It’s All About Filling the Tent
Hosting the Carson & Barnes Circus can be a very rewarding event for your organization and your community. Planning, organizing and some hard work on your part are necessary to assure your success. Experience has shown us that organizations tend to be more successful when they involve the community as well as their own members. As part of our partnership with you, we have prepared this step-by-step guide just for the contracted host. In addition, our home office is a support team that can answer questions, make suggestions and provide additional insight into how to have a successful Circus event.
Steps to Success
- Establish Steering Committee / Core Of Four Responsibility
- Determine Organization Goals & Objectives
- Confirm Suitable & Visible Show Grounds
- Obtain Local Permits
- Local Marketing
- Promotion, Advertising and Advance Publicity
- Ticket Sales Plan
- Public & Media Visitors
- Plan For Circus Day Operations
- Enjoy the Show and Celebrate Your Success!
1. ESTABLISH STEERING COMMITTEE
- Oversees the entire project
- Set start/finish times on steps and goals
- Gives assistance where needed
- Represents the local hosting organization as spokesperson
- Holds regular check-in meetings, measures progress and keeps everyone motivated
- Has fun along the way!
Promotion and Marketing Chairman
- Administers advertising budget
- Orders circus marketing materials
- Coordinates all local promotion and marketing efforts
- Coordinates with the Circus marketing and publicity team
- Involves other community groups on Circus Day
- Schedules promotions and auxiliary business development opportunities
- Connects with the media
Practical Arrangements Chairman
- Oversees the site
- Coordinates local operations before/during/after the circus
- Obtains all local permits
- Coordinates traffic flow and parking
- Makes arrangements for trash pick-up, access to water, etc.
Ticket Sales Chairman
- Organizes an advance ticket sales campaign
- Distributes and collects for the sale of bulk discounted children’s tickets offered by our Circus phone promoter who will contact businesses on your behalf
- Arranges for ticket outlets.
- Distribute restricted free childrens tickets to enhance the advance sale of adult tickets.
- Settles up on the advance ticket sales – 10:00 AM on circus morning at the Circus Road Office
The Circus Steering Committee Will Need Help
Invite each member of the Core of 4 to introduce themselves at your earliest regular organization meeting and say a bit about what their committees will be doing. This is in preparation for recruiting volunteers.
The Circus Chairman
- May need assistance in monitoring progress at future meetings of the organization.
Promotion & Marketing Committee (should be the largest committee)
- Will need help in distributing posters and marketing materials and contacting the schools and media
Ticket Sales Committee
- Will need assistance collecting on phone promoter sales
- Gets very busy during the last 3 days before circus arrives. Sales will be heaviest the week before show. The committee will also have to collect leftover tickets and ticket sales money from outlets.
The Practical Arrangements Committee
- May need specific help in obtaining permits, permission, or supplies
- May not require many volunteers until circus day. (Parking help, etc.)
NOTE: The Chairs should ask for specific help and get names of volunteers at this time.
2. DETERMINE ORGANIZATION GOALS & OBJECTIVES
Your organization had some goals in mind when you agreed to host the circus and signed a contract. Time passes and people change positions. As you begin to organize now in preparation for a successful circus day, it is important to involve your members in clearly defining what you want to have happen, your vision for success, and the terms of your contract with the Circus.
- Do you have a specific “cause” or project to benefit from the funds you raise? What is it? Be sure to mention in all advertising. Let the people know how the money raised will benefit the community.
- Can your hosting of the Circus provide community benefits beyond funds raised?
- Can your organization grow in prestige, name recognition, membership, organizational skills, etc., through this venture?
- Do you intend to sell a certain number of tickets and raise a particular amount of money? How many? How much?
IDEAS YOU CAN USE: Motivational Techniques From Other Local Hosts
- Some local hosts post a sign in a visible location: “X_ Days till Circus Day.”
- Some local hosts track the Circus across the USA from when it leaves winter quarters in March to when it arrives in their community. They use a map and draw the route reminding the members how many days left till Circus Day!
- Some local hosts order T-shirts and caps for the volunteers working on the Circus project.
- Some local hosts travel to see the show well in advance of it appearing in their community to better understand how to create a success.
3. CONFIRM SUITABLE & VISIBLE SHOW GROUNDS
A site with maximum visibility means maximum profits.
One of the most important things you do will be to secure suitable, visible showgrounds. This is the largest big-top tent circus in the world. To accommodate the show an area of 300 feet by 500 feet is needed. This does not include the space necessary for public parking. Try to find a location that has ample parking space nearby (500+ cars).
Performance Quality Is Affected By The Lot
If the lot is rough, not level, and dusty or covered with debris, we cannot give you our best show. The lot should be as solid as possible. The Circus looks its best on a level grass field. Remember: people will walk on the grass, the animals will graze, and the vehicles may leave indentations on a lot that is soft. If using grass, do not water one week before show date. It is imperative to make arrangements for a secondary lot on gravel or asphalt in case of drenching rain. We use as few stakes as possible and do repair asphalt.
Visibility Is Key
If the show is miles away from town it will be inconvenient for people to attend — and we will all lose ticket sales. It is good to go with proven lots — fair and festival grounds, recreation areas, parking lots for stadium grounds, mall parking lots — places that the public is familiar with.
When You Have a Lot That is Questionable
Make a rough diagram (showing obstacles, such as power lines and poles, buildings, trees and bushes, etc.) with measurements and send it to the Circus Office (fax: 580-326-7466.) Indicate where you think the public will be entering. Both the Circus and the public have to get on and off the lot. Make sure there is an entrance that is big enough for the circus semi-trucks to enter.
Important: We believe that it helps to have your lot arrangements documented in writing. Previously, a host had a verbal agreement with a business establishment for the use of a lot. This was a lot that the host had used in past years. Mall management changed mid year. The new management had no previous knowledge or anything in writing indicating the prior management arrangements with the host. There was last minute frustration and confusion that could be avoided with a written document.
4. OBTAIN LOCAL PERMITS
You are responsible for obtaining the local permits necessary for the circus to perform, but if you hit any stumbling blocks our experienced staff is always available to help at the Home Office. Contact your local officials to let them know that you are bringing Carson & Barnes Circus to town. Your city office will advise what permits are needed. In most cases, permits are waived for non-profit organizations.
In addition to the permits required, are there other local officials that should be notified you are hosting the circus? This can help build cooperation and awareness for your venture. *If a local health permit is required then you get the permit and pay the fee and bring the permit and receipt to settlement. The circus will reimburse you for the health permit. All other permits are the responsibility of the host.
Sample lot diagram, health and USDA permits, and tent fire retardant certificate are available by contacting the home office.
5. Local Marketing
Today, municipal laws and ordinances make it more difficult than ever to put up posters, and fines make it impractical to do the kind of mass postering of the past. Now, posters must be placed strategically to help build awareness that the Circus is coming to town. This is where your local influence and relationships is critical. Getting posters in store windows and wherever they can be seen is more important than ever. Our advance poster team arrives 2 weeks prior to Circus Day to supplement your own local efforts. Ideally, you will already have placed your 18×24 Sponsor/Host posters in all of the right places for maximum visibility. When the Poster Crew arrives, they will post an additional smaller 11×17 posters in key locations. Your guidance on the best places to post is important.
You will receive 100 18×24-inch premium Carson & Barnes Circus posters customized with your show date, location and your local show information.
Getting The Posters Up
The posters should be put up in businesses in your town and market area. You should receive them approximately 4 weeks before the show date. They are intended to be placed in business display windows for maximum visibility. You can have each of your members responsible for distributing a certain number of posters in a particular high foot traffic area. You can also securely fasten the posters to the sides or backs of delivery trucks and buses that circulate in your community as well as nearby feeder towns. When these posters are laminated the vehicle is transformed into a colorful moving billboard to promote your date.
Circus Poster Crew
Approximately two weeks before circus day, a poster crew will visit your community to supplement your efforts by posting additional 11×17-inch posters with your specific date information. They will contact your Promotions Chair or other designee for guidance in determining high-traffic areas in your community.
When done right, put in good locations, posters are the single most effective way to get attention.
It would be helpful to provide them with a list of possible locations (vacant storefronts, sides of buildings and solid fences etc.). They will not however, put up your window posters. That will be your responsibility in support of business sponsorships you have received.
SELL IN-TENT BANNERS (6)
The Circus provides you with an opportunity to raise money for local promotion, marketing and advertising. How you solicit and utilize these funds is limited only by your imagination.
Most businesses usually have pre-printed banners and we welcome you to sell advertising space under the big top. We have room for up to 6Banners (4ft x 6ft maximum) to be hung inside the tent on show day. These advertisers will also be announced during each performance.
Sell sponsor banners under The Big Top to generate more dollars!
We provide you with restricted free kids tickets for one per paid adult to distribute throughout the community. This will help boost your ticket sales. When the Circus poster crew comes to town 2 weeks prior to your show, they will put down an additional 10,000 coupons. NOTE: These coupons will be redeemable when purchasing adult tickets in advance, online, or at the Box Office on show day.
6. Advertising, Promotion & Advance Publicity
The success of the Circus depends greatly on cooperative effort. Working together, your local team members with their valuable local contacts and relationships when coordinated with our team of professionals, can be a powerful force. Carson & Barnes Circus has over 75 years of experience getting people to come to the shows. Over those decades the game has changed dramatically.
We will support you with the following efforts:
- Announcement that you are sponsoring the Circus
- Tickets On Sale Announcement with locations
- Just 2 weeks to Circus, added attractions, re-energize
- Major feature print story to run week prior
- Appearances on radio morning and afternoon shows
- Appearances on TV morning and noon shows
- TV news stories supported with our provided video
- Live shot TV opportunities on Circus day
- Retail Promotions with large advertisers in your market
Feel free to use the resources we have provided. Contact the office to enhance your organization’s plans.
Newspaper, radio, TV and outdoor signage will help fill the tent for your Circus event. This is a joint responsibility between the Circus and your organization. As a local organization you will be able to buy advertising at a much more favorable rate that the Circus. In fact, it is a common practice that the media will “bonus” or match what you buy. This paid advertising is separate from any Public Service Advertising you might be able to get. (See below.) Our Marketing Team will work directly with your organization to identify all important media in the area. In addition to the deals you will make with the radio, TV, newspaper, etc. we will be developing a advertising plan to extend and enhance what you arrange locally. It’s a great idea to coordinate what you are doing in your area with our Media Planner. A member of our team will be proactive and be in touch early, but please feel free to contact us to get the ball rolling.
Advertising should be built toward the event. If you have a weekly newspaper, the advertising should appear in the last three issues prior to the Circus. If you have a daily newspaper, the advertising should be in the last three weeks, and the heaviest the last week. As a rule, it is better to saturate the market in a relatively short time span than to spread out your campaign over a longer period.
Filling the tent is the goal. It requires a combined effort by you and our team of professionals. We rely on you to guide our marketing activities. No one knows your market better than you, and we count on that knowledge to help us plan media buys, promotional activities and publicity.
Public Service Advertising
Based on your organization’s relationships in the community you will be in a position to ask the media to help support your fundraising goal. It is not uncommon for radio, TV, print and outdoor or transit media to support your Circus event with a significant amount of “free” Public Service advertising. Getting this public service support will require that you use your local contacts. These public service advertising schedules should be set up and committed to as early as possible, then all of those announcements scheduled during the 3 weeks prior to your Circus date.
Other Forms of Exposure
Every community has its own marketing channels that help get the word out. Consider how you can spread the word by asking to have your Circus date included in some of these places:
- Company and School bulletins and newsletters
- On local radio, TV and newspaper websites that list events
- On local Chambers of Commerce and websites
- Ask your local tourism person to feed the date to state and regional websites and event calendars
Reader Boards and Electronic Signs
They are everywhere: Old school reader board signs with removable letters usually found in front of businesses, and electronic signs capable of full color changing messages highly visible at banks, hospitals, large companies, shopping centers, fairgrounds, city government buildings, and arenas. You can get considerable free advertising through use of these boards. It is usually simple to obtain space on these boards to help promote the Circus event benefiting your organization. Often just a phone call will get you on the board, if you make your request early. Follow up any commitment you get with something in writing delivered to the contact person responsible for the sign.
Be sure that all information is correct as to show date(s), times and always include the online ticket address BigTopShow.com. If you need a Circus logo for a electronic sign, you can download it here.
Offer a Benefit to Local Companies and Schools
The Circus produces artwork for a flyer that features a free kids tickets good for one free child per paid adult. These tickets may be used with any paid adult tickets. You can download the basic artwork for this flyer, then add your local date and show information, and have it printed locally for local distribution. (It is possible that a local printer will print these at no cost as a donation to your organization, or for a very low cost.) The circus will send flyers to schools in your community.
7. Ticket Sales Plan
TICKET SALES CHAIRMAN — You Are Responsible For All Tickets.
When you distribute tickets to your members and outlets, keep a record by number of who has each ticket for sale. The tickets are numbered to help you keep your records. When you distribute tickets to your outlets or to individuals, only pass out about half. Then follow up — check to see how sales are going. As one member or outlet begins to run low on tickets, collect their money and give them a fresh supply to sell. If there are some who are not making any effort to sell tickets, take them back and check them out to someone who will.
Sales will increase closer to Circus Day. Often, local hosts usually sell a lot of tickets on the day before the circus. Be prepared to re-supply outlets and members during the final days.
We recommend that you:
- Keep good records concerning who you checked tickets out to — make sure they know how to get more tickets and when to turn in their money.
- Have a time and place arranged for your members to turn in their money and leftover tickets to you. We find that late afternoon on the day before the circus is best. This gives you time that evening to “run down” the few who fail to meet the deadline.
- Collect tickets and money from outlets at the close of business on the day before the circus.
- Settlement is to be made at 10:00 a.m. Please be on time. Bring all unsold tickets. When we calculate the settlement amount you can pay in cash or organization check.
NOTE: All tickets sold in advance are for general admission seating (except those sold online). Upgraded seating can only be purchased at the circus ticket office after 9:00 a.m. on circus day or online up until midnight the night before Circus Day. Box Seats and Reserved Seats (Center Section) are sold as long as they are available. Prior to showtime Preferred Seating (first-come, first-served) is sold inside the tent. Local hosts receive a percentage of all upgraded seating sold. (Including those sold on-line in advance).
ADVANCE PHONE PROMOTION
Carson & Barnes Circus strongly believes in a telemarketing promotion campaign for our Circus and your organization because of the proven track record it has in generating additional sales of adult tickets and the free advertising that it generates for you at no cost. We will have a phone promoter contacting local businesses on behalf of your organization, and offer bulk children’s tickets for sale at a discounted $6.00 ($8.00 at the box office on circus day). They cannot be sold, re-sold or distributed on Circus day on Circus grounds or used in conjunction with any other ticket.
The promoter will bundle children’s tickets into individual business envelopes along with an invoice, and send them to you for distribution and collection. After the tax monies are deducted the split will be 25% to Host, 25% to phone promoter and 50% to circus. Some of these tickets are often donated back to the Host organization for use by worthy groups within the community. They can also be used to allow those who would normally not be able to attend the circus to go (physically/mentally challenged, elders from group homes.) Be sure these tickets are used.
Note: Settlement on advance child phone tickets will be made at the Circus office at 10:00 a.m. on Circus Day, along with your advance ticket sales. Please remember, the phone promoter is only selling bulk children’s tickets.
8. Public and Media Visitors to the Circus
The Carson & Barnes office will coordinate independently of the host with media and circus personnel to schedule and manage media events on Circus Day. An onsite coordinator from Carson & Barnes will be responsible for acting as liaison between media and circus personnel prior to and during show times.
The Carson and Barnes office will independently ensure that the community is aware that they are welcome the morning of the show to watch the circus set-up via Press Releases to local media sources. The Carson and Barnes office encourages host representatives to coordinate with the office to help ensure the local community is aware of all morning and show time events.
The Carson and Barnes Publicity office is open to any creative ideas or suggestions from the host for media or community events (such as scheduling school field trips to watch the circus set-up or hosting a pancake breakfast). The host should contact the Carson and Barnes Publicity office at least 3-weeks prior to Circus Day with any suggestions to allow for proper scheduling and coordination with Carson and Barnes and media personnel.
9. Plan for Circus Day Operations
The Circus needs a source for about 1500 gallons of potable water. The animals and people on the show drink the water — it must be clean and suitable for both people and animals. We have a water truck that makes several trips each day to pick up water. We can use fire hydrants, spigots, whichever is available.
Trash and Manure
The Host will provide containers and the Circus will pick up trash and manure and clean the lot. We can use a dump truck or manure spreader for the manure. Then we would just need containers for trash. We need the containers to be on the lot Circus Day and they must remain on the lot until at least 8 AM the next morning for a final daylight inspection.
Both the Circus and the public have to get on and off the lot. Make sure there is an entrance that is big and flat enough for the circus semi-trucks to pull onto the lot. Make sure that you have a crew lined up to help direct and park the public on circus day. This is very important—we have an excellent safety record at Carson & Barnes and we want to make sure that everyone who visits the show has a safe and happy day.
Having the tent visible from the roadway can be one of your best advertisements. But if people could not see where to turn in, or where to park, you need to consider signage. The circus will provide signage directing people to the entrance.
Many commercial growers or gardeners will be pleased to take advantage of the free manure, which the circus will gladly provide. Have them provide a large dump truck or trailer, which saves you money. Elephant poop is some of the most effective fertilizer on the planet. Or, perhaps this is an opportunity to involve another community group in the circus project. A local garden club might package and sell circus-produced fertilizer as a fund-raiser.
The circus has a handicapped entrance, restroom and seating in all sections. If the lot permits access, cars may drive near the handicapped entrance to drop off passengers or to park nearby. People directing traffic should know at which end of the tent the handicapped entrance is located. Ambulatory people should use the main entrance in order to see everything (the handicapped entrance bypasses the midway, and the traveling zoo.)
The Ticket Sales Chairman and often the Circus Chairman of your committee will need to settle on advance ticket sales with the circus at 10:00 a.m. on show day at the circus road office. If you have banners to hang in the tent please bring them to the show office at this time as well. We will take the banners down during intermission of the second show and return them to you during the evening settlement. You will also need to notify our office at this time of any special announcements that may need to be made during the show, any guest ringmasters that you may have arranged for, any members that plan to ride in to the show on an elephant, etc.
24-HOUR ADVANCE MAN
The 24-Hour Man will visit the community usually by noon on the day before the circus and will contact your appointed designee. It is very important that he has a contact person available to meet with him at the lot the day before the show.
Does the circus lot need to be mowed, leveled, or readied in any way? Is an alternate lot ready, in case of heavy rain? Our 24-hour advance team will need someone to show them the lot and explain if there are any underground water, electrical, gas or telephone lines. Also arrangements for water and trash and manure are reviewed at this time.
As Carson & Barnes travels from community to community we buy supplies from local merchants and distributors. We never know what we will need to buy on any given day, but when the 24-hour advance man arrives in your town, he will line up the purchases. It is easier if you could provide him with contacts, prices, and phone numbers. The circus will take care of the purchase and delivery. We don’t usually do major buying on Sunday.
- Hay—Preferably grass hay, not alfalfa.
- High Quality Sweet Feed—About twice a week we need to buy sweet feed for the horses and elephants. This must be a high quality sweet feed with real molasses.
- Diesel Fuel—We normally need 750 to 1500 gallons of tax paid fuel. We need a distributor that can travel to the circus grounds and pump it into our tanker truck. If it is considerably less expensive at the pumps, we can send our truck.
- Also refer merchants that supported your organization so that we might purchase food and supplies from them.
10. Enjoy the Show and Celebrate Your Success!
Don’t forget to enjoy the show that you have worked so hard to make happen! After the circus leaves and moves on to the next town, you should plan to celebrate your hard work, your full bank account and the great service your organization provided the community.
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