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Background
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Background

West Coast Swing Dance is an improvised partner dance that is often created to unplanned music.   People typically partake in social dancing (dancing with random or chosen partners to DJ'ed music over time) or test their improvisation ability in a competitive format called "Jack & Jills" - a judged competition that matches dancers with random partners and random music. The competition aspect is regulated by the World Swing Dance Council (WSDC) that oversees a network of over 120 national and international events, of which Wild Wild Westie is a member event.  As of 2019, we are one of the top 10 largest events in this network.

 

Wild Wild Westie, LLC is a privately owned weekend dance event that comprises of workshops and competitions in Dallas Texas over the first weekend of July.  The event has grown from 100+ participants in 2012 to 1000+ in 8 years.  This growth is due in part by insights from quantitative demographic analysis and implementing strategies from insights from feedback and interviews conducted over the course of 2016-2019. 

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Research
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The Question

in 2016, we came found that we had high participation numbers from Texas dancers, but we wanted to draw dancers to travel from other parts of the country.  How do we increase participation from parts of the country that we do not currently draw from?

UXR Goal:

Evaluate why people choose to attend an event

Strategize actions to increase attendance from locations outside Texas

Role:

UX Researcher and Strategist

Managing Partner for Creative Programs

Timeline: 

3 weeks every annual cycle - Program and evaluation has run through three cycles (2017-2019)

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The Research Journey

Demographic Analysis:

For all attendees, we have registration data -  includes location information such as address and zip code.  Using this information, we were able to use Google Maps (formerly Google Fusion Tables) to run a simple demographic analysis to see where most of our attendees came from in 2016.

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Using Tableau Desktop Public, we were able to visualize a density map to see that we primarily drew from the midwest and CA (specifically southern CA) outside of Texas. 

Persona Creation

Insights through Feedback Surveys and Structured Interviews:

 

1) People tend to travel together from a location to dance events - especially if you were relatively new to traveling to a dance event. 

2) People who highly value competition will travel, even alone - so other people from the same location is less important.  

 

Personas help us understand the types of participants that came to the event - and to strategize on how to implement the best way of providing incentive to travel: 

User Personas

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The Competitor - This persona can actually be split into two - the semi-professional who teaches and makes money traveling and the competitor that takes dancing seriously and will travel to an event alone.  For our purposes, we treated these two personas as one. 

Motivation: to advance through skill dance skill levels. Competitive Pricing is key motivator. 

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The Traveling Social Dancer - This persona encompasses a social dancer that will at times compete, but mainly travels with friends for the social aspect of the dance. This person most often travels in a group. 

Motivator: Dance is a social activity and is spent with friends - where his friends go will motivate him to also attend. 

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The Local Social Dancer - This persona is a social dancer that does not travel to events far away, but will attend local dance events.  They are often newer dancers, but not always - Some are veteran dancers that are not accustomed to the more recent rise of many events in the US, but attend their local large event every year. 

Motivation: She is curious about what dance events are but requires the support of her friends to travel.  Cost is also a motivator since events have not been in the budget before. 

Personas are helpful for understanding how to strategically motivate event attendance

Interim Insight:

The Competitor comprise a small percentage of the Dance Community, and WSDC which regulates our event provides a skill-based point incentive program that is earned through winning and placing in Jack & Jill Competitions.  Since there is already a strong incentive program here, we wanted to turn our focus on the traveling social dancer and the local social dancer (which comprise the majority of attendees). 

For The Traveling Social Dancer, we had implemented a Table Program, where individuals may purchase an entire table around the ballroom floor which resulted in 8 discounted registrations (see diagram). These tables were generally location based with a number (60%) reserved for groups from outside Texas. This provided 1) a way for individuals from each location to attend the event with friends, 2) an individual that was responsible for gathering other people from there locale, 3) was less of a financial risk since tables were purchased early and paid for in full. 

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Through feedback and information where individuals that purchased tables were from, I found:

1) 8 registrations per table put a limit on incentivized attendance. 

2) Locations where tables purchased represented a location where there was a substantial population of active dancers. 

3) Loyalty to dance community location was high among dancers that traveled with other dancers from the same location. 

We wanted a strategy to target the Local Social Dancer

Solution: A melding of programs:

In 2016, we held a unique program in which participants could dance until the very end (which was usually the next morning) and earned a uniquely designed coffee mug as part of a "Breakfast Club".  At the time, this was a fun idea designed to promote social dancing and also as a non-competitive dance goal. The first year (2016) was privately sponsored by a friend of the event, but we didn't have a plan to continue the program given the high cost. 

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We found the solution of addressing the needs of the local social dancer demographic by combining this program with a version of our table program. 

Combining two programs:

In 2017, we started the "Dance All Night Mug" Sponsored Program.  For our first pilot year, we paired with a sister event in Minnesota: Swingesota Summer Spectacular, to see whether we could increase attendance from the Minneapolis - St. Paul region. This partnership served multiple purposes:

1) The sponsorship program would split the cost of the mugs between our event and the sponsoring event.  This alleviated the financial cost of the mugs. 

 

2) Our main evening program would be themed with the sponsoring event - which creates a collaboration that also appeals to the local community of the sponsoring event.  

 

3) The sponsoring program was committed to also marketing heavily in their local community and would be able to reach a number of people we don't usually have access to - specifically targeting the Local Social Dancer.

4) Sponsorship would only last 1 year - creating a scarcity and urgency  (this particular mug design is available for one weekend at this particular event). 

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Interim Outcome: 2017

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2016

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2017

We increased the number of attendees from the Minneapolis region by 300%  

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In choosing our 2018 partner,

we located regions of the country where there is a substantial and active WCS community (shown by the number of WSDC events in the area) by the density of Wild Wild Westie 2017 attendance.  Swingtacular: The Galactic Open was the best candidate. 

2017 Wild Wild Westie attendance density map. 

white circles are WSDC events

See how the evening went! ... and subscribe to our youtube channel while you're at it! 

Insights and Outcomes

Insights and Outcomes

We found that targeting collaboration from events located in areas of the country were we did not have a significant attendance generated two important outcomes:

1) Predictably, substantially increased participation from the state in which the sponsoring event is located.

2) Importantly, attendance stayed at consistent levels or each increased (in the case of Northern California) even in following years after the sponsorship year contributing to our overall 30% growth year after year. 

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Mugs Designed in collaboration with Nicole Zwerlein, Graphic Artist. 

Ongoing Research...

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We continue to assess the visibility and impact of the "Dance All Night Mug" program 

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Due to Covid-19, we produced a special virtual event in 2020.  In 2021, we have a planned collaboration with Liberty Swing Dance Champions, located in New Jersey.   As with previous collaboration sponsor decisions, Liberty is a large event in an area of the country that has an active dance community (note the number of WSDC dance events in the area vs the number of dancers that attend Wild Wild Westie, see diagram box below).   

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2019 Wild Wild Westie attendance density map.  white circles are WSDC events in 2019

Visualize our attendance growth from 2013 -2019!

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