What Broadway can learn from Lebron James.

I saw a photo of a youngster from China wearing a Lebron James jersey the other day that got me thinking about the overall marketing of Broadway.

So much of sports marketing is actually not the marketing of the sport itself.  The enthusiasm for the teams, and for the playing of the sport itself seems to come almost entirely from the stars of said sport.  Kids are exposed to the players on television (Lesson #1, Broadway) and the next thing you know they’ve got posters on their wall of their favorite Forward, or shirts on their back of their favorite Quarterback.  To use one of their own slogans, they all wanna “Be like Mike,” and ratings and ticket sales rise.

Broadway lacks the television appearances to reach those youngsters in China, but it certainly has the stars to impress them (or those predisposed to love the theater), right?  We just gotta get them noticed.

If I was building an audience development plan for The Great White Way, I’d reconsider the idea of marketing the overall impersonal Broadway brand as a thing.  Frankly, that’s a little boring.  Instead I’d focus on marketing the people that get our standing ovations eight times a week . . . our own Forwards and Quarterbacks.  Because if we know that the young folks out there are more likely to follow the theater (and more importantly, participate in the theater), if they get emotionally attached to our best “players,” then all that we need to do is make our stars even bigger stars to expand our audience.

In other words, we want them to “Be like Bernadette.”


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below!  Click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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  • Krista says:

    I love this analogy, not only because it makes sense, but because I’m a sports fan. I think there are different levels of a sports/theatre consumer on where they become engaged, how they are committed and how they can be marketed to.
    Some people watch the sport/theatre because they just like it in general. They will watch whatever is on tv/local theatre. Some people show loyalty to a team/show. They will watch all of the games/go see the show wherever it is playing. Some people love a particular player/actor so they will follow them and watch whatever game/show they are involved in.

    So where can I get my Kristin Chenoweth jersey?

  • Jay says:

    Just as Broadway is a brand, each individual actor is their own brand too. You can market the hell out of your actors but they need to be willing to put in the work too… and not just by showing up to appearances or giving interviews. Every single actor should already have their own Facebook fan page at the very least. Add Twitter, Intagram, and any other social networking and let the fans do the work. The key is to stay active (not overly active) to make sure those followers don’t forget who you are. Also get some inter-actor relations going. Got a big star in your show? Have her tweet about the understudy. Have a big Hollywood A-lister backstage at your show? Tweet the picture you took back to her and her followers. Just get interviewed by your hometown paper? Upload it to Facebook for your fans – not just your friends – to see.

  • I like the connections you make between theatre and sports. They are clearly an industry of moneymakers, and we can learn a lot from their tactics.

    I think tshirts and posters would be great!! Nothing like reminding someone as they drift off to sleep of Idina on the wall, or whomever.

  • JN says:

    I’d be more interested in getting people more attached to the Characters then the actors themselves. “Be Like Elphaba”, rather then “Be Like Idina”. That way as the shows run longer, it is about the show, not just the specific actors.

  • John David says:

    Brilliant as always!! Thanks!!

  • Diana Lipkus says:

    How did we get to know Bernadette? Do more of that! When Bernadette Peters sat on the chair next to Merv Griffin’s desk (the equivalent to today’s Jimmy Fallon for those of you too young to know)she revealed enough for us to want to get to know more about her. Then she sang and we wanted to know more about where she was doing that beautiful singing and how we could hear some more! Jimmy Fallon did have a “Broadway Week” with show songs last year. Why have we not seen more of that and more actors when they are there to perform. Why not make Seth Reudetsky a regular personality bringing stories of backstage happenings to reveal.Seth can be so funny!Make him the star who introduces the stars and singers. Make him a regular! Design a Bway trivia game for Jimmy to play with the guests and audiance. Have a ticket to a show give away to the person who is from a country Hicksville or the furthest geographical location. Then have a camera crew shadow them and show tiny segments of the actual show with them watching and report their banter at intermission and the opinions of other interesting looking patrons. Show this on a later nite.Make theater look fun and interesting to the younger generations!

  • Zanne says:

    I don’t think we would necessarily get the sports fans to defect to theatre but I think creating hoopla around theatre as it is created around sports is a good analogy. I agree with Jay (above) about individuals and productions getting together and creating their own hoopla and each person blowing their own horn. (As the words of Addison Dewitt in “All About Eve” express: “We’re all born with our own little individual horns … if we don’t blow them, who will?”)

  • Charlie Fink says:

    It’s a fair observation, but I would point out that bigger stars do have press agents who do try to market talent, much like sports celebrities. But the fundamental difference, which you allude to, is the exposure sports stars have on television which, by definition, performing artists will never have. This is why tv stars and movie stars are taking over B’way and you’re right, they ARE celebrities, just like Lebron (only shorter 😉

  • Jay Deen says:

    I couldn’t agree more. My biggest beef with numerous theatres across the nation is their marketing plan or mostly lack thereof. I have had many disagreements with theatre owners about this and they insist that “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. Can’t tell you how much I hate that answer.
    And for your MVP marketing campaign I have a perfect example for you… I recently saw ‘Newsies’ The Musical and the audience (including myself) gave the cast a standing ovation after the song “The World Will Know”. The stand out performer in this number was Ryan Steele who plays ‘Spec’. He’s the one who does the spin on stage. It’s what you’ve seen ice skaters do but only on ice. We were impressed to say the least. I wanna be like Ryan!
    Thank you so much for your insight and desire to make theatre a better thing all around!

  • thank you for you article.

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