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Ernest Hooper: Moose, welcome to Tampa

The Tampa Convention Center plays host to hundreds of national and regional conventions every year, but perhaps no organization has displayed as much panache in announcing its arrival as Moose International.

Through billboard, radio and HART bus advertising, the Loyal Order of Moose launched one of those, "Hey, what's that all about?" campaigns in April. With fun photos and simple phrases, the international fraternal service organization sleekly touted its community impact, using the tagline heardofmoose.org.

Drivers around the area spotted billboards depicting a man with a child holding a helmet, a smiling elderly woman wearing a swimming cap, a young couple working in the yard and a group of friends at a barbecue.

Folks who flocked to the site — it received more than 10,000 unique visitors — discovered that Moose cares for children, helps seniors, brings communities together and celebrates life.

It operates Mooseheart Child City & School, a community for children and teens in need on a 1,000-acre campus west of Chicago. Moosehaven in Orange Park has provided a retirement home for Moose members since 1922. The 1,700 Moose lodges across North America tailor programs for their respective communities.

And yeah, they have fun.

This is the first time the Moose paired such a distinctive awareness campaign with its annual convention, but officials are convinced it was needed given the low numbers yielded by surveys.

"We discussed for at least five years the need to get our message out to more people," said Kurt Wehrmeister, Moose director of communications and public affairs. "We decided to make a significant investment to a pilot program of awareness. This was 18 months in the making. We saw Florida overall and the Tampa area specifically as a target-rich market."

With 26 Moose organizations and 33,000 members within a 50-mile radius, it certainly proved target-rich. Wehrmeister said year-to-year, the increase in Moose membership within that radius increased nearly 10 percent over the last two months.

The campaign is working.

Of course, like most service organizations the Moose strives to infuse its groups with younger members. They need new blood in the group as its members begin to gray.

Wehrmeister points out, however, that Moose is a group suited for families and young people and that it is "built for tough times and tight budgets while doing good for society."

Want proof? Come out to the Convention Center's West Hall today and see for yourself. The 8,000 attendees kick off their convention with an open house from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Dave McKay of WQYK-FM 99.5 will host, pasta dinners will be sold for $10 and door prizes, including iPads, Rays tickets and gift cards, will be given away.

Proceeds benefit Moose Charities and Trinity Cafe.

What? You didn't think the Moose would spend two months telling us they are coming and not invite us, did you? That would have just been wrong.

I must admit, thoughts of Moose always prompted me to reminisce about Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble going to the Loyal Order of Water Buffalo meetings and wearing funny hats.

Now the Moose embrace the new century while maintaining its commitment to community. You gotta love it. Ladies and gentlemen Moose, welcome to Tampa Bay.

That's all I'm saying.

>>if you go

Moose open house

Where: Tampa Convention Center's West Hall

When: 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. today

What: Dave McKay of WQYK-FM 99.5 will host, pasta dinners will be sold for $10. Giveaways include door prizes, iPads, Rays tickets and gift cards. Proceeds benefit Moose Charities and Trinity Cafe. Open to the public.

Information: heardofmoose.org

Ernest Hooper: Moose, welcome to Tampa

06/28/12 [Last modified: Thursday, June 28, 2012 5:30am]

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