Adopt Your Own Mini Panther: A Campaign Targeting the Adoption of Black Cats

Jenny Edwards, Executive Director

A winning program in the 2007 Maddies Fund Marketing Competition submitted by SPCA of the Triad, Inc.

A Japanese proverb states: There is nothing that cannot be achieved by firm imagination.

Sometimes, when it comes to animal rescue, hard work is not enough. Then we must call upon imagination to imbue ordinary house pets with extraordinary meaning, to connect them to a larger cultural contextto make them special. This concept is at the very heart of two SPCA of the Triad campaigns (one for dogs, the other for cats).

In November of 2006, the SPCA of the Triad had more black cats in our small adoption center than we could hope to place in a reasonable period of time. One fellow had been there for two years with barely a nibble of interest. For each day they languished in their cages, we were turning away other cats. But how to move them out and into safe, responsible homes? How to keep potential adopters from overlooking these beauties?

As you know too well, for whatever reasons of aesthetics or culture, many people are not drawn to black cats. Until those perceptions are understood and changed, we must meet people where they are emotionally and psychologically. We must find ways to make these cats more appealing by re-inventing how people see (or dont see) them. This is precisely what our Program Director, Lisa Crosby, did with her Adopt Your Own Mini Panther campaign. She drew upon the public passion for Carolina Panthers NFL football to make black cats well, cool and sexy. Here are the details.

All eighteen black cats were transported to the SPCAs adoption center at a local PetsMart, filling every cage in the center and eliminating visual competition with cats of other colors. With the help of volunteers, Lisa decorated the cages to look like miniature football fields complete with grass, field markers and goals. She slipped Carolina Panthers bandannas on each cat, and reduced their adoption fee by half. Every new adopter received a Panthers keychain or refrigerator magnet.

The response was stunning. In a typical month, we adopt out one or two black cats. During the Adopt Your Own Mini Panther campaign, all eighteen cats were placed. Best of all, not a single one was returned to the SPCA.

While the campaign was promoted on posters, our website, and local television, most of the attention came from people visiting the adoption center in the store. We were looking to reach people who were already looking to adopt a cat. We wanted to avoid people who wanted to adopt a gimmick rather than a pet. Because these cats were elevated to mini-Panthers, people were inspired to consider a black cat, instead of a more popular color. Most importantly, it gave each cat a story, a reason for becoming part of the family. The campaign slogan was Curl up with your own mini Panther to watch football this season. They entered the football-loving family already belonging.

The Maddies Fund Marketing Competition was for members, and the purpose was to find effective marketing strategies for adopting hard to place dogs and cats.

The Maddie’s Fund mission and purpose is to help the nation’s most needy dogs and cats that, for one reason or another, have ended up in animal shelters. Established in 1999, the foundation awards millions of dollars through grants to animal welfare coalitions to end the killing of healthy and treatable shelter dogs and cats.