The League of American Theaters and Producers has awarded $5,000 education grants to Spring Awakening and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The Spring Awakening initiative will target high school students and educators and focus on sexual identity and peer pressure. The Spelling Bee program will create classroom exercises to help students and teachers et up their own bees.
As my snarky headline implies, these grants are just as much for marketing as they are for educational purposes. Five thousand bucks doesn't go far in terms of buying ads in the New York Times or purchasing keywords on Yahoo or Google. But those funds go a lot farther when they help build awareness for the shows among younger audience members.
I'm not saying that these educational initiatives are intended as marketing, but they come with an unquestionable marketing benefit. Maybe it's because, as part of my day job, I'm the editor of a marketing magazine, during which my mantra is "Everything is marketing, and marketing is everything."
And I'm certainly not finding fault with either program. I'm all for anything that raises awareness about these two highly worthy shows. Couching the message in an educational context allows the producers to bring their shows to the attention of the theatergoers of tomorrow and whet their Broadway whistles. Marketing to kids is always a dicey prospect, rife with potential parental push-back, and educational initiatives are an effective way to sidestep objections.