Medieval Times

The clash of broadswords, the charge of opposing warhorses and the cheers from the royal court have drawn more than 60 million visitors to Medieval Times since 1983. But even as the company keeps its entertainment firmly rooted in the combat of 11th century Spain, it is relying on some 21st-century forms of communication to interact with fans.

When Medieval Times began emerging from the recession it saw an opportunity to embrace new forms of media and social networking for marketing. The company started its experiment with a small Facebook page and soon realized that was where people learned about the show and fans advocated on behalf of the product. Through social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine and Pinterest, Medieval Times regularly posts giveaways, deals and behind-the-scenes glimpses into its knight training or how its kitchen prepares meals for 1,000-member audiences. 

“Those platforms have allowed us great communication, but more in a personal and relevant way,” says Celeste Lanuza, senior vice president of marketing and sales. The company’s Facebook page boasts more than a million likes and its Twitter page invites its followers to “Tweet with the 11th century.” “We were very traditional in our advertising in the past,” Lanuza explains. “Now branching out and reaching the consumer on their terms and how they receive information has been really great for us.”

Social media also offers the ability to experiment in marketing. Medieval Time’s Facebook and Twitter pages are littered with fan photos and short-term discount offers. Lanuza says it tracks each of those posts to determine what resonates with guests. The lightning pace of the Internet means that when an idea fails, it fails fast and it allows Medieval Times to quickly move on.

Recession Recovery

When the Great Recession struck in the late 2000s, entertainment was one of the first things to go in many budgets. Like other attractions across the country, Medieval Times had to adjust, but did so without the large staffing reductions that hit many companies. Medieval Times altered its strategy and the key, Ralphs says, was adjusting the show schedules. It cut the number of performances at each of its locations and avoided the large revenue shortfalls that affected much of the entertainment industry. “Through the recession, one of the things we were proud of is we didn’t need to go through deep cuts or layoffs,” Ralphs says.

The economy has bounced back in recent years, and Medieval Times has been building back up alongside the recovery. Over the past three years, the company has added 600 performances between all nine castles. “Our best approach was to give guests the opportunity to see shows when they wanted to,” Ralphs explains. 

Supplier relationships have played an important role in supporting those expanded schedules. “Given our aggressive growth over the past three years, it’s been important for us to maintain strong partnerships with our vendors,” Ralphs says. The company has had success in building longtime relationships with vendors such as Pepsi and beverage container maker Sippers By Design. “One of the things that Medieval Times has always valued is the loyalty to and from the partnerships that we have,” Ralphs adds.

That loyalty extends to each castle’s community, as well. A few years ago, Medieval Times began the Chivalry In Action Program as a way to engage employees and locations with charitable works in its markets. The program is about more than providing complimentary tickets to nonprofit groups; it’s a means to bring team members into each community to do good deeds and provide an example to children. Through Chivalry in Action, Medieval Times has partnered with organizations such as Make-A-Wish and Susan G. Komen.

Next Generation

The company remains open to expanding to new markets but for now is investing in its existing locations. “We are always looking,” Ralphs says of the prospect of new castles. “We have decided over the last two to three years in particular to focus more on our internal well-being.” 

The company completed consolidation of its corporate headquarters to Irving, Texas, in 2012, about 14 miles from its Dallas location, and brought all of its executives under one roof. Lanuza says the move resulted in faster and more efficient decision-making.

The consolidation also has helped Medieval Times adjust following the retirements of several longtime senior executives. “We’ve attracted some very good young talent, and we also embrace promoting from within,” Ralphs says.

Having reliable employees is important for a business like Medieval Times. Promoting its own workers is a key way the company has cultivated the internal talent it needs. “In many ways, it’s a very simple, predictable business,” Ralphs says. “But it’s a challenging job to run these castles.” 

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