Goals and challenges

The target audience for Summit Family Aquatic Center is mainly Caucasian women, ages 30-45, who are stay-at-home mothers. They’re typically college educated, married and middle class. They value community and family-centered activities, as well as athletic and educational programming.

One challenge the SFAC faces each year is increasing the number of paid members, specifically family memberships. To accomplish this, the facility launched an imaginative, and highly effective, marketing program. The campaign is even more impressive when you realize that it is completed on a budget of less than $500. The use of social media and community programming has been key to its success.

How they did it

SFAC’s social media programs utilize Facebook and Twitter under the name of Shark Diddy, the official icon of the facility. This people-friendly shark promotes the facility, its programs and special events online — while creating rapport with the target audience.

Several studies have suggested that many of Facebook’s frequent users are mothers with young children — SFAC’s target audience — so by including family-oriented images and videos in its social media campaigns, SFAC shows its commitment to family-themed programs.

To build stronger ties with city residents, the aquatic center chose the theme of superheroes for the summer of 2014. As part of the campaign, they held a variety of well-publicized, superhero-themed programs and events, including Shark Diddy’s Super Summer Celebration. Event-goers were able to meet real superheroes of their city — firefighters, police, the First Aid Rescue Squad and other personnel. Kids got to know these first responders on an informal basis, which was not only fun, but made them feel safe and secure in their community.

Special guests included Batman, Spiderman, Captain America and, of course, Shark Diddy. There were multiple photo ops, and kids loved the chance to sit in the Batmobile and actual rescue vehicles.

First-responder organizations participated in superhero-themed events throughout the summer. Besides Shark Diddy’s Super Summer Celebration, activities included Super Float Night and a special screening of “The Incredibles” on an outdoor movie screen.

The campaign resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of families attending SFAC events and daily programs, along with an uptick in membership.

To see the facility’s outreach online, visit facebook.com/SummitSharkDiddy; the website at cityofsummit.org/content/8242/8298/8388/10272/10502/10797/default.aspx; and on Twitter at twitter.com/SummitNJDCP.