The “Art” of Marketing of Reno’s Artown Festival

Artown is a month-long celebration of art in Reno, Nevada. What originally began 17 years ago as a vision among local civic leaders, business people, and the arts community to form an art focused festival in an effort to transform and reinvent downtown Reno has grown into an event that now attracts about 300,000 people a year, with approximately 82 percent of attendees being local citizens.

With a slate of nearly 500 events this July—360 of which are standalone events, 45 that are Artown-produced, and 62 workshops—there is certainly no shortage of options for participation. In fact, 60 percent of the events are free thanks to numerous sponsors ranging from the City of Reno, local media outlets, and businesses to the Nevada Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

When it comes to marketing the event, however, because Artown is a “festival for everyone,” segmenting and targeting a variety of audiences can be difficult, especially when working with a $50,000 budget. So how is the marketing of this non-profit event prioritized, implemented, and measured?

The Art of Marketing of Artown

According to Ronele Klingensmith of RKPR, Inc., who spoke at this week’s Reno-Tahoe American Marketing Association luncheon and who has been handling the marketing of the event for the past six years, the success of Artown is measured by total number of attendees as well as income based on ticketed event sales. In order to work around the limited budget, there are a variety of creative ways being used to market the event including pro bono support from the local media outlets in the form of free advertising, sponsorships with area hotels for hosting the entertainment, and of course the solicitation of volunteers to help support the events.

Because Artown is primarily a “visual” event, Artown has a presence on all of virtually all social channels, specifically Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.  And in case you’re curious, of  the $50,000 in the marketing budget, the majority of spending in 2012 went to revamping the web site and developing the mobile app, followed by the the cost of printing and public relations.

Some of Ronele’s advice for pulling together the marketing for an event like this includes developing a great team, collaborating together, seeking out opportunities, planning/adapting, integrating, and of course having fun. For those who aren’t familiar with the festival, below is a video overview of Artown:

Economic Impact:

As mentioned in the video, Artown is fulfilling its goal of connecting communities and enriching the quality of life with an estimated $13 million in economic impact in 2011. From an article in the Northern Nevada Business Weekly, economic impact is specifically broken down into such top-ranked categories as food and beverage sales ($4.8 million), hotel accommodations ($1.9 million), and shopping/gift purchases ($1.4 million).

For a full history of Artown and to learn more about how the event has grown over the past 17 years, click here.

Now it’s your turn: what do you know about Artown and how have you learned about its various events? Do you interact with Artown on any of their social channels? What Artown events have you participated in? What do you like most about Artown?

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