Top 3 Mobile Strategies for Live Entertainment

Posted on by Zach Zimmerman

Mobile devices can be used as powerful marketing tools that drive live event ticket sales, create engaging mobile moments and deepen brand awareness. Here’s three mobile strategies for live entertainment venues and tactics that have proven successful.

1. Drive sales and venue traffic by targeting nearby consumers

The venue you’re most likely to visit is the venue in your neighborhood, or in a city where you’re traveling. To drive sales and venue traffic, it’s essential to determine a consumer’s location and direct them to the closest productions.

Mobile devices offer a number of opportunities for consumers to share their location in real-time, including location-based services like GPS and cell tower triangulation. Any “Big Brother” concerns can be curbed: U.S. wireless carriers require that subscribers explicitly opt-in to location-based mobile programs in addition to traditional SMS short code programs. A customer’s location can also be determined through standard data, such as area code or ZIP code. While these are not perfect measures (as wireless customers tend to move across area codes, ZIP codes and state lines), a recent internal study found area codes to be 92% accurate.

Feld Entertainment, representing Disney on Ice and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, is a great example of a brand that targets mobile subscribers by ZIP code. Consumers sign up to receive special mobile ticket offers on the brand’s website through Feld’s Mobile Fun Club. This type of personalization results in solid redemption rates when productions come to town.

Similarly, a production in Las Vegas can use location-based services to drive traffic among tourists. By running location look-ups, or “pinging” their mobile database at 5 pm on Fridays, they can determine who is visiting Vegas for the weekend. Special ticket offers can then be sent to those subscribers, minus locals with a Las Vegas area code.

To drive ticket sales for the Broadway blockbuster Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, Situation Interactive, a New York-based entertainment marketing and interactive advertising agency, targeted both Big Apple visitors and locals. Tourists were invited to sign up for a text message on the show’s website, including their travel dates, in an effort to convert casual web browsers into ticket buyers through their mobile devices. To cast a web upon locals, 400,000 pizza boxes were delivered in the tri-state area containing SMS sweepstakes advertisements. Winners received two free tickets, and non-winners received a discount, which generated sales.

2. Deepen brand engagement by creating in-venue mobile moments

According to the Mobile Marketing Association, 91% of U.S. citizens have their mobile phones within reach at all times, so you can bet that your audience members have immediate access to theirs. This creates an opportunity in the minutes before a show begins where marketers can deepen audience engagement with the production, venue and brand.

Sweepstakes and contests are a proven way to acquire new subscribers and delight existing ones; that winning experience is only enhanced when it is conducted on a mobile device and prizes are nearly instant.

Engelstad Arena, a football and hockey sports complex, engages spectators through live text-to-vote programs where responses are broadcast in real time. Although results are often biased, fans enjoy voting for their favorite player or who will score next.

SHN, a theatrical entertainment company in San Francisco, uses SMS trivia sweepstakes to increase audience engagement. By answering a series of questions about the production, aided by hints in the program and the surrounding venue, subscribers can learn about the show and enter into prize drawings. Up to 15% of total audience participation is not uncommon, contributing to substantial buzz before the curtain goes up. A strong acquisition tool, this campaign has helped grow SHN’s mobile database from 500 to over 20,000 in the past 18 months, with a monthly unsubscribe rate of just 5.39%.

3. Generate return visits by building a mobile database

Another way to capitalize on existing purchase behavior, and begin to mold tomorrow’s loyal customer, is to encourage first-time visitors to return. While venues certainly depend on first-time ticket buyers, season ticket holders and repeat customers represent a large chunk of the live entertainment clientele.

Building a mobile loyalty list can provide direct communication with the most loyal spectators. Due to incredibly high open rates, mobile is one of the strongest channels to engage subscribers and deliver time-sensitive information and offers.

One viable SMS acquisition tactic is to strengthen existing marketing efforts with text calls to action: print, direct mail, TV, radio, email and social. In-venue calls to action, sweepstakes and instant wins can also convert audience enthusiasm into an opportunity for direct contact. Your SMS program content will depend on your brand, whether you offer last-minute deep discounts to fill the house or announce mobile-exclusive pre-sales for the next big-ticket show.

Live entertainment is about a visual experience in real-time, and mobile devices share the same visual and immediate nature. The most profitable venues take advantage of this connection and use mobile to achieve three main objectives for live entertainment: sell tickets, make the experience memorable, and keep people coming back. The bond between mobile and live entertainment will only continue to strengthen. As smartphone penetration rises, venues may consider embracing the mobile devices audience members bring along, rather than encouraging them to shut them off.

Zach Zimmerman is a live events specialist at ePrize. Text ZACH to 30364 for his mobile business card or email him at


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