Giant Pandas Come to Edinburgh
Campaign: Giant Pandas Come to Edinburgh
Client: Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
PR team: Weber Shandwick Edinburgh
Timescale: September – December 2011
Weber Shandwick was asked to support the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland as it prepared for its most high profile project ever: the arrival of a pair of giant pandas from Chengdu in China.
The project involved three governments, Edinburgh Zoo, a panda breeding centre in China, the world's media, the local community and the stars of the show – Tian Tian and Yang Guang, the eight-year-old breeding pair.
The PR objective was to ensure that the story was more than a one-hit wonder, and create excitement over an extended period. The business objective was to drive ticket sales at the Zoo.
The team organised a media trip to the panda base in China before the pandas' departure, during which the first images of the pandas were captured by the Daily Telegraph, the Sun and the BBC.
A series of media teasers built anticipation of the pandas' arrival, including unveiling the new panda enclosure, launching panda tartan, announcing the Zoo's ‘bamboo strategy' and ‘panda cam', and circulating panda facts.
Weber Shandwick worked closely with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the British, Scottish and Chinese governments to plan the arrival event on 4 December. A piped cavalcade and welcome outside the gates was followed by a press conference inside the Zoo. Fifty families won a competition in the local newspaper to be at Edinburgh Zoo on arrival day to welcome the pandas.
The images and professionally edited footage of the pandas settling in went global as soon as they were sent from the team's press centre in the Zoo, with more than 2,000 pieces of coverage in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, France and China, including Good Morning America, CBS, USA Today, the Washington Post, and the front page of almost every UK newspaper.
More than 100 international media attended the arrival press conference and 50+ journalists took up the invitation to attend the first panda viewing the week after their arrival. The BBC, ITN and Sky broadcast live from the arrival event. As they arrived, the pandas were trending on Twitter.
The buzz around the arrival of the pandas resulted in an 80-100% upsurge in Zoo ticket sales for the first panda weekend, helping to fund the Zoo's animal conservation projects. The pandas have already become part of popular culture: they are the subject of new Scottish football chants, and have featured on Strictly Come Dancing and in satirical cartoons, and Tian Tian was also (somewhat controversially) selected by BBC editors as one of its 12 Women of the Year. At the end of 2011, BBC World News ran its ‘biggest stories of 2011' selecting one headline-busting story per month, which was rounded off by the arrival of the pandas.