The LEVEL Summit (LVL) caught up with The Mayflower’s Chief Executive Michael Ockwell (MO) to discuss The Mayflower’s rebrand, community engagement strategy and expectations from The LEVEL Summit 2013.
LVL: Congratulations on the rebrand and relaunch of the Mayflower Theatre, how has the response been?
MO: The rebrand went live at the end of August 2013. We also had the foyer re-developed, with the intention of improving our customers experience. So far, we have been delighted at the response from our audiences and the new branding seems to reflect what we are trying to achieve.
LVL: What needed changing about the old brand?
MO: Although there is fantastic heritage with The Mayflower, the rebrand was an opportunity to freshen up our approach and have the brand reflect going forwards, rather than one that looks to the past. It reflects what we are trying to do with the theatre – engage new younger audiences without losing our existing core audience.
LVL: What were the aims of the rebrand?
MO: We wanted to engage with the local community while retaining the core programming; the best of the West End coming to Southampton. The aim was to give young people the opportunity to engage with the theatre, both through attending shows but also to perform on our stage. We wanted to create a programme that would appeal to future audiences, we have shows such as James and the Giant Peach, and also Dinosaur Zoo, to cater to younger generations. The aim has to been engage younger audiences but also to get them to bring their parents along too.
We also did a performance of Bugsy Malone on our re-opening weekend, with 210 young people from the local community, the three showings attracted 5,500 and this showed our real intention to engage with the local community.
LVL: How will you measure your success?
MO: Brand loyalty, ensuring that your customers return is really important to us, the staff have really bought into this as well and great customer service really makes a difference in retaining customers. We receive no funding from external sources, so rely completely on creating our own revenue from the box-office. Thus we will measure success somewhat from performance of the box-office, but we will also measure success in the coming years by monitoring the age demographics, whether we have succeeded in attracting younger generations, and hopefully they are also bringing their family and friends.
LVL: How is The Mayflower repositioning itself in the entertainment sector?
MO: We are looking to broaden the range of events we offer. We hope to maintain the balance of large mainstream musicals, whilst also introducing a more diverse programme of comedy, dance, and even ballet. We have commissioned a local dance choreographer to do a curtain raiser for a French ballet company we have coming across. This is all part of trying to engage the local community whilst also expanding our programming.
LVL: What is your community engagement strategy?
MO: We are all about ensuring that the local community feels supported by The Mayflower, we have a bursary scheme in place for local young people who want to pursue a career in the arts. The Mayflower is a charitable trust, we are not just about putting on large West End musicals, but also about giving something back to the community that supports us.
LVL: What are your aims of using this strategy?
MO: It’s about young people engaging with us, about feeling involved with their local theatre. We established a relationship with some of the local galleries and The Nutfield Theatre, it is really important to give all our audiences the opportunity to see as much of a variety of shows and local culture as possible, it’s all about bringing people back into see local shows in Southampton and Hampshire.
LVL: Any concerns for the industry?
MO: We need to look at keeping hold of our core theatre going audience, and also to develop the next younger audience who will come and support theatre, we need to give young people the opportunity to engage with the cultural offerings of their community.
Another concern of mine is pricing, we need to maintain an accessible pricing for shows, especially as we are in a difficult financial time, it is important to make sure price is not a barrier to people attending the theatre.
LVL: What are your expectations of The LEVEL Summit 2013?
MO: I’m looking forward to the marketing engagement sessions, I’m interested in finding out more about loyalty and how we develop loyalty in our venues. I’m also looking forward to hearing Hans Waege speak about innovation and how we can reach new audiences. The Promoter/Venue panel debate will be interesting and i’m sure there will be a lot to take away from this about the challenges in the industry.
Michael Ockwell will join the ‘Pricing, Dynamics and Yield’ discussion at The LEVEL Summit 2013. Click to book