What do theater and golf have in common?
I tried to get into golf at least three times before I was twenty five. Just couldn't do it. I was way too impatient. I wanted more action. It was expensive. And it seemed like a "old guy's game."
In the last five years, I've picked it back up. And I've actually enjoyed it (!!!).
Golf, like wine, is one of those "acquired tastes." It's easier to enjoy and appreciate after you have a few decades under your belt.
Sure, there are a lot of young players that get into the game, but I'd bet the majority of new players every year are aged 45 and up. (I spent yesterday with an 87-year-old man who just picked it up last year and now plays every day.)
Could it be that theater is an acquired taste, as well? Aren't people more likely to start going to the theater more often once they have more disposable income, and maybe even more time . . . putting them in their 40s or 50s, after their jobs are more stable, their kids don't need babysitters, etc?
Makes sense, right?
So when we talk about "audience development," why do we automatically only think of getting kids to the theater?
I'll tell you why, because those kids are the audiences of 20 years from now, and it is essential to train them to enjoy the theater now . . . so they will see it and support it when they reach theatrical puberty.
But Marketing 101 says that if we want to develop a "new" audience in the near term we should focus on the group that is more inclined to come now . . . aka "the forties."
So in addition to an audience development program for young folks, we need an audience development program for middle-aged folks!
What could we do to reach this demo?
Is it partnerships with real estate companies that give everyone who buys a home two tickets to a show as part of their housewarming gift?
Maybe in addition to a Kids Night on Broadway, we need some kind of Take-a-40-Year-Old-to-Broadway initiative. It'd be like a Broadway buddy program where ambassadors get a free ticket to take a forty-ish friend that normally doesn't go to the theater to a show.
Singles events? 2nd marriage events? A direct mail to people who take fancy cruises?
How about . . . Get a prostate exam, get two tickets to a show?
(Ok, forgive the last one – I'm a teensy bit jet-lagged)
My point is that no one could have gotten me to even think about getting on the golf course 15 years ago. Now? If the right marketing initiative got in front of me, I'd buy the clubs, the balls, and maybe even the ugly sweaters.
There are lots of folks out there who are ready to acquire the taste of going to the theater. We just have to find them, and give them a reason to get started.
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