When a local dairy farmer had the opportunity to bring an international public art and charity event to San Luis Obispo County, he faced a major challenge: How do you stage such a large event in a small town?
And better yet — how do you get thousands of people excited about it?
The farmer was Alan Vander Horst, and the event was CowParade, the international art effort that features life-sized fiberglass cow statues turned into fun works of art for public display and eventual auction for charity. CowParades are well known in cities like Rome, Madrid and New York, but are far less common in small communities. And in San Luis Obispo County, it seemed many locals had never even heard of the project.
Alan enlisted BCA services to build both recognition and enthusiasm for CowParade SLO County and the result was – ahem – a MOOmentous turnabout, culminating with an auction that raised $250,653 for more than 40 nonprofits.
Even as artists were creating the 101 cows, BCA built buzz with digital ads, social media and useful fold-out map and brochure design. Some ads included videos with local celebrities, like “Incredible Hulk” actor Lou Ferrigno, showcasing their “mooing” skills. Social media posts chronicled artist progress, 10,000 people attended the launch event thanks to our marketing efforts, and the brochures we designed made it easy for the public to find the moooooving art pieces. Once our public relations work kicked in, the media loved CowParade, and the stories kept coming.
One especially fun element of CowParade SLO County was a cow sponsored by SLO CAL, the county’s tourism agency. We helped SLO CAL with strategy for drawing out-of-town visitors. Our idea: We enlisted the support of syndicated cartoonist Leigh Rubin to create Adventure Cow, a comical bovine that jumped into Bucket List-type adventures, including ziplining, surfing, grape stomping and more, all accompanied by our fun video series documenting the cowrrrazy pratfalls.
The most rewarding event we promoted, of course, was the auction, which raised more than a quarter of a million dollars. During the live auction, the cow BCA sponsored — Jesse/Jane, by artist Dennis Bredow — was the biggest hit of them all, raising $45,000 for the 40 Prado Homeless Services Center in San Luis Obispo.
We were a little blue when Cow Parade ended, because it had been great fun. But we were so gratified to be part of an amazing event that raised money, spirits and tolerance of bad cow puns.