Essential refurbishment work at the London Coliseum in London's Covent Garden meant that the English National Ballet (ENB) had to leave its regular home to perform its Christmas season at the Carling Apollo in Hammersmith. National Ballet's Christmas season is a vital source of income for the troupe, so it was vital that the move did not have a negative impact on takings.
To publicise the move and drive ticket sales for its two Christmas shows: The Nutcracker and Cinderella. To attract a wider audience and encourage first-time visitors to the ballet. To drive coverage of ENB out of the arts pages and into the mainstream media.
Strategy and Plan
The SPA Way wanted to generate a high volume of coverage prior to the opening night of Cinderella on 10 December, with a focus on the prime booking time of October and November.
In order to gain a wide spread of coverage, human-interest stories from within the company were identified and then sold into national and local London newspapers. One involved the relationship - angled as a real-life Cinderella story - between the two principal dancers, Tom Edur and Agnes Oaks, who have been married for 13 years and have rarely danced with anyone else.
The ENB's podiatrist was billed as the person who looks after the hardest working feet in the UK. She offered advice on getting feet in shape for the Christmas party season.
A series of photographs was also commissioned, and these were drip-fed to national news desks. Examples included a bodybuilder using a ballerina as a dumbbell to illustrate the athleticism of classical ballet, while others illustrated different ballet moves that could be used to help keep in shape throughout the festive period. A further photo call featured the company in full costume on the Ballet Bus as it traversed the streets of west London.
Journalists were encouraged to take a closer look at the ENB's work, with backstage access granted during rehearsals, and were also offered the chance to take a fitness test with some of the dancers.
Although the strategy for both national and local press was similar, dancers that lived in different parts of London were identified and stories sold into their local papers. A series of promotions and competitions, with prizes such as free family tickets were offered to the local press.
Breakfast radio shows were targeted, with ballerinas from the company exhibiting moves to presenters.
Measurement and Evaluation
Figures from The Spa Way show that 140 different media outlets covered the ENB's move. These include The Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, The Independent, the Financial Times, Marie Claire, Men's Fitness, Woman and Home, Capital Gold, BBC London, Time Out, the London Illustrated News and the Hammersmith Times.
The agency claimed that all stories carried the key message that the company was moving to the Carling Apollo, and the booking number for the Christmas season. Plus, all coverage appeared outside the arts pages of publications.
As yet, however, there has been no measurement of whether the coverage encouraged the desired wider audience.
The campaign ensured target ticket sales were met, with the box office taking £1m over the festive season. Daily Telegraph journalist Tarquin Cooper took the fitness challenge set up by the PR team: 'It was the toughest one-hour workout I've ever experienced,' he said. 'It was also a great way of changing people's opinion of ballet, as it allowed them to see that it's not just for snobs.'