Marketing a Phenomenon

Lion_King On Friday, I attended a luncheon hosted by the Tampa Bay Chapter of the American Marketing Association held at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center to learn how Disney’s theatrical production, The Lion King is promoted through marketing, advertising, and public relations. Whether or not you enjoy Broadway shows or anything to do with Disney, there is much to be gleaned from the incredibly successful marketing of this production. To date, the show has generated more than $3.2 billion and attracted 30 million theatergoers around the world.

The presentation was delivered by Scott A. Hemerling who currently oversees the marketing, advertising, publicity, and promotions as the National Press Representative for the national tours of Disney’s THE LION KING.  Prior to this, he worked in the same capacity representing the third national touring production of The Phantom of the Opera.

Some of the more interesting aspects of Scott’s presentation detailed their careful selection of those cities in which they perform, and how they tailor the marketing strategy for each location. This can consist of everything from messaging to displays to involvement with the community. For a 2nd-tier city like Tampa, their marketing and advertising budget consists of around 12-15% of gross revenue or roughly $125 – 150,000. Much of this goes to carefully selected ad and banner placements and media buys. Surprisingly, none of this budget goes to online marketing, but that is something Scott admittedly said needs to change.

Where The Lion Kings gets its greatest reach, however, is through the strength of their brand. Media outlets want to be associated with the show regardless of whether they are directly receiving ad revenues. They will hold contests and promotions with ticket giveaways to demonstrate a link with the show and their community. Scott and his team are happy to oblige as long as these partners adhere to their branding standards.

It is such a powerful community event that they would be remiss not to be involved. Aside from the entertainment value, the economic impact of the show generates an additional $3 for every $1 spent. Just think about an entire stage crew living in your town for 2 months, let alone many other ancillary items and expenditures.

On top of the marketing budget for each city, there is also a general budget for the creation of tchotchke items like you see in the picture. Notice, by the way, what seems at first like such a simple logo for such an extravagant production translates so well no matter the medium. You could see the lion on a giant billboard, or the head of a tack.

Right now, The Lion King  is entertaining audiences in two locations.  As soon as the Tampa show comes to an end the crew will be packed up in 24hrs and on to the next location, continuously leapfrogging the other production from one destination to the next. It is an impressive undertaking that requires more than a dull roar to fill seats and perpetuate the show. Aside from an aggressive online strategy, Scott and his team have a great formula, and it was very interesting to learn how they have constructed their marketing strategy.

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