The Company You Keep

Broadway’s The Lion King is about to reach the enviable milestone of performing 7,000 shows on the incredibly competitive Great White Way. Only preceded by The Phantom of the Opera, Cats and Chicago, this landmark performance continues to solidify the success of the franchise across the world. And how did they celebrate? With some fantastic marketing associations!


The Lion King has broken a lot of records. It all started with the original director, Julie Taymor, becoming the first woman to with the Best Direction of a Musical Tony Award. And since then there have been a multitude of new records set by this popular show with the majority of them being financial.

The Lion King was the first Broadway show to make a cumulative gross of $1 billion. This threshold has since also been passed by the Hamburg and North American touring company. The production was the highest-grossing show of 2013, a record which is near impossible to believe as the show has been running for 17 years. And The Lion King routinely takes out the weekly title of Highest Grossing Show.

To celebrate its enduring popularity, Rafiki appeared rather out of context this week at the New York Stock Exchange.

The Lion King was invited to ring the opening bell at this mecca of financial institutions to herald the impending milestone performance. At first, this appears rather odd. Why would The Lion King visit the New York Stock Exchange? The traders are probably not the target demographic for the show. They aren’t sponsored by the Stock Exchange. And they aren’t about to start performing down that end of town.

It all comes back to associations.

This The Lion King stunt was going to get great publicity due to its ambiguous nature. It is highly likely that Rafiki will never appear at the New York Stock Exchange again. And the combination of the two enduring institutions is just unexpected enough to make entertaining news.

But the major benefit for The Lion King comes from the association between the long-running show and the centre of New York money trading. For consumers, reading about Rafiki ringing the opening bell at the Stock Exchange provides a link between extraordinary wealth and the Disney production. It further cements Disney as the masters of entertainment (as profitability means much-loved entertainment) and justifies this success as a reason for new audiences to see the show.

Viewing a show as profitable and successful goes a long way into decreasing any potential barriers for these new audience members to engage. ‘If that many people have enjoyed the show and if that many people are willing to pay top dollar to experience this sensory overload then it must be a good production as everyone is seeing it.’ This perception goes a long way to break down any potential psychological barriers concerned with a lack of enjoyment and a lack of satisfaction.

But the most important factor? In addition to creating this perception, the show delivers the expected service. It is highly accessible. It appeals to people who have no desire to see a Broadway show. And it provides excellent value for money.

And that is the most important part.