Damian Bazadona: Converting Passion Into Success
Some entrepreneurs start with a product they think will wow the world, but Damian Bazadona's entrepreneurship journey was inspired by his passion for live entertainment. Bazadona, founder and president of the Situation Group, a conglomerate of experiential digital marketing and advertising companies, started his business in 2001 because of his belief that the power of Broadway, live sports, and arts and education could be enhanced by the growing field of digital marketing.
“When people come together at a live event it's like avocado for the soul," Bazadona said. "I decided to base my business on that idea that people coming together for live entertainment is nourishing."
After more than two decades, Bazadona's firm has grown to represent brands as diverse as the Metropolitan Opera, Meals on Wheels and Major League Soccer.
Bazadona recently joined City National Bank's EVP of Entertainment Banking, JaHan Wang, for a conversation about his passion for live entertainment and technology, and how he combined those interests into a thriving digital marketing firm.
Core Values and the X Factor
When Bazadona started his firm as a solo entrepreneur, digital marketing was in its earliest growth phase. While others told him to also offer traditional marketing and advertising services, he maintained a digital focus. He started by marketing Broadway shows, which continue to be an important part of his business today.
“It was challenging at first because I had to learn about Broadway, about technology and about how to run a business all at once," Bazadona said. “But I had a deep natural interest in all three and that made it easier to go all in."
Within four years, he had a staff of 50 employees and established the core values of his company: passion, innovation, collaboration and commitment. They also maintained their digital focus, a decision that would turn out to be prescient.
“The world changed to where we are instead of us having to change," Bazadona said.
For organizations and companies to set themselves apart, they need an “X Factor," Bazadona said.
“You need a consistent set of values throughout the company and at every touchpoint," he said.
Organizations need to have clarity around their mission and understand what differentiates them, then figure out whether they can maintain that clarity as they scale.
Bringing the Arts to the Underserved
In 2011, Bazadona started the Situation Project, a nonprofit that supports access to entertainment activities for students in underserved communities. The organization fills the gap between the nearly 2 million Broadway seats that are unused every year and the shrinking or non-existent arts education budgets in underserved schools, Bazadona said.
The Situation Project fundraises to buy tickets to Broadway shows and other performances at significantly reduced prices and provide them to students who otherwise would not get a chance to see live entertainment. The project also provides career development and other arts investments in those communities.
Focusing on the Audience
Bazadona and his team use data and technology to help productions build long-term relationships with audiences. He asserted that this process creates significant value through audiences who are more willing to pay for an experience that they feel connected to.
“Tickets are expensive, so people need to value the experience," Bazadona said.
For example, blockbuster shows such as Elton John's Farewell Tour and Taylor Swift's Eras Tour have brought in huge crowds this year despite their high cost, which Bazadona attributes to the long-term relationship those performers have developed with their fans.
He said the success of these shows are a great example of the potential that building long-term relationships with audiences has for Broadway.
“On Broadway we talk about 'gross potential' – how much someone is willing to pay for a seat," Bazadona said. “If Taylor Swift decided to do a Broadway show, the gross potential would be beyond anything we've ever seen."
Using Technology and Collaboration for Growth
Bazadona is enthusiastic about the role of technology, especially AI, and its potential for making positive change. His company has relied on AI for years for behind-the-scenes decisions about the media they buy and which ads work.
He anticipates more discussion about AI, data privacy and augmented reality in the future, especially around transparency of data.
“The winners are those with an open-source mindset," he said. “People and companies who are nimble and willing to accept other ideas and other people at the table will be successful."
Bazadona's company hosts thought leadership events that include their clients, their partners and their competition for open discussions about technology and other topics. That's an important part of his mindset: to be willing to collaborate and grow in community with others.
You can catch the rest of the conversation between Damian Bazadona and JaHan Wang by listening to the full podcast above. Discover more about our Broadway Banking team by visitng here.
This article is for general information and education only. It is provided as a courtesy to the clients and friends of City National Bank (City National). City National does not warrant that it is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed and estimates or projections given are those of the authors or persons quoted as of the date of the article with no obligation to update or notify of inaccuracy or change. This article may not be reproduced, distributed or further published by any person without the written consent of City National. Please cite source when quoting.
This podcast is for general information and education only. It is provided as a courtesy to the clients and friends of City National Bank (City National). City National does not warrant that it is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed and estimates given are those of the speakers as of the date of the podcast with no obligation to update or notify of inaccuracy or change. This podcast may not be reproduced or distributed by any person without the written consent of City National. Please cite source when quoting.