How Toys ‘R’ Us capitalized on a timely sponsorship of a live giraffe cam

Video, and live video in particular, is proving to be a thorny medium.

Facebook is dealing with the fallout of yet another live-streamed tragedy, and major advertisers are coming off a boycott of YouTube, after ads displayed alongside extremist content made headlines.

But while digital platforms and their advertisers grapple with the challenges of online video, one savvy retailer found a way to capitalize on what would become the second most live-viewed channel in YouTube’s history.

Giraffe Cam: A livestreaming success story

Just over two months ago, Animal Adventure Park, an educational animal park located in Harpursville, New York, launched a YouTube channel and added a live Giraffe Cam for April the giraffe, who was pregnant with her fourth calf.

April quickly became a worldwide sensation as millions of people around the world tuned in to watch Animal Adventure Park’s Giraffe Cam in hopes that they might catch a glimpse of her giving birth.

According to YouTube, Animal Adventure Park’s channel generated more than 232m live views and 7.6bn minutes of live watch time since its launch. Every day, approximately 3.5m people tuned in to watch April, with the average viewer sticking around for 30 minutes. Talk about engagement.

What’s more, the channel was the fastest to reach 100 million live views – a milestone only seven other channels have reached – and the fifth-fastest channel to reach 200m total views.

It also generated 4,400 Super Chat messages, producing the second highest amount of revenue ever for the recently launched Super Chat, a live stream monetization tool that allows YouTube users to pay to have their live chat messages highlighted.

While the world’s interest in April and her soon-to-be-born offspring was surging, retailer Toys ‘R’ Us, whose mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe, is (as his name suggests) a giraffe, was capitalizing on the attention.

The Toys ‘R’ Us logo, with Geoffrey the Giraffe

That’s because Toys ‘R’ Us jumped on the opportunity to sponsor Animal Adventure Park’s Giraffe Cam after the previous sponsor, animal nutrition company Mazuri, had its deal expire.

On March 22, as the world was eagerly waiting for April to go into labor, the Toys ‘R’ Us logo made its debut in the Giraffe Cam feed, putting the retailer’s brand in front of millions of engaged viewers.

On Saturday, April 15, the day April gave birth, the Giraffe Cam saw 14m live views and at 6:55 am, the Cam had 1.2m simultaneous viewers, “a peak that ranked as one of the top five most-watched moments for a live event ever on YouTube.” And Toys ‘R’ Us was a prominent part of it all.

“Like millions of people around the world, we are eagerly anticipating the birth of April’s baby,” Toys ‘R’ Us said in a statement.

“The teams at Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us, including our own giraffe – Geoffrey – are thrilled to be supporting the Animal Adventure Park and its efforts around worldwide giraffe conservation. As you can imagine, birthdays are a big deal for us so this was a natural (no pun intended) fit. April’s baby is something we can all embrace!”

Speed and execution for the win

Toys ‘R’ Us’ success with its sponsorship of Animal Adventure Park’s Giraffe Cam isn’t just the result of its speed in recognizing the opportunity and jumping on it. It was also the result of excellent execution.

In addition to the placement of the Toys ‘R’ Us logo on the Giraffe Cam feed, Toys ‘R’ Us has its logo on April the Giraffe’s website – yes, she has her own site – and helped Animal Adventure Park make a $25,000 donation to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.

Toys ‘R’ Us also hosted a Q&A session where a company representative asked questions of Animal Adventure Park staff. The video of that Q&A session has generated over 400,000 views on YouTube.

And the icing on the cake: after April gave birth, the Toys ‘R’ Us logo on the Giraffe Cam feed was fittingly replaced with a Babies ‘R’ Us logo.

Short-lived opportunities can be very worthwhile

Obviously, Toys ‘R’ Us’ Animal Adventure Park relationship won’t continue to provide the same level of exposure now that April has given birth. In fact, Animal Adventure Park has pulled the Giraffe Cam in part because it was being inundated with emails from viewers concerned about April’s recovery and the health of her baby.

That isn’t necessarily bad news for Toys ‘R’ Us, however. Realistically, opportunities like this have a limited shelf life and therefore can never serve as the entire foundation of a digital marketing effort.

But even so, the massive exposure Toys ‘R’ Us was able to capture in a very short period of time demonstrates the value of having a well-oiled digital marketing machine capable of jumping on unexpected opportunities and executing brilliantly against them.

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