Groupon gives big boost to the arts here

August 23, 2010
Chicago Sun-Times
Lewis Lazare


Chicago-based Groupon is rapidly turning into a helpful marketing partner for Chicago cultural institutions, which -- like just about every other company with something to sell in a country gripped by an economic downturn -- are looking for new ways to entice consumers to sample their offerings.

Groupon offers a new, usually market-specific deal online every day in about 85 markets in the United States and Canada. If enough people sign up for the deal within a 24-hour time frame, the deal is activated, and everyone who signed up can access it.

Last week, the Chicago-based Joffrey Ballet found out just how eager Groupon fans are to get the daily deals. On Wednesday, Groupon posted a deal for a three-show subscription package for the Joffrey's upcoming 2010-11 season priced at $81, a whopping 61 percent discount on the package's regular $218 price tag. Joffrey sold 2,338 subscriptions in just 24 hours -- more than half the total 4,600 additional subscribers the company had already signed up for next season through all other channels. "Dynamic partnerships like the one between Joffrey and Groupon will grow the dance audience in America," said Christopher Clinton Conway, Joffrey's executive director.

The Joffrey is not the first local arts organization to discover how Groupon can help expand their reach in the marketplace. The Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Art Institute and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago have also offered successful special ticket and membership deals through Groupon in recent months. Groupon spokeswoman Julie Mossler said arts-related specials tend to be popular with Groupon fans because they often have a lower price point than many of the other deals available.

Plus, Mossler said her company likes to work with arts organizations because Groupon wants "to push the boundaries" -- culturally and otherwise -- of the people who use Groupon. And Groupon can be picky about the companies it showcases. Mossler said Groupon turns away seven companies for every one it opts to feature.