WPVI takes balloon sponsorship up and away

Jun 10, 2002  •  Post A Comment

ABC-owned WPVI-TV in Philadelphia has come up with a unique way to reach out to the community: On June 15, it will sponsor the giant helium balloon ride at the Philadelphia Zoo.
“We try to come up with some different things,” said WPVI General Manager Dave Davis. This is the same station that opened a news bureau in a local mall a few years back.
The permanent ride, with WPVI’s logo printed on it, is one of only three tethered helium-filled passenger balloons in the country. The ride lasts 15 minutes and gives people a panoramic view of the zoo and the city’s skyline from a height of 400 feet. The ride opens to the public on June 15. WPVI will air a live half-hour special on the Channel 6 Zooballoon at 7 p.m. that night hosted by anchors Monica Malpass and Rick Williams. A live remote from the Zooballoon with “Good Morning America’s” Tony Perkins is tentatively scheduled for June 17.
The Zooballoon ride will be the zoo’s big new attraction, filling a void left by its monorail, which was put out of service about five years ago, Mr. Davis said. The zoo was the country’s first and is Philadelphia’s second-largest ticketed attraction, with a million visitors a year. Phillies baseball is the top ticketed attraction.
The balloon will be home to a live camera, which will give the station aerial shots of the city and the Boathouse Row area of town. Another camera can also be plugged in to get footage of talent doing live shots from the balloon. The camera is linked to a microwave transmitter, and a fiber line connects the zoo to WPVI to send feeds.
WPVI has partnered with the zoo in the past. A fire in the mid-1990s destroyed the zoo’s primate center, which was rebuilt and reopened in 1999. WPVI aired a live one-hour special to help publicize the zoo’s recovery from that fire. “We’ve been partners with them, so they came to us with this balloon idea and they came looking for a media sponsorship, and we turned it into a partnership,” Mr. Davis said.
The station is not just putting its logo on the balloon, which can be seen for miles. WPVI will also produce promotional ads for the zoo. “So it’s really an overall effort to increase awareness of the zoo in this region, because the zoo is really a valuable resource,” Mr. Davis said. “Their mission of education and entertainment really coincides with our mission. It’s the overall programming philosophy to be the community television station.”