Event Marketing: Catering to kids

Michael Lang is president of Lang & Associates, a Toronto-based international event marketing agency with offices in Vancouver, Montreal and Atlanta.Kirsten Armitage is an account executive with Lang & Associates, and co-ordinator for the Event Marketing column. Contributions, ideas, media releases...

Michael Lang is president of Lang & Associates, a Toronto-based international event marketing agency with offices in Vancouver, Montreal and Atlanta.

Kirsten Armitage is an account executive with Lang & Associates, and co-ordinator for the Event Marketing column. Contributions, ideas, media releases and feedback should be directed to Kirsten at (416) 229-0060 or fax (416) 229-1210.

Childish excitement fills the concert hall as the audience settles into its seats for what promises to be the show of the year.

When the curtain rises, and the band begins to play, pandemonium erupts. From the first song to the last chord, the audience claps, sings, and jumps up and down.

This all seems rational behavior at a concert, except for one small difference – the audience is primarily comprised of five-year-olds.

While seemingly few acts cater to the children’s market, Canada is known for its wealth of talent.

Sharon Lois & Bram, Raffi, Fred Penner and Eric Nagler are the pre-eminent child entertainers in the business today.

Their products range from recorded music, home videos, licensed merchandise, television, published works through to live touring.

Sharon Lois & Bram have even ventured into cd-rom with their new CyberBoogie release.

‘New’ consumers are always entering the market. The young fans that outgrow the acts always have replacements.

Children’s entertainment has remained relatively pure from a sponsorship perspective. With the focus being on the music and the children, children’s acts have shied away from overt corporate involvement.

There is a sense of social value that permeates events targetted at children. The acts are sensitive to many far-ranging issues from education to the environment. Corporations interested in establishing a relationship with these performers must be sensitive to these issues.

With the increased cost of touring, sponsorship activity is increasing in this field. Companies that are looking for a dialogue with moms and dads with young children, and that have a platform in education and children’s issues will find this a loyal and targetted audience.

The usual range of sponsorship activities can be leveraged: consumer sampling, corporate hosting, trade incentives, retail promotions, and image enhancement; however, these leveraged activities must not conflict with the performers’ values.

Children’s performers value partnerships and will appreciate a long-term approach.

Merchandising phenoms such as Barney are on the other end of the spectrum. Television delivers a large, instantly loyal audience to this type of children’s entertainment. Live tours are seen as merchandising extensions.

There exists another range of live shows that caters to child audiences.

Sesame Street Live and Disney on Ice are two examples of show tours that use the formula of recognizable characters brought to life in a live event format.

Sponsorships are generally associated with these types of events. Typically, tour sponsorships are sold by the show owner, with the local promoter selling individual show sponsorships in each market.

Upcoming events

Sesame Street Live

Sesame Street Live, based on the children’s television program, hits the stage from March 8-12 at the O’Keefe Centre in Toronto, as part of its ’94/95 national tour.

Sesame Street Live is a live musical variety show featuring all the well-known tv characters in larger-than-life size form.

Educational and entertaining, the show played to an audience of 32,000 in 1993.

Sponsorship opportunities are available for current and future productions.

For more information, contact Susan Minns at (416) 393-7461.

Garden Brothers Circus

The 58th annual Garden Brothers Circus opens March 2 at the SkyDome in Toronto.

During its 21-week tour across Canada, the circus will visit cities throughout Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

This year’s show features live animals, flying trapeze artists and Alvin and the Chipmunks, among other acts.

Proceeds from ticket sales in selected markets will help support local children’s charities throughout Ontario.

Sponsors include Miracle Food Mart, a&p, Dominion, chin and cfmt radio.

Sponsorship opportunities still exist for the 1995 tour.

For more information, contact Ian Garden, Jr. at (905) 671-4111.