Monday, July 10, 2006
Broadway Is Downright Continental
As a public relations professional (that’s my day job), I read with great interest a July 2 article in The New York Times regarding the relative effectiveness of Live Broadway, the coordinated marketing campaign by the League of American Theatres and Producers that champions Broadway as a brand. The article debated, among other things, the value of enabling corporate sponsorships like that giving Continental Airlines bragging rights to being the “Official Airline of Broadway” -- a distinction for which the New York area’s largest airline coughs up a cool $3.75 million for a five year contract.
One Broadway advertising executive, Nancy Coyne, is apparently against such efforts and is quoted saying, ''I don't think you can find a show to say that the association with Continental has helped their bottom line."
I beg to differ. The exposure that the Broadway brand receives from Continental is anything but minor.
As a very frequent flyer, I know all too well how captive an audience an airline passenger is. Most are looking for something -- anything -- to make the flight go by more quickly. Thankfully, as someone who flies Continental very often, including virtually most of my trips in and out of New York, I can personally vouch for the various touchpoints the airline provides passengers with Broadway messages via its entertainment.
At the moment I’m writing this, I’m flying from Houston to Chicago and listening to “The Wizard and I” from Wicked on Continental’s dedicated “Live Broadway” station on its in-flight entertainment system. Scanning through this month’s playlist, I find songs from other current Broadway shows including Rent, Spamalot and The Lion King, but truth be told, they are playing everything from Hairspray to The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee to Sweeney Todd to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Songs are punctuated by an enthusiastic announcer who dutifully announces key Web sites and toll-free numbers to contact for more information on top shows and the Tonys.
Additionally, Continental’s in-flight video presentations include promotions for Broadway fare.
In Continental -- the in-flight magazine -- I count no less than five separate, prominent Broadway mentions. There’s a page 20 story touting the Touring Broadway Awards that recently named Wicked as the Best New Musical and Golda’s Balcony as the Best Play. On the calendar page (28), there’s a plug for New York’s Theatre District Festival, scheduled for Sunday, July 23 (and an incidental plug for Jersey Boys to boot). Look on page 42, and you’ll find a story devoted to the Lincoln Center Festival (running July 10-30). There’s one entire page (46) devoted to quarter-page ads for The Drowsy Chaperone, The Producers, The Phantom of the Opera and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (the last one announces that Lucie Arnaz has been welcomed to the cast).
I’d much rather see corporate sponsorships like Continental Airlines’ promoting the overall Broadway brand than that of the garish schilling of other corporate sponsors like Cadillac, which have shamelessly renamed theatres with their less than theatrically relevant monikers. Maybe, just maybe, someone from those hundreds of daily Continental flights into Newark each day will be inspired to take in a Broadway show. I’d say Live Broadway and the shows it represents are benefiting tremendously.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).