Established 90 years ago, San Francisco Ballet was the first ballet company in the United States to produce a full-length production of Nutcracker in 1944. 

Now a beloved holiday classic, San Francisco Ballet is seeking to expand their reach to new audiences and turned to Bay Area based full-service advertising agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners (BSSP) as their new marketing agency.

Nutcracker is San Francisco’s Ballet holiday blockbuster production, so BSSP reimagined the marketing for this production as similar to the marketing for a movie blockbuster. BSSP created a cinematic approach throughout the campaign that would help the community to rediscover Nutcracker as the must-see blockbuster event of the season: a tale that stands the test of time worth jaw-dropping, blockbuster treatment.

San Francisco Ballet – Nutcracker Trailer

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The new campaign also combines art with science to recreate a modern image for Nutcracker and applied AI-technology from technology platform Midjourney. The imagery features a recreation of a unique, whimsical, and dreamlike world with the characters of Nutcracker designed to capture the imagination of a new audience. For those that have seen the performance in the past, the new advertising will invite them to rediscover the fantasy, drama, intrigue, and excitement of the music and dance.

Innovators both on and off-stage, San Francisco Ballet is the first performing arts organisation and ballet company in the world to tap into AI in their marketing and advertising outreach. AI allows the company to create a wondrous realism of its characters and settings, looping its visitors into the Nutcracker’s world even before they enter the theatre.

The campaign leans into this cinematic approach by premiering a :15 movie-style trailer, A Gift Unlocks a New World that will be shown in theatres across the Bay Area. The trailer evokes that of a holiday blockbuster, celebrating the drama and grandeur of Nutcracker. The multi-channel campaign is supported by a robust digital plan including takeovers across Rotten Tomatoes and Fandango, social, streaming audio, and OOH in the San Francisco metro area.

This is the first campaign from BSSP and San Francisco Ballet as the ballet company ushers in a new marketing vision, welcomes new leadership, and commences their 90th season. I’ve attached images of the AI work and included quotes and credits below.

Sinan Dagli, Executive Creative Director at BSSP: “BSSP has been experimenting with Midjourney behind the scenes and decided it was the ideal way to develop a whimsical reimagination to showcase Nutcracker that would be surprising, delightful, and hopefully engaging to new audiences. After going through thousands of prompts and images, we could define each character from the performance, Clara, The Mouse King, and The Nutcracker Army, alongside the different settings, like the Conservatory of Flowers. In the end, AI gave us the ability to invite visitors back to see the beloved production through a different lens. 

Kim Lundgren, Chief Marketing and Brand Officer at San Francisco Ballet: “SF Ballet has always drawn inspiration from the Bay Area’s inherent spirit of innovation and progressiveness, back to 1944 when the company introduced the first full-length Nutcracker to the US. With this new campaign, we’re excited to evolve things yet again. When BSSP pitched the idea, we thought pairing AI-generated art with live performing art was the perfect way to add an unexpected twist to a holiday classic. The campaign’s convergence of technology and creativity is right for this moment, for the Bay Area, and for all audiences, whether you’re a long-time fan or someone experiencing the joy of ballet for the first time.”