Malling The Teen Scene

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

Mall of America is looking for sponsors to fund a teen center in the Bloomington, MN, mega-mall. Management is talking with Pepsi-Cola and is expected to court others interested in kids – Sony Corp. and Reebok International, for two – to sponsor weekend activities for local kids and occasional leadership seminars that would draw teens from around the country.

The center, slated to open in early 2000, will be run by a nonprofit such as the YMCA or Big Brothers/Big Sisters. The center may include an inline skating rink, basketball courts, study pods, computer and chat areas, and a TV/music video production studio. Teens will pay a nominal entry fee.

Pepsi seems like a good bet for a sponsor because the local bottler has had a long relationship with Mall of America, and Pepsi corporate is working with Mall of America parent Simon DeBartolo Group to market to teens in Simon’s 241 malls. Sponsors could use the center for events, sampling, and research.

Still, it’s primarily “an image-building, altruistic opportunity” rather than an aggressive marketing venture, says director of marketing Wendy Williams.

The center is expected to draw 5,000 or so kids on Friday and Saturday nights – about the same size crowd that gathers in the mall’s East Rotunda on weekend nights. A handful of troublemakers in that crowd prompted mall management to create a parental escort program in 1996, requiring kids under 16 be accompanied by an adult on weekend nights. The mall also hired “Mighty Moms” from local neighborhoods to patrol the mall.

The center is “an offshoot of the escort program,” Williams says. “We want to build a place that teens feel is their own place to come on Friday and Saturday nights.”


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