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How a little elephant inspired so many big stories...

Blog post   •   Jul 25, 2013 14:03 BST

Sometimes it helps to look at other organisations for inspiration on how to improve your own. So we're looking at the social enterprise Elephant Parade for some top tips on how they have mastered PR to promote their organisation.

A strong and engaging story

As most of you will agree, having a strong and engaging story is the key to success for many brands. It is this which differentiates a brand from its competitors and can be used as part of all future brand communications.

Here is Elephant Parade's tale...

During a holiday to Thailand, Marc Spits met the founder and Secretary General of Friends of the Asian Elephant and the first elephant hospital in the world, who then introduced him to Mosha, a baby elephant who had lost her leg after stepping on a land mine.

Inspired by her story Marc and his son Mike founded Elephant Parade to help fund the making of a prosthetic leg to help her walk properly again. Their idea was that businesses, celebrities and artists could sponsor and create beautiful elephant statues which will go on tour around various international cities. These would then be auctioned off at prestigious gala events with all proceeds going to the Asian Elephant Foundation, who aim to raise greater public awareness of the plight of Asian elephants and support projects and organisations that are dedicated to improving the well-being and conservation of Asian elephants. A further 20% of the net profit from the sale of related Elephant Parade merchandise also goes directly to the foundation.

Every elephant statue involved in the parade has the outline of a prosthetic leg, a constant reminder of the original story behind the social enterprise.


Photograph by Tony C French

Celebrity endorsements

Choosing celebrity endorsers for your brand can be a tricky process.

  • One size does not fit all - your celebrity must appeal to your target audiences and fits with your brand image.  If you are aiming at pensioners why would you choose a Justin Bieber to front your campaign? Be mindful, you should also pitch the benefits the celebrity will gain from being involved in your campaign.

  • Do they have skeletons in their closet? - just take Nike as an example, the last 12 months have been disastrous for them with regards to their celeb endorsers; Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorius. Their behaviour in their personal lives subsequently brought the brand into a series of crises. It may have been hard for Nike to predict this but a thorough background and risk assessment should always be carried out before you choose your celeb.

  • Make it count- You've went through all the hassle of securing your perfect celebrity endorser now you have to plan how to use them, what angles the stories their involved in will take, what publications will be interested in that celeb etc. In her presentation at Marketing Week Live 2013, Kathy Parker of Diageo stated that they get the most from their celebs by fully integrating them into the campaign rather than using them as just a superficial badge for it. They look at the celeb's work agenda and try to create ways they can integrate their campaign into this rather than making the campaign completely separate from the rest of the celeb's life. 

  • Should you choose a local, national or international celebrity to front your campaign? - again this is related to your publics and the image of the brand you’re representing.  If your client’s target publics are confined to one particular geographical area then perhaps it would be better to find a celebrity who has connections to that place too. Not only will the celebrity be more likely to say yes but they will also have more resonance with your target public, adding clout to your key messages. 

Elephant Parade have managed to find the perfect balance of celebrity endorsers, although to be fair, the broad appeal of their product helps with this.  Their wide ranging celebrity and artistic supporters include the likes of Katy Perry, Claudia Schiffer, Fernando Alonso and Ricky Gervais among many others. Effectively, appealing to a number of different target audiences.

Furthermore, no one single celebrity or small group of celebrities are closely associated with the brand, limiting the potential of a crisis affecting the organisation as a result of their endorsers' behaviour.

Elephant Parade also tries to make sure that the artists they work with also represent the countries in which the parade will visit. For their UK tour they have involved artists from a variety of regions across the country, whether they are from the cities the parade will visit or from little towns and villages.

Katy Perry Elephant Parade 1

Katy Perry's Elephant, image taken from Elephant Parade's website

Engaging with the Public

This is one of the most commonly used expressions by PR professionals but that just goes to show how important it is. Involving your target audience in your campaign really increases its effectiveness.

This year, for the first time they are running the People's Parade meaning the public can create their own design ideas for Elephant Parade which will be broadcast inside the intu venues. This way the general public can be part of the parade as well as spectators.  Furthermore, intu are also sponsoring places for around 70 school elephants to join the tour at each leg of the journey, with thousands of schools entering for the chance to get a commission for the tour. With 2,000 designs already submitted, it's proving to be quite popular. 

girl with pink elephant

Photograph by Tony C French

The exhibitions are also completely open to the public allowing adults and children alike to get up close to the elephants. During the launch in King's Cross passersby stopped to take pictures on their smart phones and ipads, sharing them on their social networks. This is something that happens wherever they are exhibited, creating a buzz across social media every time.


Photograph by Tony C French

Business Sponsors and Partners

Creating strong partnerships between organisations has always been a strategic part of business. Each organisation can benefit from doing so in a number of different ways including enhancing each other's reputation, cutting costs and inspiring each other creatively.

Elephant Parade have utilised this through allowing businesses and organisations to sponsor an elephant with their organisation's name displayed on a plaque below the chosen elephant or they can sponsor an entire exposition as intu have done for the UK national tour. This will gain exposure for their brand in an unusual way and at an event which will attract a lot of media attention. This will also enhance their reputation by showing support for a good cause.

Elephant Parade also benefits from this through the money the businesses pay to do this. It also demonstrates that they are well respected by members of the business community who choose to partner with them, again boosting their reputation.

For their upcoming UK tour, Elephant Parade have partnered with intu shopping centres. As a result of this, the elephants will be displayed inside their shopping centres across the country. Intu will also benefit from this with people coming to their centres to see the elephants.  They will also potentially gain a lot of local media coverage for each shopping centre the elephants will be exhibited in across the course of the year.

How can you get involved?

If you would like to donate directly to The Asian Elephant Foundation then click here.

As Mynewsdesk is the official newsroom partner of Elephant Parade we will be designing our own elephant that will join the tour, so keep your eyes pealed!

If you would like to keep up to dates with the latest developments visit the Elephant Parade newsroom or contact Elephant Communications if you would like to request any more information. The dates of the UK tour are listed below:

Tour Dates

16 Jul 2013

preview day

21 Jul 2013

intu Watford

19 Aug 2013

intu Trafford Centre, Manchester

16 Sep 2013

intu Metrocentre, Gateshead

14 Oct 2013

intu Eldon Square, Newcastle

17 Nov 2013

Cardiff (various locations)

5 Jan 2014

intu Victoria Centre/ Broadmarsh, Nottingham

9 Feb 2014

intu Braehead, Glasgow

9 Mar 2014

intu Potteries, Stoke

7 Apr 2014

intu Chapelfield, Norwich

5 May 2014

intu Lakeside, Essex

2 Jun 2014

intu Uxbridge

30 Jun 2014

intu Bromley

28 Jul 2014