A nine-meters wide bronze clown shoe is the only hint that there’s something out of this world inside an enormous, nondescript concrete building in Montreal. The building is home to what many consider the most successful entertainment company in the world: Cirque du Soleil.
The huge company headquarters house practice facilities the size of airplane hangars where members of the cast work on their routines. More than 300 costumers, engineers and makeup artists sew, design and construct exotic costumes with a stage life of 10 to 12 years. In fact, the production staff often makes innovations in costuming, like the waterproof makeup needed to put on O, a show mainly performed inside a 6-million liter pool specially designed and engineered by Cirque du Soleil employees. A team of 32 headhunters and casting specialists who recruit performers from all over the world and develop their talents is one of the company’s key, internal resources. The department maintains a database of 20,000 names, any of which could be called upon at any time to join the cast of 2,700 performers who speak 27 languages.
Shows with exotic names like Mystere, La Nouba, O, Dralion, Varekai and Zumanity communicate through their style and tone that they’re about more than just entertainment. Cirque du Soleil designs productions with distinct personalities that evoke audiences’ respect, amazement, inspiration and reflection. As one member of the cast explained, “The goal of a Cirque du Soleil performer is not just to execute a quadruple somersault, it’s to make it a manifestation of internal spirituality. Like in dance, the goal is… to create a language, a conversation with the audience.”
And audiences have responded. Even with entrance prices that start at $45 and top off at $360, the company sells 97 percent of seats at every performance. That rings in at about $500,000 worth of sales per week for Cirque du Soleil, with annual earnings of $100 million from $500 million of gross income.
What’s really incredible is that each of the 15 shows Cirque du Soleil has produced in its 20-year history has made a profit. In contrast, 90 percent of high-budget Broadway shows trying to reach the same target market don’t manage to break even. Cirque du Soleil boasts amazing stats. Mystere, which opened at Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in 1993 and continues today, cost $45 million to produce and has earned more than $430 million. Even when the company shares about half of its earnings with its hotel partners, the hotels take on sometimes as much as 75 percent of the cost of production.
The dynamic duo Franco Dragone and Daniel Lamarre are at the helm of this money-making machine. Dragone, a Belgian, is the creative force behind the majority of the company’s nine current productions, and Lamarre, a former televesion executive, oversees show development and new business opportunities. Together, they’ve transformed a one-tour, one-facility circus company into an entertainment institution with five simulataneous, worldwide tours; four permanent facilities in Las Vegas—Treasure Island, the Bellagio Hotel, New York-New York Hotel & Casino and the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino—all of which are part of the MGM Mirage casino chain; another permanent theater at Disney World and an Emmy-winning series on the cable channel Bravo.
Lamarre says his business is successful because he and his employees “let the creatives run the show.” He runs the company with an invisible hand, ensuring that business doesn’t get in the way of the creative process. The content, style and supplies for each project are determined by Dragone and the creative and production teams, not a certain budget. With this vision, Cirque du Soleil has asserted itself as a leading business not only in the entertainment sector but the world.
1. Based on what you’ve read, outline a SWOT analysis of Cirque du Soleil.
– They have talented employers
– Global recognition as the creator of the highest quality entertainment in the world
– They have earned their audience
– Cirques can enhance hotel and casino partners’ sale
– Emergence of new competitors
2. List and describe at least three keys to Cirque du Soleil’s competetive advantage.
1.- Cirque du Soleil use creativity and innovation
2.- Invest in hotels and casinos
3.- Talent recruiting over the world.
3. Explain how Cirque du Soleil implements, evaluates and controls elements of its marketing plan.