Clearwater Marine Aquarium Logo

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Client: Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Industry: Theme Park/Attraction


Orlando loomed large to management as an untapped market, but there was no data to support the interest or willingness by Orlando visitors to visit a beach while they were in the state.  Management required baseline data collection as well as recommendations regarding how to spend their marketing dollars most effectively both in and out of market.


HCP developed a research plan involving an online panel of past year Orlando visitors and a comprehensive audit of their past two-year media spend.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and aquarium based in Clearwater, Florida. The organization is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick and injured marine animals, public education and animal-assisted therapy and research. Visitors flock to the CMA each year to meet resident Winter the Dolphin, made famous by the Dolphin Tale movies, and her buddies, Hope, Rufus, Mavis and others.

In the spring of this year, CMA marketing executives contacted HCP seeking an audit of their current media messaging. The organization leveraged local print, outdoor, radio, television, digital and transit mediums to market to prospective visitors, but had varying messages, offers and calls to action for each. Beyond the local buys, management set its sights on the Orlando market. Before moving forward, however, the team required data to quantify the opportunity and clarify the most actionable messages.

HCP worked with the CMA staff to develop a series of questions that helped the attraction understand the vacationer decision-making process, timeline for booking vacation attractions, other destinations visited during their travels, familiarity with CMA and its mission, familiarity with the Dolphin Tale movies, awareness of where the facility is located and more. Researchers recommended an online methodology as not only a cost-effective and timely solution, but for its ease of filtering out US residents who had not vacationed in Orlando within the past year.

Upon completion of data collection and analysis, the substantial opportunity for the CMA within the base of Orlando travelers became fully evident. The feedback provided insight into the timing of attraction decision-making, highlighting the share of visitors who were still making decisions post-arrival in Orlando. The Orlando travelers additionally shared sizeable interest in the Clearwater region, knowledge of the Dolphin Tale movies, appreciation for CMA’s mission and interest in Winter’s backstory.

Insight from the survey fed our recommendations to the CMA, particularly about leveraging the messages that respondents to the survey reacted most positively towards. HCP has worked with the CMA’s internal marketing and digital teams over the past two weeks to guide its media buys that were up for renewal, helping distinguish those with strongest return from weakest and tweaking messaging to enhance appeal.

The CMA’s summer campaign went live in June. The theme, Real-Life Movie Star Madness, retained Winter front and center, but tied in the Dolphin Tale movies—for which recognition is stronger than for Winter, independently. The campaign put the spotlight on all its stars including Mavis, Hope and Rufus. This also enables the aquarium to highlight its “behind the scenes” stars caring for the stars, shedding light on the mission while engraining the film into the visitor experience.