Britt Allcroft believes that brand marketers seeking association with quality children’s entertainment will want to hitch a ride aboard Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.
The producer and marketer of the popular PBS Shining Time Station series, as well as Fox’s The Magic Adventures of Mumfie, has begun to seek and develop promotional opportunities with brand marketers through its licensees. With two hit children’s series, the company has reached a point where it is able to support these types of opportunities, according to Kathy Lloyd-Williams, head of marketing at Britt Allcroft.
Since Shining Time Station airs on public television, the majority of promotional opportunities Britt Allcroft hopes to develop will be off-air public relations-type campaigns that will bolster the image and awareness of the show, its sponsors and its licensees and their promotional partners.
The company is seeking strategic partners who are genuinely interested in children’s related issues. That’s central to the spirit of the company, which believes that a commercial union should be a joint commitment for a common goal providing timeless entertainment and wide appeal. ‘We are interested in working with brands that have similar philosophies to ourselves and that have an impact with our target audience,’ Lloyd-Williams says.
Lloyd-Williams heads a five-person marketing department. She recently brought in a new senior licensing manager (Roger Martin, formerly of Warner Bros.). She has also developed a new market research position in order to provide supportive information at all levels, from retailers to consumers. ‘As we look at how best to grow the brand, we believe that providing information is key to our success in the future,’ she says.
The company believes that as its brands grow and its philosophy is better understood, brand marketer association with Britt Allcroft will be sought after because that association will indicate value in and of itself.
All of which means that Britt Allcroft isn’t going to plunge into every promotional opportunity offered its way. For them, less may be more. ‘I don’t know if you’ll see a lot of activity from us in this area on an ongoing basis,’ she says. ‘I think what you’ll see are carefully chosen activities. We like to walk quietly with a big stick.’
Two examples of early activity in this area involve AMTRAK, which underwrites the Shining Time Station prime-time specials, and General Mills. Last year, it teamed with AMTRAK to cross-promote AMTRAK’s summer children’s fares. Shining Time Station rogue character Schemer made live appearances and met kids and their parents at selected AMTRAK stations on the East Coast. This is an ongoing partnership. This past President’s Day, Thomas made an appearance at Chicago’s Union Station to kick off AMTRAK’s 1996 family vacation promotion.
Currently, Anchor Bay Entertainment, Britt Allcroft’s home video licensee, has partnered with General Mills’s Yoplait Yogurt to nationally cross-promote the new home video, Thomas & His Friends Help Out. The promotion, running through June, offers a $4 mail-in rebate with the purchase of one of the videos and two Yoplait Custard Style Yogurt six-packs. Anchor Bay is supporting the promotion with a substantial print buy and an on-pack promotional band. Yoplait will provide exposure on special Thomas six-packs featuring a puzzle and game on each package.
‘Our company is pretty well known for its innovative approach to doing things,’ Lloyd-Williams says. ‘This is very much a marketing-driven company. We would tailor any activity and push the line with every attempt to be unique. Our strategy is to find the right solution, but it’s not a systematic solution. We think we have very exciting products and we are seeking to grow agency and corporate alliances to cross-promote our brands in the future. We look forward to working with those companies that parallel our vision.’