“Time at summer camp isn’t time spent, it’s invested”
As camp professionals we are constantly searching for innovative marketing ideas to recruit campers and build relationships with new and existing camp families. Although most camps host their programs throughout the summer weeks, creating a year-round marketing strategy for your camp allows you to frequently engage your campers and families. Here are tips for creating effective and successful marketing for your summer camp.
First, develop a marketing strategy to promote your summer camp year-round. The best time to aggressively market your camp is during the late winter/early spring months beginning in December and running through early March. During this time, parents are deciding what their children will be doing over the summer break. When creating a marketing strategy, you should consider the following:
Target audience: what demographic show most interest in your camp program? (boys/girls/coed, specials needs, STEM, team sports etc…)
Camp marketing goals: Set your goals and objectives, are you looking to target new campers, increase profit, enrollment, brand awareness, launch new program, or build camper family relationships?
Types of marketing: (website, brochure/flyer, newsletter, social media etc.…)
Marketing budget: set a marketing budget before starting and monitor as it goes. If you find out you have exceeded your budget, simply go back and make the necessary adjustments. Remember don’t stop marketing, instead use less of the more costly types of marketing until you can afford them.
Second, now that you have your marketing strategy created, put yourself in the shoes of a parent. When parents are looking for camps, where are they looking for camp? How are they searching? What are the things they will search for in finding your camp?
Update your camp website ( or if starting new, create a camp website) where children and families are able to learn about your camp but also any new features or attractions in the upcoming summer season, along with your program, activities, parent/camper FAQs, online registration through pictures, literature and video content.
Brochures and Flyers (Really….Yes it’s true)
Although it may seem a bit outdated and old-fashioned given the current times, brochures or flyers can still serve as a great opportunity to market your summer camp. Your brochure should show your camp season at a glance but also incorporate significant additional features such as history of camp, camper/parent testimonials, activities (with pictures or it doesn’t count), success stories, social media links and much more!
I have found that having an e-newsletter on a consistent basis serves as a great marketing tool to engage and inform your campers and families year round. More importantly, it helps cultivate and build stronger relationships (which can lead to fundraising and other financial support) with those who subscribe to your email service. Choose how often you wish to send your e-newsletter to subscribers (bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly) just remember, have a creative subject line to stand out among the subscribers’ other emails, informative content, and drive subscribers to your website where they can learn more. This is your time to showoff, show out and showcase what’s going on at camp so take advantage!
Need I say more, we all know there are several platforms to market your camp, use them all to your advantage to target your audience specific to your camp. Please remember to think twice before sharing pictures with campers. Many parents are sensitive to photos of their kids on social media and it is always good to get permission first.
Summer Camp Directories
As a camp director, I have often used the industry’s best summer camp directories to market my camp each season in an effort to recruit prospective campers. The outcome of using such large directories can be both highly successful and ineffective. In addition, it can be rather costly depending on the demographics you are looking to recruit. Therefore, before you decide to go this route, determine if this is the right service for your camp given all the other types of marketing tools available.
Other marketing tips
Cause-marketing: includes collaboration between for-profit business and non-profit business to promote sales (for-profit) and a specific cause (non-profit). Although this is typically geared towards fundraising, this can be most effective year-round and off-season in attracting campers and families to your camp.
Holiday/Birthday Cards: year-round sent to campers during these special or momentous days, but also add to continuous engagement strategy in relationship building towards campers and their families.
Giveaways: put your logo or information on products creating brand awareness for your camp
Off-Season Events: although this is not the ‘main course’ of camp, off-season events can be used as a free and easy marketing tool for your summer camp. Use this time to advertise and promote your camp, include schedule, open house, early or discounted registration, new programs (if any) activities and include other marketing tools (website, e-newsletter, brochures/flyers, cause-marketing, social media) to drive customers to your camp.
When you are planning on marketing your camp, the most important step of all is having a strategy that you and your team are comfortable with and carrying out that strategy with realistic goals. Remember, the best strategy is not always the most innovative but rather the strategy that answers the question Why your camp?