Forget Camp Jeep. Bass Pro Shops' Summer Family Camp is the new standard bearer of experiential marketing…at least according to Ad Age:

HARRISBURG, Pa. ( — Can't afford summer camp? Pack the kids off to Bass Pro Shops, where they can spend six weeks learning BB-gun shooting, archery, fishing, casting, tent-pitching and bird-watching. And it's all free — including the s'mores.

13-basspro-smores-062810 The retailer's Family Summer Camp, now in its second year, is an "experiential" program designed to build a community for its outdoor-loving consumers. At a time when many families are cash-strapped and seeking summer activities, it seems to be building business for the chain.

Bass Pro, which has built a fervent following around its retail palaces, said the camps have increased traffic and sales in its 56 Outdoor World locations.

And this campaign isn't an extension to a "traditional" communication approach. Instead, it's the anchor to the company's summer campaign.

The company is marketing the event comprehensively through prominent play in its catalog and on its website as well as through TV and radio spots, billboards, print ads and a social-media campaign targeted primarily at parents. (Bass Pro has well over 260,000 "likes" on Facebook.)

Nice job, Bass Pro. You've found a great way to build brand affinity and loyalty with a simple lure: experience. Here's to reeling in as many fans as possible, leaving consumers wide-mouthed and caught. (Okay, I'll stop with the fishing puns now.)

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