Brand Licensing Europe: On Theme

Alex Sanson, senior brand manager, Magic Light Pictures, gives her point-of-view of what she’s expecting at Brand Licensing Europe and explains how a theme can amplify your licensed program.

License Global

September 29, 2023

4 Min Read
Alex Sanson, Magic Light Pictures
Alex SansonMagic Light Pictures

When I discovered this year’s Brand Licensing Europe focus was location-based entertainment, I thought, This is Magic Light’s year.” Location-based experiences have been a core part of our brand development for years, and part of the joy of them is that we can create multiple touchpoints for different kinds of consumers in other parts of the country. There’s something for everyone, whether reading the book, watching the film, playing with our amazing licensed toys or following in Mouse’s footsteps through the deep dark wood. It’s really important that our brand development is accessible from a price point perspective and geographically. So whether you’re looking for a bells-and-whistles day out, or a peaceful forest walk with the family, there’s something for you.

According to a survey conducted across 2,000 U.K. parents earlier this year, “The Gruffalo” is very likely to be a child’s first book, and as such, holds a special place in families’ hearts. Watching our animated adaptations at Christmas is another moment when we know people come together and connect with the brand in a way that is cherished by many.

Our program of location-based experiences is another way we can give consumers special memories of family time together. Whenever we plan a new location-based experience or partnership, we always approach it from a values-first perspective – does this partnership line up with “The Gruffalo” brand values of adventure, imagination and creativity, and does it give parents and carers an opportunity to teach their children to explore the world with confidence and curiosity?

Our self-led trails with Forestry England (of which there are about 25 per year) are designed to be facilitated by parents and caregivers to the delight of children. The free trails are accessible to as many people as possible. They are especially attractive to families who might not usually consider a trip to the forest for a day out. An important part of the partnership is to encourage a new demographic to appreciate our beautiful British woodlands.

In 2017, Magic Light Pictures launched our first theme park attraction with Merlin Entertainments – “The Gruffalo” River Ride Adventure, at Chessington World of Adventures Resort. We designed the ride from the perspective of Mouse, who goes on his adventure through the deep, dark woods. As riders drop down into the lazy river ride, they seem to shrink down as the set scales up around them. Children experience the deep, dark wood as Mouse, whom they follow on his courageous journey – something they had previously only held in their imagination. We then added a new attraction at Chessington – Room on the Broom, A Magical Journey. Both attractions also have a themed retail space and fully immersive hotel bedrooms.

In 2021, we launched “Zog at Warwick Castle” – starting with a self-led trail built into a fully themed adventure playground, Zog Playland. Now, there is a bespoke Live Show and Zog Stay and Play overnight offering, too. It has positioned “Zog” as a strong brand in its own right, backed up by extremely strong sales of Zog merchandise.

This year, we launched our fourth attraction with Merlin Entertainments – “The Gruffalo and Friends Clubhouse” in Blackpool. It’s our first solo-ticketed attraction and features not just the creature with terrible claws but also “Room on the Broom,” “Zog,” “The Snail and the Whale” and “The Highway Rat,” helping to establish “The Gruffalo and Friends” as a wider brand bringing together the Donaldson and Scheffler properties we work with.

The immersive indoor space sits on the seafront, directly underneath the SeaLife Centre. The project is part of the regeneration of the local area and is supported by the local council. It has created about 40 jobs and is a new preschool offering for the local community to enjoy throughout the year, not to mention a new way for children to connect with this book-based brand and hopefully inspire them to read more and explore the world with confidence.

When I joined Magic Light in 2013, establishing “The Gruffalo” as a brand was our primary aim. The move and evolution into location-based partnerships and events have accelerated brand awareness and enabled us to establish “The Gruffalo” as an evergreen property. I advise anyone embarking on the same journey to ensure each event stays true to your brand. We like to think that even though our events are varied, they all come back to those cherished moments.

Watch: Alex Sanson chats with License Global about the upcoming anniversary of "The Gruffalo."

This article was taken from the September/October 2023 issue of License Global.

About the Author(s)

License Global

License Global is the leading news source for the brand licensing industry, delivering award-winning editorial content including news, trends, analysis, and special reports about the global consumer product and retail marketplace.

Through its print edition, website, daily e-newsletter and event publications, License Global reaches more than 150,000 executives and professionals in all major markets. The magazine also serves as the official publication for the sector’s trade events, which include Licensing Expo, Brand Licensing Europe, Licensing Expo Japan, Licensing Expo Shanghai and the Licensing Leadership Summit.

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