Few properties are in a better position than zoos in offering sponsors one of the most in-demand sponsorship benefits: content.

After all, what sponsors don’t want images of fuzzy bears and other animals that are guaranteed to pull on the heartstrings of customers and prospects?

“Our content is a huge asset. Packaging and delivering that content is of growing importance,” said Hillary Bates, director of strategic partnerships with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Case in point: The Columbus Zoo extended Fifth Third Bank’s annual Pass the Hat cause marketing campaign beyond zoo grounds during Earth Week 2016 by asking social media followers to support the zoo’s international conservation programs.

The fundraiser asks zoo guests to “round up for the animals” on purchases at concession stands and gift shops, with Fifth Third matching the donations up to $50,000. The campaign has raised more than $650,000 in the last three years, including more than $250,000 in 2015.

While the Pass the Hat program asks attendees for donations, the social media component asked fans to take action by sharing tips for conservation. Fifth Third Bank donated $1 to the conservation efforts for each share.

Each post featured an image of an animal and a conservation message (“Take a Polar Pledge! Adjust your thermostat down two degrees in winter and up to two degrees in summer,” etc.).

The zoo shared the campaign with its 353,000 Facebook followers and 93,000 Twitter followers, as well as fans of other zoos and related organizations around the country (Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, etc.).

The program easily exceeded the zoo’s goal of 7,000 shares and retweets.


  • Impressions: 673,148
  • Reactions: 20,690
  • Comments: 571
  • Shares: 9,815
  • Retweets: 341
  • Shares and retweets: 10,156

Three key takeaways from the program:

#1) The zoo overshot its goal and spent less than anticipated on promoted posts.

#2) The audience was inclined to take action and share with their friends when they knew it would benefit the zoo. The share rate was significantly higher with other content.

#3) Opening the campaign to a national audience was a success, with audiences outside of the Columbus region just as likely to participate. In future campaigns, the museum could strategically target areas where Fifth Third is growing.