MGM Taps into Growing Location-Based Experience Market

Robert Marick, executive vice president, global consumer products and experiences, MGM, talks to License Global about the increasing growth and popularity of location-based entertainment (LBE).
License Global

March 31, 2022

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MGM

License Global: As the pandemic recedes, what changes do you see in the LBE space?  

Robert Marick: There have been so many changes in every aspect of our lives. There's pent-up demand for consumers to get out of the house, but with certain limitations regarding what they can and can't do.   

One of the things I'm seeing is licensing lower capital expenditure (CapEx) attractions. So, a lot more drive-through experiences, pop-ups, immersive art and an increase in competition.  

The is also more use of indoor and outdoor space and acceleration in technology. Many attractions have become entirely touchless in all transactions. I think these are many good things that you see because of COVID, but I believe these are here to stay for a while. Keeping people safe and comfortable is going to be essential.  

LG: How is LBE important for consumer engagement?   

RM: We live in an experience economy; the definition and how the media experience is evolving. My job at MGM is to deepen audience connections

across multiple consumer touchpoints, and there are three buckets in which MGM can interact with consumers.  

Number one is all about viewing our content; that's how we engage our consumers. The second touchpoint is products: so, home entertainment, digital download, publishing, interactive games. The third is what I call 'living the experience.' That's where location and live entertainment come along. If you look at this as a 360 circle, we're hoping the consumer views the content and likes it enough they want to keep it. And once they've kept it, they want to live it, and hopefully, their living experience will drive to more viewing. I think that is very much in keeping with our approach to the experience economy.  

We're seeing that immersive social media pop-ups are what consumers are looking for. We know that because we see how millennials spend their time and resources. A recent study says that three out of four millennials spend more money on experiences than physical goods, and they're also spending 50% more. This leads to our job, and my job as a brand steward is to provide those experiences.  

LG: What is MGM's approach to opening new licensing opportunities through LBE?  

RM: If you imagine a pyramid, and in that pyramid, you've got these layers. The simplest executions are at the bottom, like a traveling exhibition or live entertainment. Then it progressively gets a little bit more complicated or more complex, with attractions or retail and restaurants. Then, ultimately, at the very top is an integrated resort or themed land, for example.  

Two years ago, we were top-down, looking for those big partners for integrated resorts, themed land, then narrowing it down to indoor entertainment centers, retail, and finally, the touring exhibition.  

We're now looking from the bottom up. Now I look for opportunities starting in live events – our upcoming Rocky concert series or our Rocky Run, for example – and moving to larger, more interactive attractions. So, our interactive travel apps, then getting into retail and dining, and eventually, back into the ultimate brand. But I think it will take three to five years to build into that.  

LG: Where do you see the future of the global LBE marketplace going?   

RM: My job is looking at everything from a global perspective, and so where my strategy two years ago was: think global, act locally; now, it's more about executing local and expanding globally. Markets such as Asia and the GCC continue to have the most robust opportunities. However, COVID has changed that approach, both on CapEx and product backlog. While I'm going to continue to look for opportunities in Asia and GCC, we know that consumers are spending more time domestically, so – certainly for my brands – with MGM being such an Americana brand, we are focused on North America, testing them out and then rolling out into other markets.   

We're also seeing developers and operators seeing a backlog of opportunities and scaling back in CapEx. We're trying to balance all that.  

We'll continue to look at Asia and GCC because I think markets such as Japan, Korea and KSA are all ripe for these opportunities.  

LG: What are some of MGM's latest or most successful LBE experiences?   

RM: Our Rocky Run continues to be one of our most successful outdoor live events, and it's in its eighth year. It takes place in Philadelphia, and we have upwards of 14,000 people show up to live and breathe anything "Rocky," whether dressing up in their favorite costume or rooting on their friend in the 5K, 10-mile or Italian Stallion half marathon.  

Because of the pandemic, we introduced that into a virtual world where you participate virtually. Rather than travel to Philadelphia, you could participate in the Rocky Challenge in 100 markets around the country. 

Another area I love is our focus on our film concert series. Watching your favorite film, but with a 48-piece orchestra. We've announced both a Rocky show and a Legally Blonde concert, with more in the coming weeks. The third area is quite innovative, and a byproduct of the pandemic is phone apps acting as tour guides. We have a partnership with a company called Bounce, which created Rocky East Philadelphia, a travel app that takes you to places in Philadelphia where the Rocky films were shot. Using your phone app, you visit those locations. We show you behind-the-scenes photographs, share stories, introduce you to restaurants and other experiences along the route that either took place in the films or were inspirations to the film and cast.  

We're taking that idea to expand our Pink Panther property as well. 

Finally, we are doubling down on indoor entertainment centers and looking to create MGM studios behind-the-scenes tours using green screens, photo ops, and interactive technology so that you can experience the magic behind movie-making. You can go into your favorite films and TV shows.  

We have a lot more opportunities, but I think those are some that I'm most excited about. 

 

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