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7 Top Summer Camp Marketing Strategies for Chicago in 2024

December 12th, 2023 | 4 min. read

By Kim Kovelle

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Nine boys and girls hang out along a fence at a summer camp for kids

Nothing says summer like camp — and parents across Chicagoland are hungry for options. Demand increased 75% year-over-year, according to the American Camp Association’s (ACA) latest numbers. And that’s even with prices going up 35%.

It’s a “positive” problem for camps: Lots of interest but many competing options, too.

Fortunately, harnessing specific summer camp marketing strategies can help. Over the past 40 years, we’ve developed plans for hundreds of camps with Chicago Parent — a Zoe Marketing & Communications sister company, serving engaged Chicago parents and guardians.

Here, we’ll highlight how to keep your camp’s reputation and profile high. Then, we’ll tackle these seven essential tactics to market your camp:

  1. Listings and roundups on reputable websites
  2. Quality website content
  3. Facebook and Instagram marketing (free and paid)
  4. Search engine optimization (SEO)
  5. SEM, programmatic, social and print ads
  6. Emails to current and future campers
  7. Camp fairs and events for added connections

You’ll learn the best methods for effective summer camp marketing in Chicago and the suburbs — and what to do next.


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How to keep your camp top of mind in 2024

Parents are searching for camps as early as late fall. That means marketing camps is now a year-round effort. It’s essential to keep your information and messages fresh. With that in mind:

  • Ignite enthusiasm in winter. Refresh details on your website and offer early-registration discounts.
  • Go for the gusto around spring. Increase your marketing in February, March and April.
  • Stoke anticipation in summer. Engaging and lively updates keep the excitement going.

Craft messages that speak to what Chicagoland parents are looking for, too. 

Millennial moms and dads, whose kids are prime camp age, value experiences for their children, the ACA notes. They also trust reviews and insights directly from other parents and kids. 

Ensure your camp marketing goes beyond a list of attractions or simply saying you’re great. Bring it to life to create meaningful connections and trust.

7 best summer camp marketing strategies in Chicago

The most effective camp marketing is multi-layered. Combine some specific camp marketing tactics: digital listings, content, social media, SEO, ads, emails and camp fairs.

1. Listings and roundups on reputable Chicagoland websites

Start with a cost-effective option: Online listings, roundups, directories or guides of camps. They have many names, but many include free basic details.

List your camp in well-known Chicago summer camp guides, like those offered by parenting media such as Chicago Parent. Update key details early each year, especially camp names, dates and contact info.

Explore paying for your listing, too. This often unlocks other options, like adding longer descriptions, photos and links — and can even feature you more prominently in the list.

2. Quality website content 

Your camp’s website is a hub of information. When Chicago parents find you, do they see the latest? Particularly if your marketing efforts push them towards your website. Be sure to:

  • Update your home and landing pages. Freshen up major details like what your camp offers, dates, costs and extras such as before- or after-care for day camps.
  • Make it easy to contact you. Have strategically placed form-fill buttons on crucial pages.
  • Create other content. Experiment with videos and blogs that make your camp real. Try not to solely promote yourself and focus on answer parents’ questions.

3. Facebook and Instagram marketing (free and paid)

These two affiliated platforms draw the most millennial parents, the ACA notes, so they’re ideal spots to market. Start by posting regularly and sustainably — even if it’s biweekly.

Create a schedule and fill it with what makes your camp shine. Photos and videos draw attention, and so do testimonials from past attendees. Sometimes, simply share: In other words, when you’re posting organically, not every post needs a link to your site. This builds trust.

Be sure to harness the power of paid social ads, too. Use your best-performing or most engaging posts and tailor them to the Chicago neighborhoods or suburbs you seek.

4. Search engine optimization or SEO in Chicago

Is your camp visible when Chicago parents are Googling? Whether you’re one of the “best summer camps in Chicagoland” or “top neighborhood day camps,” ensure you show up.

Start by, again, prioritizing new information on your website. Keep it current, or say when you’re announcing the latest. And, once people get to your site, make sure it’s a great experience — fast load times (3 seconds or less), easy-to-find contact forms and mobile-friendly.

Finally, focus on local keywords. Weave in mentions of nearby neighborhoods you might want, like Bridgeport or Lincoln Park. It helps SEO and creates a sense of connection.

5. SEM, programmatic, social and print ads

While parents do all that online scrolling, be sure they’re finding your ads, too.

Search engine marketing, or SEM, ads target Google users searching for relevant camp keywords, while programmatic ads appear on websites and apps that align with your camp’s themes.

And the social media ads we mentioned earlier are especially effective for direct engagement, allowing parents to submit their emails for more information.

Local print media ads that reach your audience can also build your reach and credibility. All the better if they offer camp-specific marketing paired with digital (like Chicago Parent).

6. Emails to current and future Windy City campers

Email is powerful whether you’re looking to bring back previous campers or earn newbies.

  • Your database: Start with the folks whose emails you have. Offer a mix of emails in the months before camp. Include early specials, referrals, sneak peeks of the summer ahead — and even personal messages from the camp crew or past attendees.
  • Targeted email marketing: Get your message in front of your ideal prospects. You can tailor it to where they live in Chicago, their interests and even their kids' ages. Keep it simple yet specific; focus on the unique experience you offer.

7. Camp fairs and events for added connections

Finally, consider joining a local camp fair, event or even partnership for added exposure. In-person fairs are still a great way to connect with Chicagoans personally. Even virtual fairs offer a chance to get your name out without sending staff to a physical event.

Consider festivals or other community activities as another camp “networking” event, too. Some allow paid booths or chances to hand out info in swag bags or in person.

Also, think about chances for partnerships with Chicago businesses and organizations. This broadens your reach and establishes your camp as part of the local fabric.

Next steps for promoting your summer camp in Chicago

Finding kids to fill your camp begins with solid marketing. Here, you found out how tactics like online listings, content, social media, SEO, ads, emails and camp fairs can help.

Feeling a little overwhelmed and need some support? Talk to us. Chicago Parent blends effective marketing strategies with the Chicago-focused Top Camps Marketing Campaign

Or, if you’re just beginning and still researching, learn more about how to set a marketing budget to ensure your camp campaigns are strong all year long.

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Kim Kovelle

As Zoe Marketing & Communications’ content manager, Kim Kovelle brings nearly 20 years of writing and editing experience in metro Detroit. She has strong roots in community journalism and a knack for making complicated topics make more sense.