Skift Take

We're slightly disappointed that Grey didn't run with the opportunity to make national parks as sexy as we know they have the potential to be and hesitant of the campaign's high expectations.

The National Park Service launched its largest-ever marketing campaign in preparation for the agency’s centennial celebrations in 2016.

The goal of the campaign, several years in the making, is to raise awareness of the park system among millennials. In addition to the website,, with its content on the parks and trip-planning tools, the campaign will include contests, social media engagement and influencer relationships.

The parks drew 292 million visitors, who enteried at least one national park in 2014, but there are misperceptions that they’re family destinations only or all located in the West.

“We get a lot of visitors but the demographic of that visitation is not representative of the country,” says National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis.

“We want to see not just an increase in visitation but a more diverse population that is using the national parks.”

When the National Park Service hired ad agency Grey in 2010, they required a year’s worth of qualitative and quantitative research to gauge the public’s understanding and awareness of the organization. Jarvis says the organization will replicate the same research in 2017 at the end of the campaign to determine its ultimate success.

The Campaign

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis kicked off the campaign in New York City where they introduced Find Your Park Virtual View Kiosks in which people can virtually experience parks from around the country.

New creatives and events will be rolled out throughout the year and then again in 2016. There will be a combination of Instameets, consumer contests, and local activities hosted by individual parks. The National Park Service also hopes to foster a personal connection to the future of the parks through contribution programs where the public can donate to a certain project and volunteering opportunities.

“We’re appealing to a certain degree to the nature of the generation to want to be a part of something bigger,” says Jarvis.

The multi-million dollar campaign is being paid for exclusively through sponsor partnerships with big name brands like American Express, REI, Subaru and Budweiser. Partnerships will also play a major role in spreading awareness of the campaign. For example, there will be a feature on national parks in every 2016 issue of National Geographic.

“We have a ridiculous number of partnerships underway that are helping us carry this message out,” says Jarvis.


Some would point to the irony of a major digital campaign promoting the benefits of the outdoors, but Jarvis thinks that connectivity will play a major role in the future of the parks’ livelihood. He is currently meeting with service providers with the goal of having Wi-Fi at the visitor centers of every major park within the next few years.

His underlying goal is to get more people to share their park experiences and hopefully inspire their peers to also plan a trip.


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Tags: marketing, national parks

Photo credit: The homepage for the National Park Service's campaign Find Your Park. Find Your Park

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