Could you describe your company and the work you perform?
BATS theatre is one of New Zealand’s leading developmental theatres and one of the busiest. We are a uniquely Wellington institution that has been an open house for artists since 1989.
We’re not just a venue for hire, or a traditional theatre company that produces it’s own work; we partner with artists to bring their bold ideas to life in front of an audience. We provide a supportive environment to help develop and inspire innovative and exciting new New Zealand theatre. We believe that live performance enriches our lives, and it is our job to ensure that it is nurtured and accessible.
What are the core values of your company?
Our kaupapa is to provide a supportive, professional and accessible theatre venue that fosters the development of practitioners, audiences and New Zealand performance work while remaining accessible to all. We value inclusion, openness, boldness, diversity and innovation.
We operate a risk-share model with our practitioners, which means there are no upfront costs and the majority of the box office goes them.
It is also important to us that it’s not expensive to see shows at BATS. Our average ticket price is around $15, and we offer discounts to students, seniors and community groups to make sure that price isn’t a barrier to experiencing vibrant new performance work.
How would you describe the profile of your (prospective) audience?
We believe that live performance is something everyone should experience. By keeping our costs down, we know that we have the ability to appeal to many different people. Last year alone, we presented 128 seasons across of a variety of genres including comedy, circus, theatre, dance and improvisation. That’s a pretty large and diverse annual programme, so we think it’s safe to say that we have the potential to appeal to a pretty wide audience.
We also have a small but loyal community who are our BATS regulars. They are largely comprised of our practitioners and long-time supporters. We would love to see that community grow and so we are always looking at ways to engage more meaningfully to achieve that.
How do you currently engage your (prospective) audience?
We use a variety of channels to communicate with our prospective audience – many of which are digital – including our newly redesigned website by Heyday Digital, as well as Facebook and Twitter on social media. These are key places to communicate our upcoming programme and create interest and excitement around our shows.
Partnering with festivals is a key thing for us because it allows us to combine marketing channels. Teaming up with festivals like the NZ Fringe Festival, The NZ International Comedy Festival, The Young and Hungry Festival of New Theatre and Kia Mau Festival is another way we can build our level of engagement because we are leveraging off different festivals and reaching a wider audience.
It is also important to BATS to engage with our audience in meaningful ways beyond just selling tickets. We want people to be able to see theatre for what it is – exciting, diverse, challenging, innovative (and so much more!) so we try to seed the audience with ideas and conversations that will inspire them.
BATS is a fun place, and we want our audience to feel like they are a part of a community, and not just a bum on a seat. With so many shows a year, we know that there is a wide appeal and people often come once or twice, but we believe that if people feel connected to what we do and our aspirations, they will be inspired to step out of their comfort zones and maybe see something new – and keep coming back!
What are the key challenges you have to overcome to locate and select sponsors?
When we look for potential sponsors, we look for more than just a financial relationship. It is important that we look for companies that share our values and match our spirit of inclusion, openness, accessibility and innovation so we can create meaningful partnerships that are long-lasting.
Ensuring that our values match also means that our sponsors can feel comfortable that they are working with an organisation that understands what they want to achieve. This is something that needs to inform our relationship decisions, especially as we grow.
It also opens up so many other avenues for support. Together, you can make the most of the partnership that can mean so much more than money. You both have networks and other resources that can be incredibly mutually beneficial.
BATS is a hub for the Wellington creative community, so we’re a great channel for companies wanting to access that community and leverage the platform we provide for so many different voices. If you’re a brand that appreciates freedom of expression then it’s a really great place to come because you’re going to meet like-minded individuals in the audience and in the creative team. There are lots of opportunities to engage.
Could you describe the value shared and received beyond the dollars?
It is very hard to define the value of a truly great partnership. If we can create a new relationship where our values align, it will always go further than the dollars donated. Great partnerships do many things; they can give us much needed income to create or deliver projects, but one of the most important things is that it introduces us to new communities, and those communities are introduced to all of the great shows that we present here. By engaging meaningfully with those new communities, we are then inviting them to be a part of the BATS whānau as either an audience member, or maybe even a practitioner.
For example, we have a sponsorship deal with Wellington creative agency Heyday Digital which saw them redesign our website, giving them naming rights to one of our theatres, The Heyday Dome. They also use our spaces for creative away days which often culminate in social engagement like having a drink in the bar and maybe also seeing a show. This simultaneously strengthens and deepens our relationship and broadens both of our communities.