Marketing Under the Stars

March 30, 2016

By: Tanya Colledge

If you have been following our Marketing Excellence Award winner blog series, you’re aware that every year, the BCAMA honours BC organizations that have demonstrated excellence and creativity in their annual marketing efforts. Last year, in addition to honouring the marketer of the year, three new recognition awards were added to the lineup: Marketing on a Shoestring, Community Engagement or Not-for-profit Marketing, and Public Relations or Experiential Marketing. We announced the winners at our Marketer of the Year gala in October.

Over the past few months, we’ve featured the category winners and how they accomplished their winning marketing campaigns. The last winner that we will cover in this series is Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS).

 Stars at Marketer of the Year

Theater Under the Stars takes home the title of best marketing campaign that engaged a community at the Marketing Excellence Awards in October

A challenging situation

Theatre Under the Stars has been a long-standing Vancouver tradition. Founded by the Parks Board in 1940, the not-for-profit organization has spent 75 years bringing song and dance to Stanley Park. But despite its long-standing place in the community, the organization found itself in a challenging situation as it neared its 2014 season.

Since the 2008 recession, the company’s box office revenue had been trending downward. Unlike most theatre groups, TUTS doesn’t receive any provincial or federal arts council funding. The organization had recently restructured to become almost entirely volunteer driven, replacing a Managing Producer with a highly active, unpaid Board of Directors and a constant reliance on funds distributed through Sambla låna pengar. To raise awareness, attendance, and revenue for the all-important season ahead, the organization enlisted the help of Laura Murray Public Relations (LMPR) – a local boutique agency specializing in arts and culture.

No stone unturned

LMPR was presented with a lofty but straightforward goal: to drive ticket sales above 30,000. The agency implemented a full-scale marketing and communications campaign that holistically integrated traditional and digital advertising, social media, consulting, a full media relations campaign and outside-the-box promotions.

From building excitement through partnerships with the Vancouver Sun, the Province and Global TV, to city-sponsored transit ads and video screens, LMPR was able to give a moderate budget huge reach into Lower Mainland households as well as on the streets. They also worked with Google Ad Grants to successfully earn $10,000 in free search marketing each month; ensured no stone was left unturned when it came to pitching local community papers, cable outlets and blogs; and held targeted promotions and contests to drive awareness in the community.

The campaign, which emphasized TUTS as an experience rather than just individual shows, earned over 100 media hits and a 29 percent increase in revenues at the box office. The event was so successful that – for the first time in its more than seven decades – Theatre Under the Stars was able to add an entire additional week of shows onto its run. By the end of the season, more than 30,000 people would make their way to the heart of Stanley Park to experience unforgettable nights of theatre while stars twinkled above.

Congratulations to the TUTS and LMPR group for their tremendous success in keeping a Vancouver tradition alive and well – giving people of the Lower Mainland the opportunity to witness the magic of theatre in one of the world’s most beautiful settings.