Lions Club Wooster, Ohio
We have hosted the Carson & Barnes Circus 7 times and will be hosting them again on July 17 this summer. One year, we hosted a different circus and will NEVER do that again. C&B are extremely professional from contract signing to clean up. hey have been honest, friendly, and profitable. We were nervous about hosting a circus when they first came in 1994. We thought we might be dealing with transients of questionable character. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Carson & Barnes is a relatively small family business. They want to make sure that we have a good experience so that when they come back every 2 to 3 years, that they have somewhere to go. They keep improving their marketing, ticket sale strategies, and the show. When we first started, we had to sell 200 adult tickets before we made a dime. Now, we get a percentage of each ticket sold.
Here’s how it works for us.
Our Lions club has 88 members, 40 of which are at least relatively active. I have been the Circus chairperson for the last 4 shows. I get 8 people to help me on the committee, 2 for each of these areas:
- Member ticket sales
- Outlet ticket sales
- Telemarketing ticket delivery
The Marketing subcommittee would contract with radio, local TV (our town is 25,000 people), and the local newspaper to run ads that the circus provided. This year, the circus is handling (and paying for!!!) all of the marketing. We get local businesses to sponsor the circus… a bank and a car dealer give $1000 each, and we get 5-7 Lions member companies to give $200 each. College Hills Honda is one of our “3-Ring Sponsors” for $1,000. They are begging us to let them do it again because the circus gives them such good treatment. We would use the $3000-3,500 to promote the circus, so the club wouldn’t be spending our money to promote. This year, we will still get the sponsors, but since the circus is doing the marketing, it will go straight to our bottom line!
Member ticket sales: we give each of our members (the 40 that attend regularly) 10 adult and 10 children’s tickets and ask them to sell them or buy them. Of course they can just give them back, but it is a fundraiser so we push (not to the point of any hurt feelings). You really have to track who has which tickets, and collect the money before the circus. The tickets are like cash. hen you settle on circus day, they charge you based on how many tickets you return. If you get 1000 tickets and only turn in 100, they assume you sold 900, and you have to pay them their percentage.
Outlet ticket sales: This is where we sell most of our tickets, by far. We have a local bank (our sponsor) and a local grocery store (that has 3 locations in our county) sell tickets to their customers. Again, it is critical to count the tickets WITH the manager so that you both agree on how many they start with and how many they return… remember the circus will charge you for the ones you don’t return.
Telemarketing ticket delivery: The circus will call local businesses (based on a list that you provide, either through your chamber of commerce or phone book) and sell them children’s tickets in bulk. You don’t lose any percentage of the sale by them doing this, you still get 25% of each one. We usually make around $600-800 from these sales. The telemarketing people send you the tickets in envelopes, and your club members deliver the tickets and collect the money from the companies. The best way to do the telemarketing ticket delivery is to separate the tickets into geographical packs of 8-10 per pack, and have the member split them up. It really is too much for 2 people to deliver them all. One year our telemarketing subcommittee of 2 delivered all the tickets and were overwhelmed.
For the last 3 times C&B came to town, we made between $3,000-5,000, net. We will make at least $6,000 this year by selling the sponsorships and the circus paying for the marketing.
I’ll have maybe 40-50 hours into it. The member ticket sale people will have 5-6 hours, outlet people will have 3-4 hours each in, and the telemarketing delivery people will have 30-40 hours committed.
I guess if I boiled it down, here’s what I’d say. They are really good people and they put on a really quality and fun show. I take my boys (now 12 & 9 years old) every time they come. Our club makes enough money to give 100 eye exams to underprivileged children, send a disabled boy to Camp Echoing Hills (a camp for mentally and physically disabled children and adults), and create a TON of goodwill within our community.
Believe me, I have better things to be doing at midnight than promoting an out-of-state circus to a stranger; but I am dedicated to the Wooster Noon Lions, I am a huge fan the Carson & Barnes Circus, the Byrd family, and the good that our 2 organizations are able to accomplish.