Westwood Family Aquatics

The City of Norman Parks & Recreation department had a lot riding on the newly remodeled Westwood Family Aquatics Center when it opened its doors for the 2018 swim season.

Originally built in 1967, the facility featured an old, square pool with a diving well and two slides. During renovation, the old-school vessel was replaced with a veritable aquatics network consisting of a competition pool, lap pool, lazy river, two tube water slides, rock wall, volleyball nets and more.

But the Oklahoma facility had already run a year behind schedule, and officials didn’t want to disappoint taxpayers who were eagerly waiting to find out if this would become their new summer hangout.

To ensure it spread the news of the community improvement project, the City of Norman began marketing efforts two years out. Future patrons even had the opportunity to vote on the project. Engagement with the community continued through various channels, including events such as a ground-breaking ceremony, art opening, and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

But it was going to take a lot more to hold the public’s attention. It would require brand awareness, strategic marketing, and future planning to capture the hearts of the community members.

Baptism by fire

Enter Josh Holman.

The recreation supervisor, aquatics/special event, signed on to the effort when he was hired, a mere three weeks before the grand opening scheduled for Memorial Day.

His first task in promoting the revitalized center was to take over its newly created Facebook page and establish a posting cadence (or frequency), guidelines and brand voice. As part of the effort, his team standardized the flier setup on Facebook and focused on effective use of the logo. By the end of the first season, the facility had more than 10,000 followers.

“The city had been posting on Facebook, but the formatting was always very sporadic and different, and it used to get lost in the noise,” Holman says. “It was critical for the facility to establish its own presence and brand recognition.”

On opening day, the guest count exceeded 1,800.

Outreach continued with a new event nearly every Friday, ranging from outdoor movies to special appearances by guests including an NBA basketball player. To fund these events, Holman signed on local businesses as sponsors for the facility’s various features, such as the lazy river and the slides.

Ultimately, Westwood Family Aquatics Center nearly tripled attendance and had more than 114,000 visitors in a community of only 120,000. A remarkable achievement, considering the total marketing budget was only $15,000.

The team has already begun planning for next season, with a master event calendar in place to be inserted in water bills and distributed at various city events.

Also new to the facility: Instagram and Twitter will be added to its social media strategy.

“We plan to have a bigger presence and wider swath and maybe even attract a younger group,” Holman says.