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Live Forever: How location-based experiences became the hot talking point

It’s the theme of this week’s Brand Licensing Europe and, quite possibly, the sector which everyone is talking about. LicensingSource.net takes a closer look at the location-based, experiential and live events space and its impact on the licensing business.

“I think immersive events play a hugely important role for any brand,” begins Brian Hook, chief creative officer at The Everywhere Group, the company behind Peaky Blinders: The Rise, the winner of Best Licensed Live Event at The Licensing Awards 2023. “They give the audience a chance to directly interact and fully immersive themselves in the shows and toys they love, creating brand loyalty and connections that can’t be attained any other way.

“You only need to look at the huge coverage of Peaky Blinders: The Rise or Doctor Who: Time Fracture receive to understand that it’s a formidable asset to brand owners and audiences.”

It’s hard not to be swept along with Brian’s enthusiasm, especially when location-based experiences and entertainment are now considered to be such a vital part of the make up of the industry, they are this year’s theme for Brand Licensing Europe.

LBE5

In Brian’s words, LBEs are “a cool way to tell a story”, and “the forward momentum of the sector is one of the most exciting things to think about”.

It’s certainly a busy time for The Everywhere Group. As well as Peaky Blinders and Doctor Who, its flagship show, Immersive Gatsby, continues to expand, while it has also recently revealed plans for Peppa Pig: Surprise Party, taking it into the preschool space.

The Snowman stage show is the longest running seasonal West End stage show.
The Snowman stage show is the longest running seasonal West End stage show.

It will also be working on an immersive adventure for The Snowman and The Snowdog this Christmas with Penguin Ventures, a brand owner who absolutely knows the worth of live experiences. Thomas Merrington, its creative director, live and experiential, believes the category has “endless” potential.

“The advances with technology bring limitless and open opportunities,” he says. “Things we haven’t even thought of are just around the corner. It’s an incredibly exciting and creative business to be in.”

Bing's Birthday has been a hit in the Netherlands and will begin touring Polish theatres from November.
Bing's Birthday has been a hit in the Netherlands and will begin touring Polish theatres from November.

For Acamar Films the category is seen as “extremely important”, Kirsty Southgate, director of experiential and promotions, tells LSB. The company’s activity in the space ranges from pop-up shopping experiences, a six-week event programme at Chester Zoo and a theme park presence, through to its Bing’s Birthday stage production which has enjoyed success in the Netherlands and is expanding to Poland.

“In the preschool space, there is a big untapped opportunity for live and experiential,” says Kirsty. “There is a renewed focus on early-years development, as we’ve seen in the work of the Royal Foundation, but this hasn’t yet been fully explored across experiential, where the priority is often 7 years and above. This is such a missed opportunity as the under 5s is a crucial demographic within which there is a broad scope of activities that can be built upon to cater for each developmental stage.”

She furthers: “I think we’ll see opportunities emerge in areas for new parents and their young children, such as sensory play centres, custom experiences and venues specifically created to support the needs and interests of young children and their families. There is a lot of potential and we’re seeing new concepts come to the market every year. I don’t see that innovation drying up in any way.”

Fierylight has been Peppa Pig's live licensee for almost 15 years.
Fierylight has been Peppa Pig's live licensee for almost 15 years.

Fierylight’s executive producer, Martin Ronan, is also an advocate for LBEs for the preschool demographic. The company has worked with Roald Dahl’s The BFG, SpongeBob SquarePants, Teletubbies and Octonauts, and has been the live licensee for Peppa Pig for almost 15 years It launches its latest show – Peppa Pig’s Fun Day Out – in October to coincide with the 20th anniversary in 2024.

“Going back 10-15 years it was very much a case of trying to persuade licensors of the value of live and LBE, but the landscape has changed and now it’s more common for licensors to actively look at both live and LBE as part of the overall licensing strategy,” says Martin. “I think there are multiple benefits for the brand. Not only is it an opportunity for consumers to connect directly with the brand, but there is a halo effect with other licensees seeing the benefit of the show being in town. With preschool, it’s also really important for building brand loyalty as the parent/child shared experience of live/LBE has a major impact on strengthening that loyalty to the brand.”

Meanwhile, TEG’s Brian is keen for everyone to give LBE a whirl: “I think anyone reading this who is thinking about how it can work for their brands, I’d urge them to put some proper time and resources into exploring it as an avenue. Anyone who hasn’t given it a whirl yet, get stuck in and catch an immersive production.” And you can’t argue with enthusiasm like that.

LBEMonopoly500x500

Do pass go

Award-winning immersive attraction Monopoly Lifesized is the subject of a not-to-be-missed keynote at this year’s BLE (Wednesday 4 October), presented by David Hutchinson, founder and ceo of LBE specialist The Path Entertainment, and Hasbro’s vice president of LBE, Matt Proulx.

“Location-based entertainment is growing faster than other areas of the live entertainment sector,” comments David. “So many great IP owners are now looking to utilise their brands in this way. Over the past few years we’ve seen studios and IP owners tooling up to put more emphasis on location-based entertainment. Initially, when trying to get licences, we might have been flung around different departments, but now IP owners have dedicated, really amazing people who concentrate on LBE; it’s a priority for them.”

In addition to Monopoly Lifesized, The Path Entertainment has also been running an escape room experience based on Saw, in partnership with Lionsgate, while in December it is launching The Paddington Experience at London’s County Hall (with Lionsgate, The Copyrights Group and StudioCanal).

This feature originally appeared in the autumn 2023 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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