The Creation of "BUY A DAY, GET A YEAR FREE"
Keep It Simple - Universal Studios Hollywood Annual Pass
Key Marketing Challenge
Post-9/11, Universal Studios Hollywood saw a precipitous drop-off in tourists. To make up for this sizable share of lost Park volume, The Cimarron Group Team had to find a way to significantly increase attendance and sales among locals.
Universal Studios’ marketing team decided to run a promotion emulating Sea World’s “Fun Pass” by offering an annual pass at a discounted price, equal to a 1-day ticket. Directed by the client to name the pass similar to Sea World’s, The Cimarron Group presented names like “The Action Pass” and “The Thrill Pass.” However, to eliminate the media dollars required to brand a new pass and the need for an extra level of communication to explain the offer, Cimarron proposed not to name the pass at all. Instead, it recommended naming the entire program in an unusually simple and straightforward way that communicated the value of the offer—and thus, “BUY A DAY, GET A YEAR FREE” was born.
Outdoor ads featured E.T. While he was not the most popular character in the Park, Cimarron brought him out of retirement to provide a warm and welcoming image to customers wary of entering crowded public places in the post 9/11 environment. The Agency created a number of radio executions, including the spot, “Skeptical Mom” which was specifically designed to overcome the “unbelievability” factor of the offer.
Market & Sales Results
In the program’s first year, the LA Times noted “Vivendi Universal’s theme parks have bounced back sooner than expected from a 9/11 slump. Universal Studios reported record attendance, driven mostly by its annual pass sales.” While growth figures are proprietary, it is known that Universal Studios Hollywood recorded a record 1st Quarter cash flow in 2002. What’s more, the program’s expiration date was extended twice in its first year, has been repeated as an annual promotion each year since, and is now in its 12th year.
Key Consumer Insight
While essentially a discounted pass offer, the Agency’s insight was not to offer it as such or create a new pass that had to be branded. Instead, the team recommended directly communicating the value of the offer in a way that was unprecedented, unique, and seemed too good to be true.
How the Idea Helped Changed the Business
By dramatically increasing the number of annual passholders, the “BUY A DAY, GET A YEAR FREE” promotion has provided Universal Studios Hollywood with incremental revenue from increased repeat visitation, and a database of known customers for renewal and other marketing efforts. And, since launching BUY A DAY, GET A YEAR-FREE, numerous theme parks have followed suit. Today, the offer has become a mainstay of the industry.
Campaign Role: Vice-President, Client Services - The Cimarron Group
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