Three Things Broadway can learn from The World Cup.
Is it just me or has everyone gone World Cup Crazy?
It’s been four years since the last Cup, and I don’t remember the volume of the soccer conversation in this city ever being as loud as it is now, an obvious sign that the sport has achieved some serious market penetration, as opposed to four years ago.
It’s on the TV, it’s on the Interwebs, and it’s even on the streets (Three German dudes were passing a ball back and forth on Broadway and 48th street yesterday).
So what is it about the Cup that’s gotten everyone to literally kick up their heels? And what can Broadway learn from it?
Here are three things that Broadway can learn from The World Cup:
1. WE’RE INTERNATIONAL, BABY!
The Cup is like the Olympics. It happens every four years, and it has a way of getting the attention of the entire world. In fact, one year, the ratings for The Cup out did the ratings for The Olympics! Countries from all over the world tune in and all talk one common language – soccer or rather, “football.”
While Broadway has only existed for about a hundred years, the theater goes back for thousands. And plays are performed all over the world, in every language manageable.
While international tourists coming to Broadway has been on the rise in recent years (we welcomed 11 million international tourists in 2012), we’ve still got a tremendous amount of room to grow.
How could we grow the international market and unite our audiences like The World Cup unites theirs?
International stars in Broadway shows? Ear piece delivered translations during the show? Box Office treasurers who speak several languages?
The overall Broadway audience has been relatively flat for the last several years. The international audience represents our greatest potential for growth.
2. THE THRILL OF VICTORY AND THE AGONY OF DEFEAT.
Two opposing sides who are in direct conflict with each other.
That’s a soccer game.
And also a play.
Competitive sports are the perfect structure for any drama. Take two characters. Make one want something very, very badly. And make the other one NOT want that character to get it. (You probably remember that improv exercise if you ever took acting.)
Want your audience jumping up and down? Find a way to make your protagonists and antagonists wants as diametrically opposed as Brazil and England, competing in the finals.
3. EVERYONE LOVES A CONTEST
The thing about the World Cup is that . . . there will be a winner. Just like The Stanley Cup. And the Super Bowl. And The Westminster Dog Show. And the local spelling bee, beauty pageant, and bake-off.
People are drawn to competitions. They love to watch them and they love to participate in them. And when you have contests, you actually fuel both sides of a specific business. You draw so much attention to the subject at hand, that the audience expands, and, new “players” rush into the game as well. (That’s one of the reasons we do our 10 Minute Play Contest – to encourage more people to write, knowing that a competition, with a cash prize, will be a good motivator).
And since “players” eventually become audience members or supporters, contests like The Cup become a double whammy marketing lightning rod for the growth of an industry.
We’ve got a good set of awards here with The Tonys, Drama Desks and Outer Critics. And there’s the Oliviers in London. But I’m still wondering if there could be some more global competition involving the theater. Remember, way back in 2008 (!), in the humble beginnings of this blog, when I wrote about The World Championship of Theater? Not sure if that idea is entirely possible, but there has to be something that we can do on a global scale. Heck if they can have a World Champion BBQ Cooking Contest, there’s gotta be something we can do, right?
The World Cup and Broadway have a lot in common. People love ’em, but they don’t necessarily pay enough attention to them all year ’round. They’re like that friend you see once a year that you love hanging out with, but then you forget about ’em until next year. And when you do see ’em again, you say, “Why do I only see you once a year?”
Our job as Producers and FIFA’s job (with their 2.6 billion in profit) is to find a way to be the best friend that you can’t live without.
(Truth time – I wrote this blog last night and after I finished, I remembered I wrote a similar one FOUR years ago after the last World Cup! So if you want to read five MORE things (albeit a little bit dated) that we can learn from The Cup, click here. It’s crazy that I’ve been writing this blog long enough to repeat myself about events that happen every four years.)
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