GRANT PARK MUSIC FESTIVAL
Founded in 1935, Grant Park Music Festival (GPMF) is renowned for its free summer music concerts under the stars in a spectacular setting. Since 2004, GPMF has performed its 10-week outdoor festival at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park – without question a world-class stage for a world-class orchestra.
However, “free” doesn’t exclude GPMF from paying for the music and choir directors, the orchestra, vocal performers, administrative staff, marketing, outreach efforts, maintaining a high standard of excellence, all while keeping the concerts “free.” The Festival is dependent on municipal and philanthropic support. This includes a growing Membership Program that provides access to reserved seating close to the stage while supporting the Festival at large.
Every year Resolute work with GPMF to create a new marketing theme to promote memberships. It is a fine balance between marketing and philanthropic messaging. The Festival also faces three additional challenges.
- One: it only presents for 10 weeks in the summer. We need to create big impact in a short time to move people to action.
- Two: GPMF competes with other music festivals that perform at the Pritzker Pavilion. It is imperative that we keep the materials “on brand” to differentiate the Grant Park Music Festival.
- Three: a primary funder of GPMF is the Chicago Park District, and that support is scheduled to sunset in 2025. The financial stability of the organization continues to be a growing priority every year.
Strategy and Tactics:
Our objectives were clear:
- Build on the success of the 2017 branding campaign to strengthen awareness and increase purchase of “Choose Your Own” series or “One Night Pass.”
- Develop a marketing theme that could work across channels: direct mail, social, digital, video, out–of-home and season program books
- Bring the theme to life in a way that breaks through the summer-time clutter of sports, special events, cultural institution programming and other music festivals.
- Differentiate GPMF from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Ravinia – two other classical music venues.
2019 was a milestone year. The Festival celebrated its 85th year; Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Carlos Kalmar celebrated his 20th year with the Festival; and the Festival celebrated 10 years of performing in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. You might say, “It all adds up to One Sensational Summer”– and that became the theme of the 2019 Marketing Campaign
The It All Adds Up to One Sensational Summer campaign used stunning images of the Pritzker Pavilion with audiences close to the stage, compelling photos of music director Carlos Kalmar and the orchestra, and delightful photos of Chicagoans enjoying the lawn experience – for free. Our goal was to capture the energy and excitement of One Sensational Summer – at Grant Park Music Festival.
We were directed to create a portfolio of social media marketing materials – without a budget for creative development – to promote each concert. Each concert required 5-8 different ads to catch the attention of the festival’s social media audiences and encourage them to purchase a “one-night pass.” Through creative language, existing images, the magic of Photoshop and the ingenuity of our design team and videographer, we were able to create mini marketing campaigns for each concert.
GPMF President and CEO Paul Winberg asked us to create a Season Welcome Video that made GPMF seem a bit hipper, a bit more now, and a bit more “Chicago” without going off brand. This video would play on the gigantic screen in Pritzker Pavilion to open the season, before select concerts, and on the city information panels and CTA platforms. Without a film budget, we repurposed existing video, deployed some dynamic motion graphic techniques, told the GPMF story in a bold, compelling approach and gave it an added blast of energy with a driving drum soundtrack.
Let’s begin by saying June 2019 had near record-breaking rain – reaching 8.25 inches and significantly cooler than normal temperatures. Howling winds off the lake – right into the Pritzker Pavilion, huge thunder clouds threatening concerts – right on cue every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evening – created the perfect storm for a season disaster.
Thanks to strong pre-season membership sales and an aggressive social media campaign, the season achieved its goals. Our team nearly doubled Facebook fans in one year. Our social media work led to a sold-out Mambo Kings concert and record levels for social media engagement for two signature concerts: Broadway and Independence Day.