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How Yellowstone National Park’s ‘Inheritance Pass’ left a legacy (but not a trace)

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By Awards Analyst | writer

December 5, 2022 | 4 min read

Yellowstone Forever and Havas Chicago won at The Drum Awards for Agency Business 2022 in the Best Future Proofing category for its ‘Inheritance Pass’. Here, we find out what went into this intergenerational campaign.

Yellowstone National Park's Inheritance Pass

Yellowstone's Inheritance Pass won The Drum's Best Future Proofing gong / Credit: Yellowstone Forever and Havas Chicago

Yellowstone, the US’s oldest national park, is under threat. Thanks to its very popularity, pollution has been rising and ecosystems are at risk. The park’s official non-profit partner teamed up with agency Havas Chicago for a creative solution that would raise donations without raising attendance. For the park’s 150th birthday, The Inheritance Pass allowed punters to buy a ticket whose only catch was that they couldn’t redeem it for 150 years.

The brief

For the past decade, Yellowstone National Park has seen record attendance numbers year after year. That sounds like a dream for the park and the people protecting it – but it isn’t. Increased footfall brings increased car pollution, threats to wildlife habitats, and all sorts of destabilizations for the oldest national park in the US.

On the back of a cultural shift seeing more Americans taking road trips to experience the outdoors, overcrowding at national parts has become a hot topic, covered in the national and international press (not to mention former president Obama’s Netflix docuseries, Our Great National Parks).

Yellowstone and Havas needed to find a solution that would boost funds without boosting footfall.

The idea

Research shows that support for environmental causes is not self-motivated but spurred by a desire to see better lives for future generations. Other results show that priming people’s ‘legacy motivations’ increases their likelihood of donating to environmental charities.

It’s that knowledge that led the team to develop The Inheritance Pass: a ticket to Yellowstone that will be redeemable in 150 years, on the park’s 300th birthday, in 2172. It is, as you might guess, the first national park ticket only redeemable in the future.

The results

Picked up by news outlets all over the world, from the Guardian and BBC to Time Out and the Smithsonian Magazine, the campaign to date has raised almost 2.5bn earned media impressions. The team behind the work reckons that equates to over $20m worth of media coverage.

Meanwhile, donations tripled compared to last year. Most importantly, a lot of that money comes without any additional footfall, meaning no negative impact on the park itself and significant progress toward safeguarding it for future generations.

This campaign was a winner at The Drum Awards for Agency Business 2022. You can see all the winners here.

The Drum Awards for Marketing are currently open for entry. Find out how you can enter now.

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