Sponsors will spend $675 million on entertainment and attractions, including theater, in North America in 1998, a 19% jump in spending over just the past couple of years, said Lance Helgeson, managing editor of Chicago-based IEG Sponsorship Report.
"Sports is saturated with sponsorships, and even the best integrated marketing efforts have their limitations. But theatrical events create unique opportunities for sponsors, who are beginning to discover their power," said Jed Bernstein, executive director of the League of American Theatres & Producers.
One of the latest to seek sponsors is Tribe, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based entertainment company that unveiled plans this month for a multicity tour of the resurrected 1960s rock musical "Hair," accompanied by a giant festival.
"Hair, the Festival" will launch next year and is billed as the first-such traveling theater. The event will spread out over several acres, combining the Broadway-style musical with a rock concert-like festival including music, restaurants and other entertainment.
"It's a Broadway event, a traveling city like Cirque du Soleil -- a series of shops and restaurants and a cultural event all in one concept," said Paul Leighton, co-chairman of Tribe along with "Hair's" original producer, Michael Butler.
The event is slated to spend a month each at more than 20 North American cities.
"The goal is to create an experience, not just a performance, and connect with people through a cultural event that draws on the enormous appeal of the 1960s, hippies and creative freedom," Mr. Leighton said.
No sponsors have been named yet, but he said Tribe is in discussions with several major marketers for national sponsorships in key categories.
The potential audience for such theater-related events is huge. Nationally, a record number of people -- 26.8 million -- attended live theatrical events during the season ended May 31, and sponsorship of Broadway-style theater is surging, said the New York-based League of American Theatres & Producers, which promotes theater on behalf of members throughout the nation.
$12 MIL FROM SPONSORS
"We've seen between $10 million and $12 million in sponsorship dollars enter the theater scene in the last 18 months, and there are more things ahead . . . the entertainment menu has exploded," said the league's Mr. Bernstein.
Cadbury Schweppes signed a long-term agreement through the league to be the official mixer and tonic of Broadway this year, and in November begins a national in-store sweepstakes offering a Broadway getaway for two to New York. The league's "Live Broadway" logo is incorporated on millions of packages of Schweppes products as part of the deal.
Continental Airlines, the official airline of Broadway through the league, next month begins sponsoring a hot line (888-411-BWAY) for consumers to get information about theater productions nationwide.
Retailer Lerner New York also has become a league sponsor, and discussions regarding additional sponsors are pending, said a league spokeswoman.
"Broadway and sponsors are learning to work together, finding opportunities to cross-promote one another," Mr Bernstein said. "At the same time, a national platform for certain shows is emerging that's ripe for sponsors to take their message to markets across the country."
Local New York theater promotions also are on the upswing. Sprint Corp. is giving away tickets to the new musical "Footloose," opening Oct. 2 on Broadway, with the purchase of a Sprint PCS communications system. Retailer Duane Reade is conducting a sweepstakes to win tickets to "Footloose."
The theater league's deals in most cases are official sponsorships where money is paid for those sponsorship rights, but that isn't always the case with theater-related deals. Promotions often are cooperative partnerships with no money changing hands between the marketer and the theatrical property, said Margery Singer, an independent consultant to Manhattan theater producers.
"Promotions allow a marketer to tout products to a very sought-after audience; in turn, the Broadway show gets a huge publicity boost in the marketplace, reaching a wider group of potential audiences in diverse channels," she said. "It's a great, inexpensive two-way street for marketers and for the theater."