Over the weekend I did what a lot of people do, I watched various sporting events on TV. Many of us in the "professional" arts (theatre, dance, live music, etc.) look at the love, attention and money that sports receives with a bit of envy.
That's understandable. But I have always believed that sports and the way it is covered can teach us a lot.
You can't talk about sports without talking about ESPN and the mass of 24 hour sports channels they helped to create. The network has many functions and one of the primary functions is to create a smarter sports fan.
I would argue that the average sports fan now has much more knowledge about the strategy behind his or her favorite games then what was available 10 years ago. Now it's not that odd for a football fan, for example, to know the difference between a Cover 2 zone defense and a Cover 3 zone.
The end outcome of all of the entertainment and education coming from sports networks is that there are a lot of different types of sports fans.
You have fans of particular teams. Fans of a data driven approach to sports strategy. Fans of the drama/storylines that come with big sporting events. Casual fans who just have a little time to kill, etc.
Contrast that with the arts. So much of what happens in our field happens behind closed doors. We roll out a project, the public either sees it or doesn't, and then we move on to the next thing.
This leaves huge gaps in public knowledge. They don't know what we choose, why we choose it, the details of the artistic process, etc.
So it creates a situation where we are asking the public to invest heavily in things they don't know much about.
My guess is that one of the main reasons we don't talk about those sorts of things is because we don't want to open ourselves up to additional public criticism. One of the things we see in sports is that everyone from the intelligent to the idiotic gets to voice a thought on what's happening in a sports league.
But maybe that sort of environment in the arts would be a small price to pay for the additional emotional investment.
So one of the things I'm trying to do in my work as a marketer is to find ways to open the doors. For example, instead of just saying the theatre is a "tech" process I'm hoping to get to the point where we can fully explain and show what tech is, why it is so important and the people involved.
Will this help sell tickets? In the long run, I think so. Equally important I think it will help give people the language and education they need to get more out of the art form.
A smarter, more engaged arts patron is better for all of us. Marketing can be a key tool to making that happen.
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