives to attract visitors.
Ad Age: How and why did you come up with this idea for an app-vertisement?
Mr. Couceiro: We want to try and diversify our marketing mix a little bit. For years, we have relied on traditional media. But there's only so much you can capture in a 30-second television or radio spot. Not that we're not continuing to do that; we are.
But we created this lifestyle-marketing effort, which is about infusing our brands to everyday lives. We wanted to interact on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis with our customers -- whether they're our past customers, loyal customers or customers who have not been to any of our parks. To us, that creates balance with our traditional media.
Ad Age: Do you think this campaign will translate to more customers coming into the parks?
Mr. Couceiro: Yes, but not necessarily because of this app. This app is simply part of a multilayer marketing approach that stimulates interest in our brands and motivates consumers to come visit us. Marketing is not about one silver bullet. Consumers base their buying decisions on reputation, repeat exposure to the brand and being able to relate to the brand. And that's what this app does. It allows the consumer to go beyond the 30-second television commercial and interact with brand itself. It definitely enhances our overall marketing strategies.
Ad Age: How has the recession affected your marketing efforts?
Mr. Couceiro: We needed to shift our focus. We're focusing in on nearby markets and not necessarily ignoring the tourist markets, but the majority of our spending goes toward those nearby markets. We're the only theme-park operator that really operates in regional as well as tourist destinations, including Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio, so we have the benefit of that. We don't simply have to rely on tourist destinations.
Ad Age: There are rumors going around that A-B InBev is putting Busch up for sale. Are they true?
Mr. Couceiro: There is not a pending sale, and I don't anticipate a pending sale of BEC anytime soon. We anticipate being a part of A-B InBev for quite a while -- indefinitely, to be honest with you. We're frankly a major financial contributor from a profit and free-cash-flow standpoint. We're a very healthy organization. There are 25 million guests who come through our parks each year.
Ad Age: Is Shamu still around?
Mr. Couceiro: Of course! Shamu is a core of SeaWorld. He's a tremendous equity. But SeaWorld is a lot more than just Shamu, and that's part of what we need to communicate.