Jimmy McNicholas of SpotCo talks to the American Marketing Association New York about marketing hit Broadway shows.
Most people associate marketing with Madison Avenue but that’s under the bright lights of Broadway that the American Marketing Association of New York found brilliance in entertainment marketing. We interviewed Jimmy McNicholas, an expert at marketing live theater. As the Senior Creative Director at SpotCo, he and his team are behind some of Broadway’s biggest brands, from Cats to Hamilton to Kinky Boots and The Great Comet.
Jimmy talk to us about the unique role brand plans in marketing hit Broadway shows, and how branding captures the emotion and experience in the brand promise and expression. Effective branding can make a difference in the highly competitive market for Broadway shows and can drive value in everything from merchandising to road shows and spin-offs. He also spoke of the challenge of marketing The Great Comet, with its immersive audience experience.
00:00 Lisa Merriam, Host: Most people associate marketing with Madison Avenue but that’s under the bright lights of Broadway that the American Marketing Association of New York found brilliance in entertainment marketing. Meet Jimmy McNicholas. He’s an expert at marketing live theater and is the Senior Creative Director at SpotCo. SpotCo is the team behind some of Broadway’s biggest brands, from Cats to Hamilton to Kinky Boots and The Great Comet.
00:29 Jimmy McNicholas, SpotCo: One of the most unique things about marketing a Broadway show is that the biggest driver of ticket sales is actually word of mouth. So everything we do has to amplify that all of our advertising efforts social media efforts outdoor efforts digital efforts all have to essentially say the same thing that word of mouth is saying. If there’s a disconnect, the ticket buyers can pick up on that.
00:53 Jimmy McNicholas, SpotCo: In 1997, SpotCo came into the Broadway marketing space and really changed the rules of the game. It really started to speak to consumers in a language that they understood. A show’s brand and ad campaign has to communicate an emotional promise it doesn’t necessarily need to explain exactly what you’re seeing on stage but it needs to somehow feel like it. Because it’s a really crowded marketplace. There are 30-sometimes 40 shows on Broadway and so you have to find a way to differentiate yourself it’s through emotion that we’re able to make the difference.
01:25 Jimmy McNicholas, SpotCo: One of the biggest challenges in marketing the Great Comet is that the experience inside the theatre happens all around you it’s a show that’s totally immersive and, unlike any other show on Broadway. So from the beginning the producers of the show and the theater owners the Shubert organization and SpotCo, the ad agency, came together to talk about how exactly are we going to communicate this unique seating chart to the world. A lot of people don’t like the idea of sitting on stage that can be a little scary to people, but it really is such a key part of this experience, so we took a lot of time and effort figuring out how to name all of the sections, coming up with charts and graphs to explain exactly how the seating and what pieces of the show you would experience best from which seats. And you know over time word got out that you know this is an unique experience that just has to be seen to be believed and the way that we communicated the seating areas was really a big part of giving people permission to go in there and be a part of this experience.
02:26 Jimmy McNicholas, SpotCo: When we can capture the emotion that’s happening inside of a theater that’s what really fuels word of mouth and in all of the materials we make, especially on social media—that’s one of the big ways in which marketing Broadway has changed, even over the last 5-10 years. When we can start to create a community of people online who can help be brand ambassadors for us and give them the materials in the language that they need in order to keep that word of mouth going, that’s when the real magic happens, and the tickets really start to sell.
02:55 Lisa Merriam, Host: The ability to capture the experience in the emotion of a Broadway show in its brand in its marketing is what helps drive word-of-mouth to sell tickets and that’s what creates a Broadway hit. That’s brilliance and marketing.
Special thanks to Adam Hada as videographer.