TCM’s November 26 press release cited the partnership as a way to “broaden its reach in family entertainment with joint efforts centered on classic film.” This collaboration makes sense; The Great Movie Ride connects so closely to TCM’s mission statement. The pact also benefits Disney by giving it a chance to showcase past content in the “Treasures From the Disney Vault” nights on TCM. It’s a brilliant move that goes well beyond the typical sponsorships that we’ve seen in the Disney parks. This experiential marketing allows visitors to experience the world of classic films that’s framed as part of the TCM experience. While the updates for the spring will only involve the pre-show and finale, there’s a potential for future changes that could make The Great Movie Ride a popular attraction once again. Beyond this partnership, it also signals a possible route for Disney to use successfully in other areas.
There will be plenty of activity in Disney’s theme parks in 2015. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is receiving a major overhaul and beginning construction of the Avatar section. The Magic Kingdom is still drawing large crowds and completed its New Fantasyland last year. It’s only a matter of time before announcements come about a Star Wars project in the Hollywood Studios. The notable exception is Epcot’s Future World, which feels strangely removed from the rumors. A possible reason for the lack of upgrades is the challenge in getting sponsors for the pavilions. The original attractions each had a sponsor that footed much of the cost of their construction. For example, the Universe of Energy was sponsored by ExxonMobil until 2004. It’s remained without a sponsor for the past 10 years and has become very dated. It’s unlikely that Disney will spend the money for an update without a corporate backer.
The Universe of Energy is a perfect opportunity for a new partnership to join Disney and revitalize the fledgling attraction. An update would also benefit Disney by drawing larger crowds to Epcot. A smart company trying to grow its renewable energy business could benefit from collaborating with Disney. This partnership could also provide a PR boost by making Disney seem more socially responsible. The current show still cites the importance of fossil fuels and includes pop-culture references from 1996. Like The Great Movie Ride, the Universe of Energy needs a clearly framed message. Connecting with a sponsor that focuses on solar, wind, or other forms of renewable energy might change the game. Instead of just putting the sponsor’s name on the ride and accepting their checks, Disney would improve its marketing game and find a forward-thinking partner.
A key factor with any new sponsor is whether it is popular with visitors. For a certain type of movie fan of any age, TCM is cool. Whom they connect with says a lot about Disney and where it's heading. Another Future World example is the Wonders of Life pavilion, which is only used at a meeting space for special events. Once MetLife’s sponsorship ended in 2001, Wonders of Life began the slow march towards its ultimate end six years later. It’s possible there isn’t enough interest to sell a pavilion devoted to health, but that seems unlikely given the frequent attention focused on the topic. A large website like WedMD might offer the right fit for a health pavilion. Disney could also get ahead of the curve and form a partnership with companies pushing the new frontiers of medical technology. Looking beyond Epcot, there’s potential in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom to improve that tired land. Forward-thinking sponsors like Apple, Google, or private companies looking at space exploration could successfully partner with Disney. The challenge with Future World and Tomorrowland is keeping up with the times, but there are ways around this obstacle with the right partner on board.
TCM’s sponsorship of The Great Movie Ride is so obvious in hindsight, yet the attraction was open more than two decades before it happened. The dwindling success of advertising in traditional mediums such as TV is forcing companies to get creative. There’s an incentive for them to recognize the value in communicating to the large quantity of people that visit Disney’s parks. A behemoth like Disney should employ more out-of-the-box thinking and move beyond traditional partners like HP and Siemens. There’s potential for both parties to gain from a sponsorship, and the biggest winners could be theme park fans. It could enhance the experience and ensure that Disney’s attractions stay relevant to the next generation.Tweet
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