Since Disney’s The Lion King was first released in theatres 25 years ago, Africa has lost half of all lions in the wild. So, as part of our efforts celebrating the release of the 2019 reimagining of the film, The Lion King, Disney announced a global conservation campaign to raise awareness and support the Wildlife Conservation Network’s (WCN) Lion Recovery Fund (LRF).
The Wildlife Conservation Network’s Lion Recovery Fund supports a variety of partner organizations working across Africa to benefit people, wildlife and habitats. WCN has established an unparalleled reputation for how they lead, manage and evaluate the programs they oversee and the LRF is one of their premiere programs.
The LRF vision to double the number of lions in the wild by 2050 protects wildlife and habitats which support a healthy ecosystem. Their three-pronged strategy:
To help double Disney’s donation and double the lion population by 2050, Disney invited audiences, fans, guests, employees, and cast members to take part in celebratory products, experiences, and grants as part of The Lion King Protect the Pride campaign, for a total contribution of $3 million towards lion conservation.
Leveraging the dedication, expertise and track record of the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) and utilizing Disney’s convening power to bring together experts tackling the issue, we implemented a multi-prong strategy to help raise awareness for the plight of African lions. And, by activating Disney’s large global reach and numerous consumer touch points, we utilized resources from across the company to help promote the film’s release with an innovative and impactful cause marketing campaign and provided a philanthropic donation connected to consumer action.
The campaign supported Lion Recovery Fund through philanthropic contributions, strategically aligned with the film’s overarching marketing campaign, specific cause marketing initiatives and activations.
We also strategically leveraged our storytelling content, platforms, resources and partnerships to elevate awareness of this critical issue and inspire public action for lions.
The campaign kicked off with an enterprise-wide announcement, the launch of the Disney.com/LionKingProtectThePride website and an inspirational and impassioned short-form video (The Lion KingProtect the Pride talent video) which leveraged the star power and popularity of filmmaker/director, Jon Favreau, and film talent including Donald Glover, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogan, Alfre Woodard and others, addressing the threat to lions in the wild, promoting the conservation campaign, and a consumer call-to-action. Talent also supported by posting the video through their social channels.
We engaged consumers through strategic touchpoints connecting them to the Lion Recovery Fund to donate directly to the campaign, and providing purchase opportunities and other activations.
Leveraging Disney’s global reach, we launched 100+ activations enterprise-wide and through external partners in 35+ countries. Key external partners included Prince Harry and The Royal Foundation’s conservation program, 70+ zoological institutions through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and its global counterpart (WAZA) who supported through messaging, education and local in-person activations.
Disney hosted the Lion Footprint Forum at Disney’s Animal Kingdom which brought together 90 conservation leaders and funders from 18 countries across Africa to brainstorm effective strategies for the future. The convening was the first of its kind in 20 years.
An additional outcome of the convening took shape in the form of The Lion King Protect the Pride – conservationist video. Combining the expertise of conservation leaders who participated in the Forum with clips from the Disney film and footage from WCN’s LRF partners working in the field, we provided a platform to increase public excitement for bringing back the lion population and habitats, and encouraging participation in these efforts. The video was shared across digital and social media platforms, and was an added bonus feature for The Lion King in-home and digital release.
The Protect the Pride activations offered unique guest experiences and an influencer/media event at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and products including special edition Simba and Nala plush whose purchase generated donations by Disney. Other customized tie-ins included Regal/IMAX Theatres collectible tickets, a footprint at the film’s press junkets and red carpet premieres, a Making of The Lion King book, a Playbill insert at The Lion King on Broadway, and employee screenings and conservation panels across the company.
While supporting the film release -- an important corporate initiative -- we successfully amplified the cause, driving traffic to the LRF website, and driving brand value to Disney.