How Disney Has Built Audience Excitement for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens


Did you hear the news about a certain intergalactic drama opening in theaters this weekend?

Seriously, Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens is most certainly guaranteed to be a massive hit, thanks to Disney’s strategy for building audience excitement and engagement. With a series of trailers staggered over the last year, and through many other inventive marketing efforts, Disney has elevated an already popular brand further into the cultural zeitgeist. When tickets went on sale recently, eager fans crashed apps and websites in a rush to buy tickets, a phenomenon we usually associate with elite rock bands.

How did Disney build audience excitement for the Star Wars brand, and how can event planners learn from this approach? Here’s a look at Disney’s strategy:

 Disney stays true to the Star Wars brand. Longevity with a brand means constantly changing, yet remaining the same. It may seem to be a contradiction, but a big part of the audience excitement about The Force Awakens is that Director J.J. Abrams is bringing back the same characters we loved from the first Star Wars movies. At the same time, we see a new group of young actors bringing freshness to the films.

  • Takeaway for Event Planners: it’s important to make participants remember why they repeatedly attend your show; so stay true to your event brand by blending signature elements with new trends.

Disney expands beyond the reach of the movie. When Disney bought Lucasfilm, including the Star Wars franchise, for $4 billion in 2012, the company was already looking beyond the elements of the existing brand. To bolster the excitement of the upcoming movie, Disney announced new Star Wars themed attractions for Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios and Disneyland parks. Even after the movies leave the box office, these attractions will bring an enduring brand presence.

  • Takeaway for Event Planners: event planning doesn’t end when your show wraps. It’s important to continue strong attendee engagement efforts throughout the year so that your event is never far from their minds.

Disney has impeccable timing. It’s no accident that Disney has generated – and will continue to generate – enormous hype for the three upcoming films in the third Star Wars trilogy. Great timing matters:

  • The third trailer for The Force Awakens was released during halftime of Monday Night Football, which has been cable’s most-watched series for nine years in a row.
  • Star Wars attractions at both Disney World and Disneyland are scheduled to open in late 2018. Not only will they capture heightened holiday traffic, but the launch times are key for another reason: the openings fall squarely between the eighth and ninth movie premieres for the third trilogy.
  • Takeaway for Event Planners: timing can make an event more attractive. For example, the Radiology Society of North America Annual Meeting takes place in Chicago right after Thanksgiving, aka the beginning of the holiday shopping season – near the world-famous shopping mecca, the Magnificent Mile.

The buzz surrounding the release of Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens has been spurred by the enduring nature of the brand. But Disney has created unprecedented levels of excitement by using a few tricks to stimulate interest – even for generations that didn’t grow up with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. There’s a lot event planners can learn from these strategies to increase show attendance and boost event revenue.

For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing


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