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19 Jan 2018 Attractions Management Handbook

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Attractions Management Handbook - Developing IP Experiences

Morisetti Associates

Developing IP Experiences

There are many IP success stories as attractions incorporate popular brands in a variety of ways. But there’s plenty to consider before taking the plunge. Lesley Morisetti presents her exclusive research

Lesley Morisetti , Morisetti Associates
Stars of the Harry Potter films tour Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida
Bond in Motion is currently showing at London Film Museum

The recent success of intellectual property (IP)-led developments like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort has encouraged more IP owners to consider bringing their characters to life within visitor attractions.

To understand this trend better I researched the development of IP experiences at attractions, with IP defined as “knowledge, creative ideas, or expressions of the human mind that have a commercial value and are protectable under copyright, trademark, design rights and patent law.” Examples include brand names, registered designs, and works of an artistic, literary or musical nature.

Visitor attractions typically benefit from existing knowledge and awareness of the IP (and, in the case of Harry Potter, a vast global fan base). But what about the IPs – is it all about the money? Many IP owners are looking at attractions as a potential new income stream (particularly as core areas such as DVD sales decline). But typically income from attractions is only a small proportion of an IP’s total turnover and so it’s definitely not all about the money. For example, when Walt Disney developed the Disneyland theme parks it was to ensure (very successfully) the longevity of his mainly film-based IPs. Brands like Lego and Warner Brothers have followed the Disney route, creating whole attractions based on their IPs, but the majority of attractions simply add-on an IP branded experience to their offering.

1. Temporary events: entry level commitment can involve costumed characters appearing for short periods of time. This is a low-cost option which tests characters against the attraction’s audience with limited risk if the IP turns out not to be popular. The character Peppa Pig ‘visited’ Paultons Park, UK, in 2008. The IP proved highly popular and aligned with the park brand, so Peppa Pig World opened at the park in 2011. Temporary exhibitions can associate attractions with popular IPs for relatively low investment and can shift perceptions, as at Britain’s Beaulieu National Motor Museum where a James Bond-themed event (Bond in Motion) retained the motor connection crucial for the brand while widening the appeal of Beaulieu beyond car enthusiasts.

2. IP branded rides/experiences: the incremental costs of branding a single ride or experience within an attraction can vary from a simple ride-naming exercise to creating highly immersive, IP-branded experiences. The IP adds an extra ‘incentive to visit’ and/or supports the re-positioning of the attraction. Well-chosen IPs can boost the emotional connection with the visitor, taking the pressure off expensive ride hardware and supporting attendance growth.

3. IP lands within attractions: recreating the environment to truly immerse the visitor in the world of the IP can be beneficial, but investment is higher, with £6-9m (US$9-14m, €8-13m) quoted for developments in the UK such as CBeebies at Alton Towers, Thomas Land at Drayton Manor Park, and over US$400m (£259m, €366m) for Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando. Other examples include the perennially popular Asian IP Hello Kitty, with Hello Kitty Town at Puteri Harbour in Malaysia, Hello Kitty’s Secret Garden at Drusillas Park, and the Hello Kitty IP land in Indonesia’s Ancol Dreamland which opened this Spring.

Returns on these investments can be substantial, particularly for mid-scale attractions where the addition of an IP land can dramatically shift attendance and income. But the risks are also greater and the impact of choosing an inappropriate IP or failing to meet the expectations of the IP’s fans can be highly detrimental.

1. Have clear objectives. Extend the offer to attract new audiences, like young families (e.g. CBeebies Land at Alton Towers or SésamoAventura at PortAventura), or shift the attraction’s image. Have a clear view of the type of development (temporary or permanent) and investment level.

2. Identify best IPs to achieve these objectives. Proactively look for best-fit IPs that will survive long enough to warrant the investment. The higher the investment, the more reassurance required that the IP will endure. Critically, ensure both parties’ ambitions are aligned. If you want to brand a small children’s ride, but the IP wants the equivalent of the Wizarding World, then find a better fit. Select an IP that can be successfully translated into an attraction, such that it satisfies its fans.

3. Allow time to build strong relationships with the IP owner negotiating the agreement and the IP creative team overseeing the project. Simple temporary events can take up to six months, while major developments can take 2-3 years.

4. Inspire and enthuse the IP team. An incremental source of revenue is important to them, but protecting the reputation of the IP, and hence their core income streams, will always be their main concern. Provide reassurance that you will respect and protect the IP and can bring it to life in a way film or television cannot.

5. Ensure negotiations for licence agreements are based on solid business planning. IP owners are rarely aware of the realities of attraction economics. Enter negotiations with a good estimate of the incremental impact of adding the IP in revenue and cost terms to ensure you negotiate a fair agreement that’s mutually beneficial. Look over the full term of the agreement, as following the launch year the impact often diminishes. The term should be sufficient to pay-back on investment, e.g. a 10-year period with options to renew. IP owners are more used to negotiating 2-3 year licence agreements, so ‘education’ is required.

6. Be clear about your ongoing needs. Specify what support you require, such as exclusivity within a region or sector and commitment for the term.

These agreements have two components:

• A fixed upfront fee to guarantee exclusivity for the development period and fund the IP’s costs for supporting it.

• An annual share of the incremental revenue or profit for the term of the agreement. A fixed fee helps attractions to plan and avoids complications determining what growth is specific to the addition of the IP. Or if it’s a percentage of incremental revenue, the IP owner needs a guaranteed fixed amount, normally about 50 per cent of the expected total.

Individual licencing agreements vary considerably. To generalise, the annual cost can range from 4 to 10 per cent of incremental admissions revenue and 8 to 10 per cent of IP-branded merchandise income. You’ll also incur costs relating to time spent liaising with the IP team and possibly higher investment costs relating to the addition of the IP.

The impact of IP development varies considerably but the majority of attractions I reviewed experienced volume growth. For most, increases in admission price related more to the scale of the development than the involvement of the IP. Hence the main driver of income growth was higher attendances, with IP-related merchandise sales a strong secondary benefit. The greatest impact was often at mid-scale attractions adding an IP land, with examples of attendance growth of 30 to 100 per cent. On a larger scale, Wizarding World grew attendance at Universal’s Islands of Adventure by over 70 per cent in its first two years.

But it’s not all about money. The emotional connection that a visitor has with an IP experience can be far greater than for other attraction experiences – a considerable benefit for both the attraction and the IP owner.



For the past three years the National Media Museum in Bradford, UK, has run temporary IP-branded events. IP partners have included Moshi Monsters, Horrible Histories and Horrid Henry. Entry to the events is free, with any charges for activities aimed at just covering costs.

The museum aims to boost visitor numbers and to use the IPs to increase engagement with its collection.

Potential IP partners have to have a close fit with the collection – TV, film or game-related IPs fit best – and appeal strongly to the museum’s audience.

Critically, the IP has to feel the association with the museum brand and its audience is worth the agreement as the museum is not in a position to pay licence fees for the events. The fact that the event is temporary and the museum is free helps with this.

• Including IPs in the advertising posters increases cut through (up to 80 per cent recall compared to 25 to 30 per cent for generic posters)
• Events have grown in attendance an estimated 20 to 30 per cent
• Events have helped broaden the area from which visitors travel and increased the number of first time visitors
• Income through IP-branded merchandise sales


Moshi Monsters have proved a popular draw

About the author:
Lesley Morisetti launched Morisetti Associates in 2010 to work with visitor attractions and experience providers, building on 30 years of international operational and consultancy experience.


Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2015 issue 1

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