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Broadway, First USA Launch Credit Card

In a branding initiative on the scale of a Broadway production, the League of American Theatres and Producers has added another product to its cast of thousands with the debut of the Live Broadway Visa card.

Targeting a broad universe of 30 million potential card holders, the national trade organization for the Broadway industry has teamed up with First USA to launch the no-fee Visa card, which will be available in June. Charges on the card will earn points that are redeemable for Broadway merchandise, packages, tickets, dining and access to Broadway events and promotions.

“We are definitely in the database business now,” said Meg Meurer, director of new business development for the League of American Theatres and Producers.

The charge card is the latest offering in an initiative that has spawned The Broadway Line, a national toll-free, inbound Broadway information hotline, and Kids Night on Broadway, a membership program designed to boost youth attendance at shows through special events and direct mail. The group launched Kids Night on Broadway in January 1997 and revived it in January. Each event drew more than 10,000 youngsters who received a free ticket with purchase of one full-price ticket. The league has even recently signed Schweppes as the official beverage line for Broadway.

Meurer said list names for the credit-card solicitation are being developed from 500 member sources and from the association's information touch-tone hotline, which was launched in January.

“Big chunks of people are leaving their mailing information on the hotline and we are also planning to generate names through the Times Square Visitors Center,” Meurer said.

The center will open during the summer and is expected to draw 2 million visitors annually. The center will provide same-day and future ticket sales and also will feature merchandise.

In the meantime, the organization will generate the initial credit-card solicitation list by working with members, including theater owners, operators, box offices and other sales ticketing services. The association provides the names and pertinent data and First USA, which already maintains about 40 million card accounts, will handle the solicitation from a creative and management perspective to ensure that one person does not receive multiple offers.

“We try to tailor our mailings to generate the highest response through better targets, four-color mailers and creative packaging,” said Tony Plohoros, First USA's vice president of corporate affairs. “But the bottom line is the offer, and we have been able to offer some of the most competitive pricing and most compelling offers in the industry in conjunction with our partners. Consequently, our responses have been quite favorable.”

Direct mail names will mainly be derived from on-site theaters, event marketing and some advertising in the Playbill New York theater guide, Plohoros said.

“We are pretty guarded about our account size and mailing size, but it will be in the millions,” he said, noting that cards would feature a variety of Broadway show themes. “We try to tailor the mailing and the premium and the card art to the specific partner.”

The first mailing is slated for the day after the Tony Awards.

“We will go out to millions of people on June 8,” Meurer said. “Along the way, we will be adjusting the list we are mailing to and the offering to see if it ups the response rate. We'll be measuring to see what kind of person responds.”

Solicitations will be based on geographical splits, including such regions as the New York City metropolitan area and the Northeast, North, South and Far West, Meurer said. The organization also will develop the list based on subscribers of certain magazines that match the Broadway profile.

“We are going to do some geographic testing from a modeling viewpoint,” Meurer said.

According to Meurer, the card targets the “typical Broadway theatergoer,” who is age 41 and equally likely to be male or female, though women are the primary influence on the ticket purchase. Additionally, Meurer said, showgoers maintain an average household income of $90,000 and have a high propensity for travel and entertainment, especially eating.

“This is really an extension of the in-theater experience for us,” Meurer said. “Everything is tied around enhancing the in-theater experience.”

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