“2020 gave us time to reflect, reset and invest”

Rainbow Productions’ md Simon Foulkes discusses the roadmap back to live events and experiences for the licensing business.

“As we move towards a less tier-ful future all of us within the live events and live experiences sectors have reason to radiate positivity,” writes Simon Foulkes, md of Rainbow Productions. “After almost a year, we will be able to turn around the sign on the door and put into reality all those months of planning and innovations. The stark reality of curbing social congregation for the likes of exhibition organisers, shopping centres and leisure operators is about to change.

Organisers of live experiences have spent time and resources adapting to the unique requirements of the pandemic. Here at Rainbow the creation of the Adapted Character Engagements and the Global Experiences (characters appearing within giant inflatable snow globes) meant that, when permissible, character appearances could still be managed safely with integrity.

Emerging, with trepidation from bubble bunkers, the post-pandemic landscape for immersive and interactive experiences will focus on building up visitors’ confidence and assuaging their fears. Social distancing, elbow bumping, mask-wearing and hand washing will continue as a matter of personal responsibility and choice.

Logistically, a fundamental change will be the way the audiences will need to register and book beforehand to attend venues and experiences. Some UK leisure attractions have been lambasted, pre-pandemic, for employing a zero walk-up ticketing process. However, as all experiences have had to adopt this policy during the pandemic, to control reduced capacity levels, it has become the new MO. In fact, many have experienced previously unimaginable benefits – hourly footfall levels have flattened out, queuing tensions have been eased and visitors have enjoyed less congestion. Incredibly, some smaller visitor attractions have actually seen increases in daily attendances as they have filled all posted attendance time-slots.

Rainbow Productions created Adapted Character Experiences so they could still be managed safely with integrity.
Rainbow Productions created Adapted Character Experiences so they could still be managed safely with integrity.

Location-based entertainment has enjoyed tremendous growth over the last decade or so with IP owners, operators and venues all benefiting from a positive symbiotic alignment. These powerful influencers perform a pincer movement on audiences with entertainment top of the agenda, F&B costs far lower and journey times practically irrelevant. The leisure industry, especially here in the UK, is all over ‘staycations’, tapping into the public’s concerns about overseas travel and their realisation of what we have on our doorsteps is actually phenomenal. Catchment areas have radically shifted in recent years – adverts to visit Peppa Pig World (just outside the New Forest) being seen north of Birmingham, such being the pull of this remarkable brand.

The coupling of venues to brands and vice versa continued to develop during 2020 and, although the venues themselves have largely remained closed, the wave of interest and investment for the future is towards physical entertainment that is closer to the audience’s homes. The benefit to the owner/operator is such that they are able to create a much more packaged, wider-appealing and cost-effective experience which encourages local repeat visits.

2020 vision has given all of us within the live events category time to reflect, reset and invest in putting the joy of congregating back in people’s lives and, most importantly, prepare for the Rainbow after the storm.”

This feature originally appeared in the spring 2021 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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