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Interview: Entertainment Marketing Powerhouse Noeleen Bruton on Opening New Agency

Marketing Grit to open in the Cape under leadership of ex-Marketing Director of Tsogo Sun

Interview: Entertainment Marketing Powerhouse Noeleen Bruton on Opening New Agency From THE LION KING to The Parlotones, Noeleen Bruton has had a wealth of experience in entertainment marketing and is now co-owner of new Cape Town based marketing and digital agency, Marketing Grit. Ready to take new strides on a well-walked path, Noeleen chats with BroadwayWorld.

BWW: Let's chat a bit about your background. How has your involvement in entertainment and theatre influenced you as a marketer, and now new marketing agency co-owner?

Noeleen: My relationship with entertainment started many years ago when I got to produce loads of events as the Marketing Manager of The Carousel. Upon leaving The Carousel, I took up the position of Managing Director for The Blue Moon Company - an internationally acclaimed and awarded industrial theatre company. A few years later I joined MGM Grand South Africa where, as the Director of Marketing, the group entertainment fell under my portfolio. After successfully hosting the Moscow Circus across several casino properties nationwide, I got the go ahead to host an outdoor concert - Celine Dion's world tour. Not without its challenges, the group I worked with was now fully on board and recognised the positive impact large non-gaming events had on not only casino revenue, but the complexes and tenants as a whole.

My love affair with theatre began shortly thereafter when Tsogo Sun built The Teatro at Montecasino. I was blessed to not only be trained by Disney in the A to Z of theatre, but over time to have worked closely with some of South Africa's theatre greats - most notably Pieter Toerien and Hazel Feldman.

BWW: How have you seen marketing in the entertainment industry change over the years? Especially in the past year, what has been the biggest shift?

Noeleen: Entertainment in South Africa is not for sissies. It is a tough, high-risk industry. With all the socio-economic problems we have as a country, entertainment is often viewed as a luxury. I am a firm believer that arts and entertainment, over and above the economic benefits (job and infrastructure creation), is a core to the fabric of society; it binds us together, our hearts and our souls. Yet it is often overlooked by the media, sponsors and government and not given, I believe, its rightful place at the table and recognised for the richness, texture and unity it adds.

Over the years, mainstream theatre in South Africa has transitioned from an elite, upmarket treat or "occasion" to entertainment that is more accessible, has broader appeal, and is a regular form of entertainment. Most recently, the pandemic has decimated the industry. Talented professionals have gone without income for so long - many of whom have had to seek employment in other industries and are lost (hopefully not forever) to the sector.

Hopefully the entertainment and event 'rebound' being experienced internationally (attributed largely to pent-up demand) will extend to South Africa.

BWW: In terms of your experience in entertainment and theatre, what was the most exciting production or event to do the marketing for?

Noeleen: Whew that's a hard one! I have been truly blessed to have worked on so many great productions. But if I had to pick one, it would have to be my first - THE LION KING. I was so green and learnt so much. It was simultaneously rewarding and humbling.

BWW: What were some of your biggest challenges faced in marketing in entertainment?

Noeleen: I think trying to get so much out of such small budgets. The high cost and low profit margins of productions means there really isn't a lot to go around. Especially when you are trying to grow new markets, you must be really creative and innovative.

BWW: How do you think your background in entertainment specifically will benefit in the running of Marketing Grit?

Noeleen: Undoubtedly my previous experience will be carried across to our new agency. Navigating and getting results working with a diverse range of producers and promoters has taught me how to adapt to different personality types. Each production is also different with its own target market, pricing strategy, production value, appeal, and brand recall. They all require their own distinctive strategy - and just as in the service we offer, a cookie cutter approach just won't work. There's a need to constantly be innovative - to think out the box - and get results.

BWW: What are some areas of adaption for marketing entertainment and theatre in South Africa?

Noeleen: Be ready - although planning is difficult under the circumstances, if the international trends are anything to go by, there will be some pent-up demand that the early birds could capitalise on. Embracing the digital, and ensure that all digital asets are aligned and working towards achieving the same goal is important.

As things start to open, we also believe innovation is key. The entertainment industry is going to have to seek out new ways of doing business. Both virtual and hybrid events are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Venue owners will need to rethink their business models and work with producers and promoters to ensure their theatre and event spaces don't become redundant. Internationally outdoor events are proving to show the quickest bounce back. We will have to weigh-up the cost and weather risk of staging your event outdoors against a greater demand.

BWW: Do you hope Marketing Grit can find a place and purpose in the entertainment and theatre industry?

Noeleen: I do hope so yes - both myself and my business partner Debbie Combrink have a wealth of experience in entertainment that we believe could add significant value to various events or shows. We have also managed, over the years, to establish a good solid network and have built authentic relationships with many key players. It is still early days for us, and the industry is still reeling from the pandemic - so I guess we will just have to wait and see what transpires!

Photo credit: Supplied




From This Author - Lindsay Kruger

Lindsay is a born and bred South African who lives in Cape Town after studying English, Media and Art, and Teaching at Stellenbosch University. She fell in love with musical theatre when she first saw... (read more about this author)


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BWW Interview: Entertainment Marketing Powerhouse Noeleen Bruton on Opening New Agency
September 15, 2021

From THE LION KING to The Parlotones, Noeleen Bruton has had a wealth of experience in entertainment marketing and is now co-owner of new Cape Town based marketing and digital agency, Marketing Grit. Ready to take new strides on a well-walked path, Noeleen chats with BroadwayWorld.