VIZ Media and Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) rode the rails together with a new promotional program designed to simultaneously promote the San Francisco-based publishing, licensing and animation company and the public transit system to the area’s kids.
With the Kids Ride Free Saturdays, VIZ, which counts Zatch Bell! and Naruto among the series it currently has on air in the U.S., picked up the BART tab for Saturday-morning riders under 12 for the month of August. Children accessed the Kids Ride Free pass via an internet print out, at BART stations or through participating Safeway grocery stores.
Each Saturday in August also featured a complementary promotion touting kid-friendly activities to get them riding BART and increasing exposure for VIZ. The roster included a free day at the California Academy of Science, and discounted tickets to the Oakland Athletics and Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, where a free manga and anime kidspack went to the first 10,000 children through the gates.
A similar Kids Ride Free program in the ’80′s went dormant and was resurrected with a trial run in 2003. This year, however, the BART marketing team began approaching prospective partners to create a more robust program. Luckily VIZ senior VP of marketing Liza Coppola saw an opportunity. Her experience with promos involving manga comic books on the transit systems in Japan tipped her off to States-side possibilities.
‘You can buy the comic books for a dollar and take them on the train with you in Japan,’ Coppola says. ‘We thought it would be a great idea to bring that concept to the U.S.’
With both parties on track, the plan moved forward with a tight timeline to produce promo materials, which included printing images of VIZ properties on the backs of the tickets.
According to Doug Bartlett, senior marketing representative for BART, the underwriting of the tickets themselves rings in at somewhere in the neighborhood of US$22,000 and promoting the program itself costs between US$100,000 and US$250,000. He estimates parents who take advantage of the program can save between US$10 and US$15 per child depending on what route they ride.
Barlett says the early response to this year’s program, which generated substantial media buzz with Safeway locations reportedly running out of passes, guarantees BART will try it again. The marketing team will begin canvassing potential partners early next year.
In the future, Bartlett hopes to secure three months lead time on the promos to deal with logistical concerns and properly publicize the program. Owing to this year’s success, Bartlett stresses companies that market children’s properties are definitely in his promo cross-hairs. Additionally, it’s a great way to build future ridership for BART.