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    StrategyPartner with companies such as Subway to share marketing expenses and bring in cash-strapped families.ResultBy partnering with different companies and groups, Noah’s Ark tripled its marketing budget.

As soon as Tim Gantz recognized that people’s reluctance to spend money would impact his waterpark’s bottom line this year, he knew he wouldn’t be able to thrive alone. So he found a couple of willing partners to help him out

Those partnerships included Subway sandwiches and the Wisconsin Dells Visitors and Convention Bureau, which have proved to be the difference between a down year and a successful year. “Going into this year, we knew folks would be tight on money,” says the president of Noah’s Ark Family Park in the Wisconsin Dells

Gantz started talking with Subway a few months prior to the season opening. He was looking for the easiest way to get a discount into the hands of customers. With 500 shops in Wisconsin, Subway seemed to be a great marketing channel. Subway and Noah’s Ark agreed on a $10 for $10 deal: Spend $10 at Subway and receive a $10-off voucher for Noah’s Ark. With ticket prices at $35.99 per person to Noah’s Ark, the savings are substantial, especially for a family of four or more

“We were really getting the attention of those struggling on a budget,” Gantz says. “It helps the core guests who are struggling to make sure they can get here. It also helps, guest relations-wise, that if they can still make it here, they’ll make it an annual event.”

Subway was a very willing and active participant, and Gantz expects to continue the relationship next year as well. “Subway really got behind it,” he says. “Right as you walk in the door [of a Subway], there are brochures, posters and promotion at the register. A lot of it was on their end in really getting the word out.”

As of the end of June, 5 percent of all ticket sales used the Subway coupon in conjunction, Gantz says

While Noah’s Ark always had specials in June, the discounts taper off in summer’s ripest months of July and August. Gantz points out that this year, people are searching more for coupons. “All along we’ve always had a lot of coupons out there to save money. We noticed a lot of people are searching for that and the No. 1 reason people call is to ask, ‘How can we save money?’ It’s the first thing out of their mouths.”

This year, however, the Subway coupon is usable all summer. The incentive of saving money up front will not only bring people in, but Gantz says they’re also are more inclined to spend a little more in the park

Because Noah’s Ark is a destination waterpark and not a local municipality, stretching the marketing dollar as far as possible is critical. The Subway partnership helped put the waterpark name out there throughout the state

Another major partnership that Noah’s Ark developed is with the Wisconsin Dells Visitors  and Convention Bureau. Because The Dells is usually a popular drive-to vacation spot, it also has felt the effects of an economic downturn. The bureau has a $9 million budget that markets The Dells as a great place to spend vacation time, and promotes Noah’s Ark is one of the parks that families can enjoy together

“It helps to be in a tourism market and to rely on their budget to help get the word out,” Gantz says. In addition to Noah’s Ark’s own marketing budget, which he says also  is quite large, the two bodies can send out “one cohesive message that drives the message home. It’s a win-win situation that seems to work out well.”

Through these partnerships, it’s as if Gantz’s actual marketing budget is more than tripled and provides a two-way promotion for all parties involved

Gantz also is relying heavily on another type of partnership, to move the park’s messages — social media. Facebook and Twitter are common, effective ways to advertise and cost nothing more than the time to post

updates and promotions. It’s also a great way to garner feedback on the current promotions. As soon as the Subway campaign was under way, he posted an announcement on the Noah’s Ark Facebook page to stop into a Subway and get the voucher. “The Facebook comments are saying [the Subway promotion] is a great deal and they’re glad we did it,” Gantz says

Gantz posts at least two to three times a week on Facebook, announcing an upcoming event on the weekend, or an open forum about the newest waterpark ride. This year, Noah’s Ark added a looping water slide that begins in freefall, and it inspired a lot of discussion online on Facebook

The decision to purchase a new ride this year was a major investment, and “we stuck our necks out and wanted to grab this new ride,” he says. He was happy with the decision because not a lot of parks were doing anything new in the area. As a result, it was essential to pursue heavy marketing to pay off the cost of the new ride, and also bring something new and different to the guests who visit each year

“I think we’ve pulled out all the stops,” Gantz says. “There are many ways to save money and there’s no reason not to get here and enjoy the park. Everything is included in the price, and it’s really a valuable experience for the family.”