Launched in 2005, the DC Jazz Festival (DCJF) is a two-week long event seeking to enhance Washington D.C.’s contributions to jazz worldwide by exposing the broadest demographic to jazz, using it as a form of arts education, honoring jazz legends and shedding light on the city’s rich jazz legacy.
Tasked with launching the inaugural Duke Ellington Jazz Festival (now renamed the DC Jazz Festival) and creating a recognizable brand, Sage Communications took a multifaceted approach that included developing an interactive and grassroots marketing strategy, public relations and advertising campaigns, and a sponsorship initiative program to drive consumers to attend concerts and to gain widespread recognition for the festival.
With respect to the jazz genre’s eclectic fan base, Sage knew a viral, grassroots marketing campaign would be best to reach national and international jazz lovers as well as music-buffs and weekend warriors. Because visibility was key to promoting the event, Sage designed an awareness strategy that included outdoor advertising, TV and radio spots, as well as placement of collateral materials including brochures, program guides and wall panels in local venues.
Advertising and public relations efforts focused on key publications such as The Washington Post and Washington City Paper, Jazz Times, DownBeat and Hot House Magazine. Sage set up interviews with the festival producer, Charlie Fishman, to tell the story of Washington D.C.’s rich jazz heritage and launch the “Nation’s Jazz Festival.” The public relations campaign resulted in a front-page story in the Washington Times and widespread coverage among jazz trade publications, music and cultural websites, blogs and city event calendars.
Over the past few years, Sage has expanded its marketing efforts to appeal to a more interactive, non-traditional audience. Sage launched the festival web site, which included original artwork and flash animation, an online music player, sign-up forms, an e-mail newsletter management system and a back-end administrative functionality so personnel could easily update content without technical assistance. Sage established a festival Facebook page, and posted listings to web sites and blogs for jazz enthusiasts and music-lovers to encourage attendance. For maximum impact, Sage produced a Jumbotron Twitter Feed on the National Mall in 2010. In 2012, Sage designed an app offering scheduling, artist and venue information, and worked with another DCJF sponsor to program it.
Since its launch, the DCJF has become Washington D.C.’s premier musical event. In 2014, DCJF advertising reached more than 60,000,000 people and marketing in 25 plus metro stations reached over 4,700,000 people. The Jazz in the ‘Hoods program expanded to more than 60 clubs, hotels, galleries, libraries and community centers in 20 neighborhoods across the city, welcoming over 30,000 attendees. Facebook and Twitter followers increased by 30-45 percent and fans came from 20 countries including the U.S., Poland, Italy, Brazil, Germany, Canada, France and Mexico.