Zoobilation Event

Indianapolis, IN
Partner Since: 2015

“This app has created a lot of buzz among our corporate partners. It provides added value to current Zoobilation sponsorships and we expect it will help us secure future sponsors for the event.”

— Liz Mok, Special Events Manager Indianapolis Zoo

Zoobilation is the largest black-tie fundraiser in Indiana, with millions of dollars raised in support of animal conservation. Held at the Indianapolis Zoo each year on the second Friday in June, more than 5,000 guests attend this premier philanthropic event, which will mark its 30th anniversary in 2016. In 2015, Zoobilation raised $2.2 million to help fund the care and feeding of the 1,600 animals and 23,000 plants in the Zoo’s collection, as well as to support the Zoo’s education programs and global conservation initiatives.

The Challenge

For its biggest annual fundraiser and one of the city’s most anticipated annual events, the Zoo is always looking to raise the bar with Zoobilation by offering guests high end food and cocktails amidst a one-of-a-kind experience. This strategy is important to growing the event’s brand recognition and value, which helps attract top sponsors, increase attendee engagement, and ultimately raise financial support for the Zoo. To better serve its increasingly tech-minded audience, event organizers sought a way to engage and inform guests while also providing additional value to event sponsors and vendors.

In addition, event organizers wanted to offer guests a convenient way to navigate the event and find their favorite restaurants without having to rely on the often cumbersome paper maps, which would also help reduce waste. From there, the idea of the Zoobilation app was born.

“We are always looking for ways to grow the event, keep current sponsors interested and happy, and attract new sponsors,” said Larry Coan, Zoobilation Event Chair. “We want Zoobilation to have the ultimate value for our sponsors and have the ability to increase the revenue brought in from the event. An app was a step in the right direction.”

Key Features

  • Maps
  • Restaurant Profiles
  • Event Schedule

The Solution

The Zoobilation app created by Bluebridge delighted event attendees and sponsors alike in unprecedented ways. Released one week prior to the event, the Zoobilation app helped generate additional news coverage and social media buzz.

The app has allowed Zoobilation’s organizers to see success in various stages of the event—through excitement building and volunteer preparation beforehand, navigation and information during, and archival and follow-up potential even after the event.

“The app goes beyond the evening of Zoobilation,” said Coan. “It’s part of the buildup of the event, as well as follow-up for sponsors and restaurants. Now we have a connection to the people who attended—through the app.”

Each food and beverage vendor received its own page within the app, providing an opportunity to share contact info and other key business details. During a luxurious evening that features nearly 70 restaurants, the Zoobilation app allows users to take notes on their favorite foods and eateries and revisit them later in a personalized, aggregated view. With the one-touch dialing function within the app, users were able to directly contact the businesses they enjoyed during Zoobilation to make future reservations.

Additionally, by including social media links for each restaurant, Zoobilation attendees were easily able to share their favorites on Facebook and Twitter.

“We had a lot more tweets about food and restaurants than anything else,” said Haley Fennell, Special Events Coordinator for the Indianapolis Zoo. “Restaurants use a lot of their resources on Zoobilation and it can be hard for them to directly correlate an increase in business. The app helps us provide value to them.”

As the new spirits and alcohol sponsor in 2015, Republic National Distributing Company was equally excited about the event’s app, which offered tasters an easy way to take notes, tweet about delicious drinks at the event’s 13 bars, and discover recipes to draw attention to the brand.

“We have a considerable amount of interest in Zoobilation sponsorships and the pre-excitement created by the app prior to the event helped us seal future sponsorships,” said Liz Mok, Special Events Manager for Indianapolis Zoo. “By showing tremendous value for sponsors, it encourages them to return and support the Zoo each year.”

For an organization whose mission is to empower people and communities, both locally and globally, to advance animal conservation, the Zoo is also committed to sustainability. Offering guests a paperless map option through the app was a perfect complement to those efforts.

“In addition to our animal conservation mission, the entire Zoo staff is involved with efforts to lead the way by making the Zoo itself as green as possible,” said Julie McDearmon, Director of Institutional Advancement for the Indianapolis Zoo. “This app has allowed us to put those initiatives into action by placing what you’d normally see on a map in the app and provide a more user-friendly experience that our audience expects.”

The app also came into play for the judging of Zoobilation’s highly coveted blue ribbon awards, which are judged by local celebrities and notable Indiana residents, as well as the People’s Choice Award, which is judged by all attendees. The fierce competition includes each of Zoobilation’s 70 participating eateries. Through the convenience of the app, which features a quick way to vote, there was a 30% overall increase in voting in 2015.

The Results

“The app made voting so much more user friendly for the attendees and in turn created more engagement with the restaurants. Because of this, we saw an increase in voter participation this year,” said Mok.

In preparation for next year’s event, Zoobilation organizers plan to add exciting new features to the app for increased engagement and convenience.

To help increase pre-event buzz, the Zoo plans to send push notifications to past attendees and other app users with ticket release dates, discounts, and general updates. As an event that consistently sells out in a matter of hours, the app allows users to receive reminders that help them secure their ticket.

Going forward, Zoobilation hopes to increase opportunities to engage with attendees after the event to share more about the Indianapolis Zoo’s conservation message.

  • 61%

    increase in overall social media buzz

  • 2,000

    downloads prior to and during the event

  • 180%

    increase in social sharing about vendors

  • 200

    downloads and 30 daily users after event


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