Special Report: Top Brands Go Live
Jun 01, 2016
By Erica Garber
Entertainment companies are expanding their brands and giving classic franchises new life through live experiences.
With entertainment brands such as "Maya the Bee," "Star Trek," Ghostbusters and more consistently expanding beyond TV and film to categories like apparel, toys, homewares and publishing, entertainment companies have increasingly focused energy on reaching and connecting with fans in a new way: via live experiences.
Not only do live experiences enable fans to interact in real life with the brands they love, but live events also allow companies to market and retail licensed merchandise to a dedicated audience.
Taking the Stage
Branded live shows and musicals have been around for decades, however there has been a recent surge of live shows surrounding popular preschool and children's brands such as "Peppa Pig" and "Paw Patrol," among others. As these shows continue to be popular with fans, the tours have even been adding additional locations and dates to meet ticket demand.
Nickelodeon has been in the game of live experiences for years, giving both classic franchises (such as "SpongeBob SquarePants") and new properties extended life. In April, the company teamed with VStar Entertainment Group to create preschool series "Paw Patrol's" first-ever live stage show, "Paw Patrol Live!: Race to the Rescue." The show will debut in October and will visit more than 90 cities across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
And Nickelodeon doesn't stop there. The company, in partnership with Life Like Touring, has continually added new show dates for "Dora's Pirate Adventure," based on its "Dora the Explorer" franchise, in countries throughout the world such as South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and more.
However, Nickelodeon isn't alone in the live experience category, particularly in international markets.
In January, "Peppa Pig's Big Splash," based on Entertainment One's preschool property "Peppa Pig," kicked off the first part of its U.S. tour and, as of January, have already sold 150,000 tickets, with multiple sell-outs across the country and with additional tour dates to be announced.
Other top companies are also working to create new live shows for their properties, both in the U.S. and internationally.
FremantleMedia partnered with Haven Holiday Parks to launch a 30-minute show based on the animated series "Tree Fu Tom," which will run through August at 34 Haven Holiday Park locations in the U.K.
Aardman Animation also partnered with Haven Holiday Parks to launch a 34-date tour between May and July for the first "Shaun the Sheep" puppet show. SGA Productions, which will produce the show, is also creating an interactive "Shaun the Sheep" live experience at the Haven Holiday Park in Yorkshire, England.
Meanwhile, Silvergate Media partnered with Red Light Management and Fiery Light in April to launch the "Octonauts" first-ever stage show in the U.S. "The Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure" will visit 60 cities across the country, as well as offer meet-and-greet ticket packages, furthering extending the brand's relationship with its fans.
Beyond preschool and children's properties, actor Channing Tatum is proving that non-animated films can also benefit from live experiences.
In May, Tatum partnered with the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nev., to launch a live show based on the film franchise Magic Mike, which is set to hit the stage next year.
More Than Meets the Eye
Stage shows aren't the only live experiences that companies have utilized to bring their properties to the next level. Other attractions, such as museum exhibits, traveling exhibitions, cruises, family centers and more have also increased in recent years, providing permanent and limited time events for fans.
One of the most well known novelty museums, Madame Tussauds, has partnered with Sony Pictures, Ghost Corps and The Void to create an immersive, virtual reality experience in New York City based on Sony's new Ghostbusters movie. In addition to the traditional wax figures Madame Tussauds is famous for, the experience will combine technology, authentic props, costumes, a vehicle, gadgets and exclusive content to bring the classic property to life.
Meanwhile, Madame Tussauds also partnered with Rovio Entertainment to develop, produce and digitally bring Angry Birds to life at its London location, which debuted ahead of the new film's theatrical release, May 13, in the U.K.
Another U.K. museum, Sea Life London Aquarium, will feature BBC Earth's natural history series "Frozen Planet" in the permanent attraction "Frozen Planet: Face to Face," allowing fans to step into the television series in a fully immersive experience that utilizes scent, sound and visual effects.
Moving away from museums, companies have looked to expand their brands in Europe with permanent attractions at family centers and playgrounds.
In Europe, Studio 100 International teamed with grocery retailer Lidl to create "Maya the Bee"-inspired playgrounds in Slovakia. The two companies plan to open 10 themed playgrounds this year, with more projected to open next year.
Additionally, Viacom International Media Networks tapped leisure park operator Parques Reunidos to bring Nickelodeon Family entertainment centers to the European region next year. The entertainment centers will offer interactive activities, an adventure zone, character meet-and-greets and Nickelodeon-themed rooms for parties. The space also goes beyond live experiences with a dedicated food and beverage area and a Nickelodeon retail space.
Looking to China, other companies have started to expand their brands into the activity centers space. For example, Paws, Inc., the licensor of the iconic fat cat Garfield, tapped MCM Group to develop a series of Garfield-themed children's education and activity centers in China, each boasting approximately 2,000- to 3,000-square-meters of space that features a range of entertainment experiences.
However, less permanent live experiences have also proven popular for top brands. For example, NASCAR partnered with Entertainment Cruise Productions to create the first NASCAR-themed cruise, complete with NASCAR celebrities, virtual racing simulators, pit crew challenges, autograph opportunities, Q&A sessions and more.
In January, CBS Consumer Products and Paramount Pictures teamed with CineConcerts to develop "Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage," a North American concert tour. The production features a live symphony orchestra playing the franchise's biggest hits against a backdrop of "Star Trek" TV and film footage.
Last December, Universal Partnerships and Licensing teamed with Imagine Exhibitions to create a global touring exhibit–"Jurassic World: The Exhibition" based on the hit film. The touring live experience allows fans to connect with life-size animatronic dinosaurs and more.
As new experiences continue to emerge for these top brands, live shows, family centers, museum exhibits, cruises and more will only continue to expand brands to new places within fans' hearts.