The Pop-up Good Times Cafe by Sunday Times drives more subscriptions.
The Pop-up Good Times Cafe by Sunday Times drives more subscriptions.

The Sunday Times, since its inception 109 years ago, still remains South Africa’s biggest-selling weekend newspaper. It has established itself as an icon in South African culture: the newspaper that is part of a regular weekend ritual, the newspaper for the people. 

It draws a loyal subscription base of engaged readers who value the commentaries and opinions that make it an insightful and staple read. The Times, the daily tabloid format sister title to the Sunday Times, was only launched in 2007, but has fast grown to become the country’s biggest-selling English daily.

The Sunday Times prides itself on setting the news agenda for the country on the back of award-winning investigative journalism. In an evolving democracy, there is a growing imperative for South Africans to remain reliably informed. Therefore, opportunities to increase the exposure of the Sunday Times and The Times brands to an audience of traditional and non-traditional readers alike, and grow the subscription base, are understandably essential.

The Rand Show is the largest exhibition event on the African continent. It draws a visitor attendance of nearly 250,000 people during an 11-day period during South Africa’s peak Easter-holiday season. It presents a demographic very closely aligned with the current reader profile of the Sunday Times, and an audience that would easily find synergies with the brand. 

The Good Times Café, a pop-up coffee shop at the Rand Show, was therefore conceived by Times Media to showcase its flagship titles. 

With the volume of foot traffic, and the sheer scale of the Rand Show, the Café offered visitors a welcome respite from the hustle-and-bustle of the crowds. Partnering with a major international coffee brand Segafredo was natural to the Sunday Times ethos of delivering exceptional quality.

Visitors were welcomed to the Café with a complementary coffee on arrival — recreating the enjoyable Sunday morning experience which is synonymous with the title, to bring readers closer. The Good Times Café gave South Africans more reasons to covet a Sunday Times subscription. 

The Café space was also designed to invite engagement and conversation between the public and the Sunday Times editorial team. Forging personal synergies with readers to retain their loyalty is essential, and nothing is more personal than relaxing on a couch with a great cup of coffee and a chat with one of the respected editors. 

The Café simultaneously delivered a point of interaction with Times Media’s subscription sales teams. Offers to encourage subscriptions were supported with give-aways of coffee hampers to all new or renewing subscribers.

So, what did the Café deliver in terms of driving new subscriptions? 

Well, the standard conversion rate on subscription-drives generally varies between 1% percent to 2.5%. The effectiveness of the Good Times Café at the Rand Show exceeded all expectations, obtaining a 5% conversion at the event. It has been the single most successful subscription driver ever initiated by the Sunday Times brand. 

The key to success rests on identifying the right event within a target demographic, and then really knowing the touches that would captivate an audience. Adding the personal approach by bringing editors closer to readers, and partnering with a lifestyle product for amplification, were masterstrokes.