Article by Nick Varney, Chief Executive Officer at Merlin Entertainments
Intellectual property (‘IP’) partnerships and development have reshaped the entertainment sector in the last ten years, and the market is increasingly split into the haves and the have-nots.
We’ve recently made two exciting announcements – the launch of The Bear Grylls Adventure and our partnership with Entertainment One to develop Peppa Pig attractions, demonstrating that Merlin is at the forefront when it comes to attracting some of the world’s most recognised brands. And IP development and partnerships are top of mind for our peers too, which is why it was a key component of my address to industry managers and owners at this year’s International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo in Florida.
Well-known brands such as Peppa Pig, Bear Grylls and LEGO have a devoted following, with an emotional connection, long-built credibility and existing recognition. IP partnerships are crucial to theme park operators gaining and retaining customers who want to immerse themselves and really experience their favourite brands. They also allow IP owners to enter the market more easily than they could by going it alone, by appealing to existing audiences. Similarly for IP brands, partnering with experienced operators such as Merlin can help overcome the challenges of bringing a brand to life within location-based entertainment which would be exceptionally difficult and prohibitively expensive to recreate on a stand-alone basis.
Take, for example, our partnership with Bear Grylls. Research we conducted in the UK showed that nine out of ten UK adults are seeking adventure-type experiences; a really immersive, adrenalin-pumping thrill that is a stark contrast from our screen-driven lives. As the ultimate adventurer, millions of consumers worldwide know the Bear Grylls brand, and we will be working with Bear and his team to bring this quest for personal challenge and achievement to a unique venue - The Bear Grylls Adventure - within reach of everybody.
And of course these partnerships are advantageous to consumers. It wouldn’t be possible for them to enjoy the world of the Gruffalo at Chessington World of Adventures or admire the Millennium Falcon close up at LEGOLAND without the technical and commercial expertise of the operators and the creative IP of brands, working hand in hand. They are about providing consumers with extraordinary experiences inside the worlds they already know and love. Immersing yourself into The Walking Dead mazes at Thorpe Park, or Ninjago World at our LEGOLAND attractions, or CBeebies Land at Alton Towers, wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
IP is without question the defining and driving force in modern entertainment and the race for the best and most enduring IP is on. For Merlin, these partnerships help us extend our reach into new markets, further diversify our portfolio and have incredible potential for future development. Strong IP is core to what we do and will continue to be so into the future.