By MARK BLANKENSHIP
Though I love seeing the performances, attending the panels, and browsing the booths for funny fridge magnets, it’s really the fans that make me cherish BroadwayCon. This year, walking the halls of the Midtown Hilton, I was treated to a deluge of kids, teens, and adults in Elsa wigs, Elder Price nametags, and even Pape Ge armor. I heard the exhilarated shouting of people going bananas during a Hamilton singalong. I even saw this. But mostly, I was immersed in a hotel full of people who love the theater as much as I do. I felt the electric surge of their enthusiasm, and it buoyed me for an entire weekend.
Being in the presence of that energy reminds me that when we market the arts, we have a unique opportunity to speak to people’s hearts. We have a chance to join and even create true communities.
That point was reinforced when I hosted a BroadwayCon panel on the power of the Broadway fan. Joined onstage by George Salazar (a star of Be More Chill), Dori Berinstein (a producer of The Prom), and Crystal Chase (AKA’s Director of Influencer Marketing), I helmed a conversation about how fans are impacting their favorite artists and productions in this age of interconnectedness. Naturally, there was discussion of market testing and brand building, but there were also personal stories about how fans reached out (both online and in person) to share something profound.
Dori, for instance, spoke of a woman who thanked the company of The Prom for representing her humanity on stage. The woman said that like one of The Prom‘s characters, she herself had been a mother who rejected her child’s sexuality, and she was grateful to see her own path from fear to love reflected in the show. George spoke of the fans who sent him Be More Chill fan art. When he sent a collection to his parents’ home, his father called to say he’d been mistaken when he told his son that being an actor couldn’t improve the world.
As I move into the new year, I want to hold that lesson close: The fans in our audience are profoundly affected by the work we market, and when we listen to them – when we give them space to share their thoughts and reactions – we not only earn their loyalty for our brands, but also get to see those brands with fresh eyes.