Orcas prey on moose. Yes, they’re apex predators—animals at the top of the food chain—but it’s still unnerving to consider a six-ton aquatic mammal going after an overgrown deer. In spring 2020, the global pandemic played orca to the moose of live events. But for one of the most long-standing players in that vertical, Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, the upset and uncertainty catalyzed creative solutions.

“We had to come up with alternative revenue streams and people can't come to the zoo to see our animals,” says Victoria Luisi, Marketing Coordinator at Lincoln Park Zoo. “We had to find a way to bring animals to the people and find other ways to get these events to people.”

Lincoln Park Zoo has prided itself on being Chicago’s free zoo since its founding in 1868. But with two-thirds of the zoo’s operating budget coming from in-person revenue streams (gift shop, food service, parking), the pandemic posed a serious fiscal threat, as well as interruption to the zoo’s core offering. Something needed to change. 

Fortunately, Victoria and the marketing team saw a solution. They shifted to live stream, hosting everything from animal meet-and-greets to virtual happy hours with conservationists. And by partnering with ToneDen, they ensured those events were well-promoted––and well-attended. 

“We have an amazing, huge team,” Victoria says. “Virtually a lot of these events are things that we did in person. So the event team just ran with it very, very quickly.” 

A Trip to the Zoo via the Internet

When the future is unclear, decisive action is crucial. And thinking practically is a must. Of course, practical gets tricky when it involves 35-acres and 200 species. 

“People just really miss our animals and want to see them,” Victoria says. So Lincoln Park Zoo rose to challenge and became one of the fastest promoters to successfully shift to digital events.

How does it work? Lincoln Park Zoo uses EventBrite to manage their virtual event ticketing. And ToneDen, with its EventBrite integration, is the perfect complement. 

“We had to find a way to bring animals to the people and find other ways to get these events to people.”

For an end of May Virtual Meet-and-Greet Live with the Rhinos, Victoria ran Event RSVP ads and a conversion campaign on ToneDen. Audiences of people who followed Lincoln Park Zoo and other similar interests saw Facebook ads for the rhinoceros rendezvous, and those audiences were remarketed to with carousel ads. Regardless of the imagery, the caption offered a solution to the quarantine doldrums (“Looking for something new to do at home?”) and the call to action directed viewers to buy tickets.

From there, fans purchased tickets for the Rhino Meet-and-Greet, just as they would for a live event. “Twenty-four hours before the event,” Victoria says, “they get a link that is exclusive to them that has their ticket to the event. They get that ticket open up that link to the Zoom account and the event is streamed via Zoom. Pretty easy.”

And pretty effective. Spending $80 on a seven-day campaign resulted in thirty-three purchases—an 8.5x return on ad spend.

Potential of Live Stream Marketing

Victoria is enthusiastic about the potential of live stream marketing. “Obviously the animals are our stars and we have amazing keepers here at the zoo. [Fans] get to ask questions about their personalities and what they're fed and how they're doing. And those have been really, really, really successful.”

Whether it’s catching up with the seals in the historic Kovler Seal Pool or hitting zoo Zumba, inviting that animal energy into your day is a balm. And thanks to ToneDen, Lincoln Park Zoo’s virtual events are bringing the wildlife to homes around the world.

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