THOUSANDS of businesses have been offered the chance to become official “Panda Partners” by Edinburgh Zoo at a cost of £3,000 a time.
A new scheme allowing firms to become official backers of Tian Tian and Yang Guang will give them exclusive “out of hours” access to the pandas and a talk from one of their keepers.
Up to six people at a time will be served wine and canapés in one of the dedicated panda viewing galleries at an event which can be held during each year of panda sponsorship.
Each backer will also be given another ten free tickets for admission to the zoo and the chance to secure “priority booking” throughout the year for panda viewing sessions.
The zoo has agreed to put corporate logos from each backer on the walkway going through the panda enclosure as part of the scheme, which Scottish Enterprise has agreed to help to promote the initiative.
The new “corporate partners” scheme has been revealed just days after the pandas were greeted by their first public visitors.
It has been created to allow small and medium-sized businesses to sponsor the pandas, if they are unable to afford the kind of deal the zoo is hoping to strike with big-money backers.
Earlier this year major financial services firms in Edinburgh were urged to put their money behind the pandas to help them win new business in China, although none has yet been confirmed as a major backer.
However, FedEx, which flew the pandas on a chartered flight from China to Edinburgh, has been revealed as the first major sponsor of the animals.
The Scotsman has already revealed how companies are able to secure exclusive access to the pandas for an hour each day – at a cost of £12,000.
Weddings can also be booked at the new panda enclosure, at £6,000 for an hour-long slot.
The Panda Partners initiative is being billed as an “exclusive membership” scheme.
E-mails sent out to businesses to help promote the venture say: “Edinburgh Zoo is delighted to be home to two giant pandas from China – Tian Tian and Yang Guang – over the next ten years. We want to offer as many people as possible a chance to be part of their lives and to share special moments with them.”
At least three firms are thought to have signed up for the scheme.
Cristina Pouso, corporate development manager at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which runs the attraction, said: “Panda Partners is a newly launched corporate partnership scheme with Edinburgh Zoo.
“The package offers companies the combination of corporate tickets, priority booking for panda viewings, an exclusive out-of-hours event in the panda viewing gallery and the opportunity to meet one of the panda keepers.
“Corporate logos will also feature on the panda enclosure walkway. The cost to join up to the scheme is £3,000 for a one-year period.
“We’re delighted with the uptake so far, which is testament to what international stars Tian Tian and Yang Guang have become despite their short time with us.
“With regard to other sponsorship packages, we’re delighted to tailor them to individual businesses and their specific needs.”
A spokeswoman for the zoo said: “The arrival of the giant pandas has caused a huge amount of excitement and opportunity, and we are in touch with a number of partner organisations.
“As a ten-year project, there are various opportunities over this time period, and we want the partner organisations to be the right fit.”
THE Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has repeatedly insisted it has not received any financial backing to help bring the pandas from China to Edinburgh.
The cost of the pandas’ residence at the zoo includes an annual fee of about £645,000 to the Chinese government, 90 per cent of which goes towards conservation projects in China.
The zoo has also met in full the £285,000 cost of building a new enclosure for the pandas and has a £70,000-a-year bamboo bill to pay to feed the animals.
However, bosses expect the number of visitors at the zoo to more than double to about a million over the next year.