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By LINDA BUCHWALD
Football enthusiasts and theatre aficionados do not necessarily seek out the same forms of entertainment. This presents a challenge for the marketing team of Lombardi, a new American play at Circle in the Square Theatre about the life of football coach Vince Lombardi: How do you appeal to both sports and theatre fans without alienating either group?
“This is unlike anything I’ve ever worked on before,” says Jim Glaub, creative director of the advertising and marketing company Art Meets Commerce, which represents Lombardi and other Broadway shows such as Time Stands Still; Promises, Promises and A Little Night Music. Of the shows he’s worked on, Glaub says Fela! is the most similar in terms of reaching disparate audiences—in Fela’s case, Broadway musical devotees and admirers of Afrobeat music. “Reaching new audiences isn’t altogether a new thing. However, the sports world is very new for us and I think Broadway in general,” Glaub says.
The balance between theatre and sports is evident in the show's national television commercial, which Art Meets Commerce oversaw. The company collaborated with playwright Eric Simonson to finalize the ad's script and concept—Dan Lauria as Vince Lombardi speaking in a dark stadium—and ultimately took its inspiration from football films and commercials.
“[Sports broadcasts] use a lot of the effects that we used in the television commercial—slow motion shots, smoky stadium lights, and things that a sports fan is used to seeing, but we really wanted to keep it in the world of theatre," Glaub says. "This is still a Broadway play, and when you watch it, you feel as if you’re watching a story on stage."
In addition to the commercial, Lombardi ’s YouTube channel features videos of Judith Light as Marie Lombardi and Keith Nobbs as reporter Michael McCormick. These videos are meant to “show that this is really not just about football, this is about a human story and a man with a family and a passion,” Glaub says.
Nowadays, of course, most Broadway shows have a YouTube channel, a Facebook fan page, and a Twitter feed, but Lombardi is unique in the way it uses these outlets. “We’re using [social networking] to educate theatregoers about the sports world and we’re using it as well to educate the football-goers about the theatre world,” says Glaub. “The content that we’re able to deliver on the social networks is a mix of sports facts, theatre facts, news about the show, and news about the Packers or the Giants or the NFL.”
The play also has a presence in the mainstream media, with advertisements in the typical avenues for Broadway shows, such as Playbill and The New York Times. And since the NFL is also a producer, the show has been able to land lucrative television and radio time and banner placement on NFL.com and other affiliated sites.
As an incentive for ticket buyers, the producers have scheduled a talkback series, scheduled after every Tuesday evening performance beginning on October 12, featuring pro football players, radio personalities, sports writers, and novelists. Getting butts in the seats is of course a priority, but the next step is retaining the newcomers. (The marketing team has been in talks with Telecharge about maintaining contact with ticket buyers.)
Glaub says that many of the show's Twitter and Facebook followers have written that Lombardi will be their first Broadway experience, and the hope is that they will enjoy it so much, they’ll want to see what else is out there.
It's still too soon to tell if these campaigns will make Lombardi a hit, but if they do, they could lead to more unusual marketing strategies and producing partnerships on Broadway. Glaub says, “I’m excited to see the landscape change a little bit and see sports-goers allow themselves to go to the theatre.”
Linda Buchwald blogs for StageGrade and her own blog, Pataphysical Science. Follow her on Twitter: @PataphysicalSci