Member Spotlight: Kevin O’Brien
TITLE & ORGANIZATION
Director of Corporate Partnerships, Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association / Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Los Angeles, California, USA
FOUNDING SMA MEMBER SINCE
Let’s dive right in and talk about the Zoo.
The L.A. Zoo is an institution. It is owned and operated by the City of Los Angeles and has been around for 57 years – wow! I work for an organization called the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA). We are the nonprofit partner for the L.A. Zoo. It is an arrangement like many other zoos and aquariums around the country, and we are responsible for marketing, promotion, publicity, fundraising, sponsorship sales, and ticket sales.
When did the Zoo make a steadfast commitment to corporate partnerships?
We started placing emphasis on corporate partnerships at the Zoo in 2016 – I joined in 2018. We had previously outsourced many of our sponsorship, procurement, prospecting, and sales, and brought those responsibilities in-house when I came on board. We have been able to secure a lot of new companies in recent years, which has been very exciting. Everything we are doing now is based on developing partnerships with brands that share a similar message and mission with the L.A. Zoo regarding conservation and sustainability. Today that is a relatively easy sell because many companies share or have a similar mindset.
So how do you go about finding the right partnerships?
Regarding companies, we have a checklist that ensures our values match. Because we’re in L.A., we have an attractive, diverse demo of people and families who regularly attend the Zoo – we draw a little over 1.8 million guests per year. When a partner wants to engage in an activation, we ensure it provides added value for our guests. Whether it is Sketchers, Amazon, or the Southern California Honda Dealers, the partnership must enhance the Zoo visitor experience and promote sustainability or conservation. Because the Zoo’s efforts focus on saving endangered species, that message doesn’t have to align directly. Still, there must be a conservation and sustainability focus for a brand to be a part of our corporate family.
So, you’re looking for more than a relationship based on signage and logos?
Branding is undoubtedly one of the deliverable assets. However, the amount of branding at the Zoo is restricted, which works well for us. Compared to other entities, cutting through the clutter takes little financial and creative effort, whereas minimal clutter at the Zoo exists at best. We offer branding, admission tickets, and unique hospitality settings, but the differentiator is creating customized sponsorship and promotional programs benefitting both the corporate partner and the Zoo.