Arena Marketing Turns To New Technology

DIGITAL WATCH: ARENA MARKETING
Arena Marketing Turns To New Technology
By MITCHELL PETERS

June 07, 2008

BillboardMagazine

 

Traditional forms of advertising still play a crucial role in marketing upcoming concerts and tours, but as the world continues to transition into digital and mobile methods of communication, new technologies will be a key topic of discussion at the Event and Arena Marketing Conference June 4-10 in Washington, D.C. “We’ve probably scaled more toward the digital aspect more and more each year,” says Kevin Preast, senior director of marketing and business development at Atlanta’s Philips Arena. “Our mass-media buying has probably dropped off 25%-35%, depending on the show.”

 

Indeed, the Internet and cell phones have presented new opportunities to concert promoters and arena officials, be it text-message alerts and e-mail blasts, social networking sites, banner ads, widgets, music-focused blogs and Web sites or beefing up a venue’s Web site with artist video and photo content. And while concertgoers still turn to newspapers, magazines, TV, billboards and radio to get updates on their favorite artists, mobile devices and the Internet have become the primary source for concert and tour information, according to many who work in the live entertainment space.

 

“One reason people don’t go to shows is because they didn’t know about it,” AEG Live senior director of interactive marketing Joyce Szudzik says. “The one reason they find out about shows is because they receive an e-mail. The Web is No. 2.”

 

As such, Los Angeles-based AEG Live, the second-largest concert promoter next to Live Nation, has a staff dedicated to mobile and digital initiatives. Overseen by Szudzik, the group builds Web sites for tours, festivals and venues under the AEG Live banner. As opposed to several years ago, artist managers and record labels now understand the importance of digital and mobile campaigns in relation to marketing concerts and tours, Szudzik says. “The budgets are starting to swing over there,” she says. “We’re starting to get a more equal proportion to radio, TV and print.”

 

Szudzik’s staff also provides arenas with artist photos, audio and video to promote on their in-house Web sites. For Bon Jovi’s recent North American trek, “we’ve been giving the arenas a tremendous amount of content, because in the online space it’s all about content these days,” she says. “We have 30-second videos and minutelong videos. If they can run video on their Web site, we give it to them. People love video.”

 

Philips Arena’s Preast says the 18,000-capacity facility works in tandem with concert promoters for marketing campaigns, but also independently uses Web sites like MySpace, Facebook and YouTube to “create buzz” around concerts and upcoming events. Szudzik says, “Having a Facebook page for your venue is a good idea, so you can grow a community and talk about upcoming events. You can run contests in there that encourage them to go out on their own pages and talk about the show.”

 

New York’s Madison Square Garden is planning to take it a step further by building its own social-networking site. “We want to launch a social networking platform against our venues in general,” MSG Interactive senior VP/GM Scott Richman says. Along with the 20,000-seat Garden, venues under MSG Entertainment’s banner include Radio City Music Hall, Beacon Theatre, WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden and the recently added Chicago Theatre.

 

The basic concept of MSG Entertainment’s social-networking site would be to allow concertgoers to “communicate with each other in advance to the event, during the event and post the event,” Richman says. “They’re sharing with each other the steps that lead to getting the ticket, where to meet before the show and where they’re sitting . . . to photos and thoughts after the show.” Richman hopes the site will launch by year’s end.

 

Last September, MSG Entertainment redesigned the Web sites for all its venues. The overhauled sites now include expanded artist content and event information, music videoclips, a new blog, photos, virtual venue tours and merchandise for select events. The Web sites are also linked to MSG’s blog, Check the Monitor, which offers entertainment news and event updates throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. “It gives us an opportunity to create richer and more opinion-based content,” Richman says.

 

On a mobile level, Ticketmaster helps move tickets at arenas by sending concertgoers short message service alerts with information about ticket on-sales, Ticketmaster senior VP of music David Marcus says. “A mobile alert that’s delivered an hour before the on-sale is a useful way to provide that notice,” he says.

 

Text-to-screen programs during arena concerts have also been effective, according to James Cannella, VP of entertainment development at Impact Mobile, which helps power mobile activities for approximately 80 venues. During a show, fans can type a message on their mobile phone, then send it to screens on either side of the stage.

 

During last summer’s Gwen Stefani tour, “about 15% of that audience was participating in text-to-screen campaigns,” Cannella says. “We were then able to use [the data] to market to Gwen’s fans when she routed a second leg of the tour. We knew who her fans were and were able to give them an offer to come back and see her again.”

 

In Atlanta, the Philips Arena marketing staff has been focusing heavily on mobile alerts for ticket on-sales.

 

“If you’ve got a Saturday 10 a.m. presale and you get a text message saying, ‘George Michael is getting ready to go on sale in 15 minutes,’ it becomes timely and people don’t have to be standing by their computer, a phone or going to an outlet to get the best seats possible,” Preast says. “They can do it right there from the sideline of a soccer game or the grocery store.”

 

Although concert venues have made great strides in reaching audiences via digital and mobile technology, there’s still more work to be done.

 

“I spend a lot of time educating our clients and potential clients on the opportunities that are out there,” says Kristin Tanguay, VP of business development at Los Angeles-based marketing and research company Fanscape.

 

“We would never say, ‘Shift all of your dollars into the online space,’ but it’s really important that they understand the reach their dollars can have by going into a more integrated online campaign.”

 

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