The Ballet Company of East County has been producing a successful Nutcracker for the past 10 years. In that time we have tried many different internal and external marketing techniques; the expected ones like newspaper articles, local parades, farmers markets, flyers and posters, but we really like to think outside the box and come up with new, fun ideas.
For our 2014 show, two members of the advisory board had the idea to do a surprise cast reveal. We ordered lawn signs that said Nutcracker Cast Member Lives Here, our website and wrote in their cast role. Overnight, while the cast of 90 kids slept, our team of board members and choreographers delivered the signs to the dancers’ front yards. The next morning the dancers woke up to their surprise. Along with the sign we included directions to post the picture of the reveal on social media and developed our hashtag #bcecnut2014.
Pictures of happy, excited kids were posted all over Facebook and Instagram. A few weeks later we made a montage video of all the pictures and posted it on the BCEC Facebook page as a reminder of all the good feelings the fun cast reveal created.
One of the other marketing tactics we use is we advertise the show on local buses. It can be pricey but we get the most out of our investment by adding a contest element. If you spot a bus snap a photo and post it on social media, tagging the ballet company, teachers or directors and the family is entered into a drawing for weekly prizes. So not only did we get visibility on the buses but we got an added bonus by our own families spreading the word on their personal social media pages.
Our biggest fundraising event is also a great marketing opportunity, but more importantly it has become a special holiday event for the community. Tea with Clara is a beautiful tea party with Clara and the cast. We rent a local hall for the event, which brings in almost 150 guests and a have team of parent volunteers to do all the coordination. The community purchases tickets in advance and are seated at tables that are each decorated in a theme from The Nutcracker; snow table, Russian table, flower table, etc.
During the tea party the story of The Nutcracker is read to the guests and cast members arrive to act and dance out the story. It is like a very condensed mini show. After the show the cast members sign autographs and take pictures with the star-struck guests. We hold a raffle for prizes that are donated and each guest leaves with an autograph book and a special thank you gift. The thank you gift comes from the table they were seated at. For example, the flower table had beautiful decorated flower cookies, the Spanish table had lace fans, snowflake table had a glittered snowflake ornament. All the treats for the party are donated, parents decorating the tables use their own supplies from home and donate the thank you gift. The team of parent volunteers really go all out and make the event over the top fabulous.
Another new idea we had this year was especially for our little ballerinas. For our 2014 production we decided to raise the minimum participation age from 6 to 7. Whenever we make that decision we always worry about the little dancer who has been waiting to participate since she was 4 years old, she finally turns 6 and we raise the age and she is disappointed again! It makes our hearts break. So we started Sugar Plum University. Dancers in SPU are 5-6 years old and come to Saturday morning rehearsals, before the rest of the cast, to learn a dance they perform at Tea with Clara. During the Sugar Plum University 10 week session dancers have special guest class assistants when the Sugar Plum Fairy and Clara come to visit! The dancers will also participate in local parades and have special seating during when they come watch The Nutcracker.
Having a strong community presence and involvement is one of the priorities for BCEC so we participate in all the local parades and festivals. We did have a very fun community event where we were able to set up a meet and greet station. The event was right before the holiday parade so the entire town came and was able to see some of the cast members, take pictures and pick up information on buying tickets.
With all the parades and festivals there is always a photographer from our local papers roaming around. Between being visible at community events and some simple PR our Nutcracker was promoted in the newspaper for free for three weekends before our show!
None of these event are possible without a team of people working together to get it done. We are always amazed by how smart and talented our parents are. We are able to draw upon the many talents of our parents and they make each event fabulous because they care about the production. Most of our marketing is also used to build a positive culture within the company. Parents are willing to help if they feel like they matter and their kids matter. We are constantly trying to create magic for our audience, dancers and their parents. Over the years, that magic, is what everyone comes back for; it is also what keeps our parents giving so much of their time, talents and energy.