Product / ServiceCITY BRANDING
CategoryA03. Best Use of Live Events and/or Celebrity Endorsement

The Campaign

Which city produces half the global supply of laptop chips, is home to the world’s largest stand-alone building, is the global leader in panda conservation, yet seldom features in a Google tourism search? Renowned for its spicy cuisine, leisurely lifestyle, and loveable pandas, Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province in western China and China’s fourth largest city. To promote awareness of Chengdu as an international tourist destination, the agency designed a global competition to connect Chengdu with its most attractive asset: the giant panda. To expand the “City of Panda” brand, the team built on the success of the original 2010 Pambassador program, integrating overseas events to penetrate local markets and generate global influence. We leveraged social platforms to share adorable panda content and designed stunts and experiential events in ten global cities, strengthening local relevance for media and consumers. The “Pambassador” 2012 competition connected with the world via Facebook, offering winning participants the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Chengdu to become a guest panda keeper and ambassador of panda conservation. Chengdu Pambassador 2012 was an on- and off-line competition between September and November 2012. The campaign drove a 30.3% increase in international visitors to Chengdu versus China’s national tourism growth of 1.2%. Global media coverage and high social media fan engagement attracted 255,000 worldwide applicants to live and work in little-known Chengdu – over seven times the number attracted by Queensland Tourism’s “Best Job in the World” campaign to live on a reef of stunning tropical islands!

The Brief

Have you heard of Chengdu? Do you know where it is? When we asked potential tourists in target markets these questions, the results were overwhelmingly negative. Our first goal was to reach target audiences in Europe, the United States, and Asia Pacific, tell them where Chengdu is, and promote its many attractive assets. The communication objective was to make overseas individuals aware of Chengdu as the home of giant pandas. Success was measured by awareness and positive media coverage. Our ultimate goal, to increase the number of foreign tourists visiting Chengdu, was measured by foreign tourist arrivals in Chengdu.


•International visitors to Chengdu in 2012 increased to over 1.5 million, an annual growth of 30.3% (compared to China’s national increase of 1.2%). •“Pambassador” was dubbed “the cutest job in the world”, a moniker picked up in many of the 2,852 international media reports across 30 countries in 13 languages that were achieved in 2012. •The level of coverage and online engagement attracted 255,000 applicants to live and work in Chengdu, four times the level of applicants attracted with the 2010 campaign. •Our 410,000 Facebook fans, attracted in just five months, were actively engaged through online voting for Pambassador finalists, video and image updates from the participants, experiential events in ten cities globally, and a continuous updating of adorable panda content. •Content featuring pandas and campaign events reaped 128 million YouTube channel views. •Combined, we achieved 1.6 billion impressions in social and traditional media.


•Yao Ming, in partnership with the Chengdu Panda Base and nonprofit organization WildAid, launched the 2012 campaign •In Europe, costumed pandas toured Edinburgh, Paris, Brussels, Rome and Berlin performing flash-mobs, giving panda bear hugs to pedestrians, and simultaneously providing information about Chengdu, panda conservation, and the competition •North America saw the Pambassador competition semi-final and “Pambassador Day” at Georgetown University •In Singapore, a retail activation with 7-11 stores featured the “Pambassador” search on posters, banners, and price tags, plus a Panda-Rock concert, Panda-themed black & white fashion show and Asian regional semi-finals •Hong Kong saw a viral video of costumed pandas visiting city landmarks in search of bamboo •In Chengdu, 16 global finalists experienced the giant panda natural habitat and promoted Chengdu and the campaign through their individual stories •Digital content from all activities was promoted globally by social and traditional media

The Situation

China’s coastal cities account for a disproportionate percentage of the country’s foreign visitors. Low awareness of Chengdu overseas significantly limits opportunities to attract tourism. Chengdu’s 1.2 million annual visitors in 2011 represented less than 1% of China’s 135 million total. Hungry for tourism revenue and international development, Chengdu wants to raise awareness. Chengdu is an appealing destination for international tourists to experience traditional Chinese culture, taste savory Sichuanese cuisine, and visit the endangered giant pandas. Although relatively well known in China, Chengdu’s brand lacks strong recognition globally. This campaign was developed to change that reality.

The Strategy

Team members from each target market convened in Chengdu to assess the city’s most valuable assets. The opportunity to serve as a global panda ambassador would attract many participants, whose individual stories and passion for conservation could then be propagated through media. By connecting Chengdu to conservation and enhancing its brand as the hometown of giant pandas, we interested global media as well as a substantial online community. Facebook was the central digital campaign portal, allowing the campaign to interact with a very wide audience. Panda themed stunts around the world drove competition submissions and localized semi-final events in four key markets allowed us to get closer to the audience and created local relevance that drove the traditional PR strategy. Authoritative endorsements from organizations like WildAid and the United Nations as well as from celebrities like Yao Ming and local celebrities in each market lent additional support to the campaign.


Name Company Position
Rebecca Lin Ogilvy Public Relations Beijing Senior Associate
Haowei Zhang Ogilvy Public Relations Beijing Senior Consultant
Maclean Brodie Ogilvy Public Relations Beijing Associate Director
Jianfeng Li Ogilvy Public Relations Beijing Associate
Hannah Buzicky Ogilvy Public Relations Beijing Senior Associate
Christopher Gragg Ogilvy Public Relations Beijing Consultant
Susan Tang Ogilvy Public Relations Beijing Senior Associate
Tina Ren Ogilvy Public Relations Beijing Consultant
Joe Zhou Ogilvy Public Relations Beijing Senior Vice President