Reason 1: Capitalize on a Current Event or Trending Topic!
Themes can be a powerful guest magnet if you choose the right one. Think Big! Pick a theme that has broad appeal. Stay away from themes that are only about your farm or your town. Use a theme that has the potential of drawing traffic from hours away! Here are some of the themes we have done over the years:
Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers (our venue was located about 100 miles from both Chicago & Milwaukee)
New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles (our PA venue)
Presidential Election themes (during election years)
NASCAR (the year it reached its highest ratings)
The TV show “The Office” (this venue was near Scranton PA – the setting for this very popular show)
Picking the right theme will be THE key factor in many of the benefits that a theme will provide listed below. Do something that has never been done before! Think outside the box.
Reason 2: Free General Press!
The right theme will make getting free press for you venue year after year a much easier task. Media outlets are looking for a new story to talk about. No matter how great your venue is, if you don’t have something significant that changes from year to year – it becomes very difficult to get that free press. The free press that we were able to generate our first year and every thereafter was huge! Without our popular themes and everything we did around those themes, our Agritourism Venue would have gotten off to a much slower start.
Reason 3: Theme Specific Free Press!
One of the great things we realized with our themes is that it opened up a whole new world of free press coverage that was theme specific. For example:
Our Sports themes got us coverage in places like Monday Night Football, syndicated sports radio show interviews, newspaper sports editors, sports related websites.
Our Political themes got us coverage on political websites, political editors, and those general news stories that wanted to know how the “voting” was going at our venue (we had mock voting booths)
Our “Office” theme got us stories with entertainment editors, blogs, & websites.
Bottom line is that the right theme will open the doors to more free press.
Reason 4: Keeps Your Guests Coming Back!
Our guests loved how our themes and our venue transformed to match the theme every year. The feedback we received was a strong indicator that even though many of the core offerings were the same from year to year, the theme and the specific theme related activities were always a huge hit.
Theme parks add a new major roller coaster every year to give their guests and even greater reason to return. This was our way of accomplishing that same thing and keeping our guests interest piqued.
Reason 5: Draw in New Guests!
Another huge benefit of a theme is that it draws in guests that may not be interested in a pumpkin patch or corn maze but kicking a field goal (NFL Themed years) or doing the pit crew challenge (NASCAR year) they were definitely excited about. And people really get into it! They wear their favorite Team Jersey or NASCAR coat or their favorite “Office” t-shirt. A theme is another way for die-hard fans of a cause or a company to show their allegiance & support.
Reason 6: Opens the Door for New and Exciting Activities!
One of the keys to successfully executing a theme is to include activities that relate to your theme. Some examples from our venues:
NFL Themes included things like a Field Goal Kicking contest and a passing contest. Win a prize (typically a concession) if you are successful from a certain distance.
NASCAR Theme included things like a “Pit Stop Challenge” where we had an old car from a junk yard and they had to jack up the car, change the tire with an air gun, & fill the tank. (jack triggered a light instead of actually jacking up the car & gas can was filled with water). Again prizes awarded for age brackets & time.
Political Theme included things like our corn cannon targets being mannequins with the political candidate’s masks. I think we had Bush driving a truck and Kerry driving a boat to give them fun things to shoot at. We also included a voting booth where they could vote with their admission ticket. The press loved hearing the updated weekly results of this “straw poll”
Some of these activities could be used as extra revenue generators as well. If we were offering a prize of some sort, we would typically charge $1 for the activity. Some of these will be purely to incorporate your theme into as many areas of your venue as you can.
Reason 7: Opens the Door for Related Product Sales!
You can also use your theme to sell those extra’s that help your bottom line. For us it was things like NFL themed glow products or NASCAR models or Funny Politically carved pumpkins. You get the idea. If you do a theme and you know you will be drawing an audience that is passionate about that theme, be sure to have things available for sale specific to that target audience.
Reason 8: Contest or Special Events Around Your Theme!
Another way to generate buzz and traffic from a theme is to do something big with it. Maybe for NASCAR theme you hold a country music concert one night (sorry if that is stereotyping J) or for our Office theme would could have done a “dress as your favorite character day” with prizes being awarded to the best. I think one of our best promotions we did was for one of our NFL themed years where we offered 2 tickets to a Giants / Eagles game. The value was a few hundred dollars but the amount we made from the promotion was crazy. There were area soccer players and field goal kickers that would come and spend $20 - $40 trying to beat the current longest kick (in addition to paying a $10 gate fee).
Doing things like this with your theme will not only bring in more revenue but will be a big boost to incorporating that theme into your venue for that year.
Reason 9: Themes Can Help in Securing Sponsors!
A good theme will open the door with potential sponsors that your venue alone can’t. On our sports years we had sponsors such as Dish Network, Sirius Radio, and sporting goods stores partner with us that wouldn’t have given us the time of day if it wasn’t for our theme.
If you are going to do a theme, be sure to look for ways you can get new sponsors involved.
Reason 10: New & Exciting Look and Feel Every Year!
It is important to go “all out” if you are going to do a theme. You can just choose a theme like NFL and have your guests arrive to have your venue look no different than it did the year before. Here are some of the ways we transformed our venue every year:
Flags, flags, and more flags! We would spend the money and get flags to put on every fence post along our road to match the theme. NFL or NASCAR or even Democratic & Republican flags along with a ton of American flags for our Political themes.
All our marketing would have the theme on it (be careful with licensing issues). Coupons, Posters, Billboards, Radio Ads – Everything
Specific activities or events for the theme (#8 above)
Our welcome boards and other signage would be repainted or somehow incorporated into the theme.
Our “Cow Train” would transform into the “football train” or whatever the theme was complete with a new paint job, and little themed flags.
Our targets for the shooting range (slingshot, corn cannon, etc.) would all be changed to reflect the theme.
Our package deals would have themed names such as “The Hail Mary Package” or the “Hanging Chad”.
We may offer some theme specific concessions (or just normal stuff renamed)
Our corn mazes would match the theme including the activities inside (theme specific trivia cards and more)
As you can tell, I am a big proponent of themes especially if you are still relatively new to the Agritourism business or you are in a market with lots of competition and need to stand out from the others.
Make no mistake, the work involved in coming up with and implementing a great theme every year is no small task but we are know that having a theme is what made us profitable and successful from our first year in business.
We have launched our Facebook Group and we want this to become the place where we can continue discussions around our blog posts and much more. We will be working to find Agritourism owners to join us so that we can have a community where we can go to ask questions or to offer up ideas. Join us a www.facebook.com/groups/Agritourismideas