Universal steps up promotion of a unifying brand for its theme parks
February 21, 2017, 10:17 PM ·
Universal's theme parks dropped a new ad campaign today. Okay, that normally would not be terribly significant news, except that the new campaign brands "Universal Parks & Resorts" in Hollywood & Orlando, rather than the separate "Universal Orlando Resort" and "Universal Studios Hollywood," as the company has publicized consistently in the past. The campaign includes the launch of a new UniversalParks.com website.
This marks Universal's most public attempt to date to create a unifying brand for its theme park business. Of course, Universal's relatively new to the game of actually owning the theme parks that carry its brand. Before 2011, Universal jointly owned its Orlando resort with Blackstone Group, and Universal owner Comcast bought majority control of USJ Co. — the owner of Universal Studios Japan — in 2015. Prior to those moves, Universal actually had full ownership only of its original, Hollywood property, which was the fourth most-visited of the Universal-branded theme parks, following Universal Studios Japan and the two Universal Orlando parks.
The fifth Universal-branded theme park, Universal Studios Singapore, is owned and operated by Resorts World Sentosa, under license from NBCUniversal. Its attendance lags the other Universal theme parks, drawing 4.2 million visitors in 2015, compared with the 13.9 to 7.1 million annual visitors at Universal's other parks, according to the most recent TEA/AECOM Theme Index attendance report.
Here's the new commercial, by the way:
Notice the heavy shade thrown toward Disney's princess franchise toward the end there. While Universal might just now be working to establish a unifying brand for its theme parks, it's long honed a specific, unifying identity for them, and this commercial reinforces that message — that Universal is the place for people who looking for something a little more thrilling, a little more challenging, and well, a little less earnest than Disney's shiny, happy, princess lands.
(Now, whether Universal consistently delivers that kind of experience, and whether Disney's parks really are that simplistic, both are subjects for other debates that will keep all of us eagerly engaged in a never-ending Disney vs. Universal flame war. But that's the message that Universal is going for here, IMHO.)
The Walt Disney Company's theme parks years ago adopted a common "Disney Parks" branding for its properties, going so far as to scrap park- or even resort-specific branding on paper cups, plates, and plastic souvenir bags in favor of the "Disney Parks" brand. Many fans hated that move and continue to long for more park- and resort-specific branding, so we'll see if Universal begins to emulate Disney on its in-park branding as well as its national ad campaigns.