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TeleCourse Raw Notes



Sponsorship Opportunities
Tom Viertel
March 31, 1998


GUEST SPEAKER: Tom Viertel, producer of SOUND OF MUSIC FOREVER TANGO, SMOKEY JOE’S CAFÉ, FRANKIE & JOHNNY IN THE CLAIRE DE LUNE, ANGELS IN AMERICA, and FORUM, among others

TOPIC: Sponsorship: Thinking Creatively

I. Tom worked to get Hallmark to sponsor SOUND OF MUSIC, with Hallmark’s name and crown insignia above the title

II. Sponsorship is better-known outside of New York City A. People often use venue sponsorship at regional theaters: e.g., car dealerships B. Also there are road show sponsorships: e.g., Continental Airlines sponsors FOREVER TANGO on the road C. Sometimes sponsorships have happened in NYC, when there’s been an obvious tie-in – e.g., FAO Schwarz sponsored BIG

III. The fit has to be right between a sponsor and a show: e.g., the basic theme of SOUND OF MUSIC is “Love conquers all.” This is a relevant theme for Hallmark, a company all about sentiment

IV. There is one huge risk in attaining corporate sponsors: that critics will accuse it of cheapening the show A. This is another reason the sponsor-show fit has to be right. SOUND OF MUSIC would have turned down, e.g., Chase Bank. It would have drawn negative attention instead of positive attention.

V. Placement of sponsors’ name(s): generally, producers names are only on the front of house and in the program. But producer could be listed if it has a special impact on the public. A. Hallmark paid a significant sponsorship fee to have its name everywhere (a little less than a million dollars) B. SOUND OF MUSIC has put $400,000 into a TV ad: it’s had a huge impact and extensive air time i. It shows a little girl going to the show and saying “My own ticket!”; its theme is passing on the “Broadway heirloom” to your children

VI. Hallmark’s contributions as sponsor: A. Contributes money sporadically when requested to do so (e.g., half of opening night party, additional TV advertising, etc.) B. Provided mailing list of 14 million names C. Provided the endorsement of the largest privately-owned company in the U.S.; 8000 stores nationwide

VII. Hallmark is both an investor and a sponsor: A. abFor 2 million dollars, they have general partner points (7 for 1, better than 1 for 2) B. abAt a 6 million dollar overall budget, Hallmark came in with 1/5 of capital

QUESTION: Does the Hallmark deal preclude you from getting other sponsors, like going in a theater with a sponsorship?

ANSWER: No; we would probably get Hallmark to approve the new sponsorship, but already Marriott and others are doing sponsorships too, at the bottom of ads

QUESTION: What do other sponsorships do?

ANSWER: There are hundreds of marketing arrangements in the course of a year. Usually sponsorship is for 1-2 months, or just one event. – If a radio station sponsors you, you give them free tickets to give away, and you get free exposure in ads. The cast may appear and perform at special events. In return the show is given 75-100 exposures over 2 weeks. – Or, e.g., Marriott will stuff your ad in with room keys or put it on a table tent in the room or its restaurants in return for free seats.

VIII. Everyone’s advertising budget is limited; stretch your opportunities. A. Use local businesses i. For example, with SMOKEY JOE’S CAFÉ, even with heavy advertising, the press was not interested in the show, so they had to do other things. Marketing is time-intensive, you need as much exposure in as little time as possible. They got 200 merchants to put brochures and window cards in stores; they also stuffed ads into ticket envelopes. B. Trade seats for exposure i. Shows play better with fuller houses ii. People in free seats will make people who paid think they’re at a popular show iii. However, giving away free seats does present a problem if you have a small house

IX. Popularity of sponsorship among corporate sponsors A. Two years ago you couldn’t get anyone to sponsor a show, but now there’s a renewed sense in the corporate world that they could get exposure to a high-level demographic (people who can afford to go to the theater). At the same time, the popularity of marketing in the arts has exploded. B. It is more difficult to get sponsorship for off-Broadway shows, because there are not high enough numbers of people for the sponsors. Off-Broadway shows should go for marketing instead of sponsorships. (With the off-Broadway production of DRIVING MISS DAISY, they couldn’t get Cadillac to sponsor the show even though Miss Daisy’s driver drove a Cadillac. When SMOKEY JOE’S CAFÉ had been running 2 years, not one of 200 theatergoers surveyed knew what it was....) i. You must create materials: windowcards, postcards, etc. ii. Find people willing to invest in marketing even if they won’t invest in the show – e.g., have a restaurant split the cost with you for a postcard mailing advertising the show and a $35 dinner

QUESTION: When you’re trying to get a sponsor, do you stress the prestige of sponsoring a show or the marketing value that they would derive from it?

ANSWER: With Hallmark he presented no statistics at all, so it was 100% prestige. Usually numbers aren’t that persuasive to anyone. They either want to do it or they don’t. You have to get them excited about it.

QUESTION: Is it worth it to risk criticism for “cheapening” the show when you get sponsorship?

ANSWER: It’s worth the risk, especially on the road. Hallmark doubled the advertising budget and allowed them to do a TV ad – their primary audience was the TV audience.

If you do controversial shows that sponsors don’t go for, get sponsors for your whole season.

QUESTION: How about liquor and cigarette companies that can’t really advertise: are the primary sponsor possibilities?

ANSWER: Yes, like the Virginia Slims tennis match – Virginia Slims can’t advertise on TV, yet there they are, getting coverage.

QUESTION: We’re producing NUTCRACKER next season – what would a good sponsorship package be?

ANSWER: You would give them: 1) exposure in your advertising, as in “__________” presents THE NUTCRACKER” or just mentioned at the bottom of the ad, depending on how much support they give, 2) seats on opening night, 3) house seats other nights, 4) preferred customer nights – meet and greet cast with a backstage tour. They would give you: 1) money and 2) mailing lists.

TOP FIVE SPONSORSHIP GUIDELINES:

1) FIND THE RIGHT FIT. The fit between sponsor and show must be just right. Don’t give critics the opportunity to spotlight a sponsorship that seems to cheapen the show.

2) ALWAYS GET THAT MAILING LIST. Get sponsor to donate mailing lists as well as money. They can help you market the show and pull people in as well as simply writing a check.

3) STRETCH YOUR OPPORTUNITIES AND GET CREATIVE! Maybe no one will give you funds, but a radio station might give you free advertising time in exchange for free tickets to give away, or a hotel may put a flyer with every room key for free tickets, or local merchants can help up the awareness of your show by displaying window cards

4) PACIFY NERVOUS SPONSORS. If you like to do risky shows that businesses would hesitate to sponsor, get season sponsors rather than sponsors for each show individually.

5) EXCITE YOUR PROSPECTS! When pitching to prospective sponsors, concentrate on the prestige the sponsorship would bring to their business. Don’t quote numbers to them; EXCITE them about the terrific opportunity they have in sponsoring your show!

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