Wednesday 21 February 2018

Marketing People: Kate O'Leary

Marketing & Development Manager, Dublin Fringe Festival

Kate O'Leary
Kate O'Leary

With the 23rd annual Dublin Fringe Festival now in full swing, this year’s event is set to be the biggest ever with more than 700 artists and 81 shows spread across 34 different venues.

The culmination of 12 months’ work by a small team, Kate O’Leary, marketing and development manager explains to John McGee what goes on backstage.

Describe your role with the Dublin Fringe Festival.

I oversee marketing and development activity. The programme changes each year, so I design a new strategy for each edition based on what’s on offer.

We also create a new visual campaign featuring artists every year. We go on sale with a number of shows in June and then launch the full programme in July, so my job is to communicate that effectively. The summer months involve working closely with artists, assisting them in the implementation of their own campaigns, and keeping a close eye on sales.

I also look after Fringe’s fundraising and development, consolidating and managing relationships with members, partners and sponsors. A team of five work in our Temple Bar office year-round. During the summer, we grow to over 100: this includes our production crew, box office staff and an incredible group of volunteers.

But Fringe is also more than a festival: it’s a year-round organisation dedicated to supporting artists. Fringe Lab, our studio space, for example, is used for rehearsals 365 days of the year by many makers who ultimately bring their work to our stage.

What kind of marketing challenges do you face?

With up to 60 shows taking place in just one day, it can be a challenge to communicate the breadth and diversity of the festival.

Fringe is the festival where you can see a show for kids in the morning, a play by the freshest young Irish voices at lunchtime, a circus in a secret space in the evening and a DJ set late at night. It can be difficult to convince audiences to come to multiple shows in a competitive market and we really want people to make the most of the two weeks of Fringe.

How do you tackle these challenges?

We break down the programme in a number of ways. Our audience is loyal, so making sure our brochure is high-quality and gets into their hands is important.

Our online audience has grown enormously in the last few years, so we use our website, emails and social media to make the programme easier to digest. During the festival, it’s about convincing people they must see these shows before it’s too late, and highlighting our relatively low ticket prices.

How difficult is it to attract sponsors?

The key is to get them to the events. No matter how well you communicate what a festival is all about, it doesn’t compare to being there. An important part of our development strategy is to convince potential partners to take an hour out of their week to see a show, feel the buzz and find out what it’s all about.

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