Although Thomas doesn’t look a day over 25, HIT Entertainment’s perennial preschool property is turning 60 this year. And to help ramp up for this big birthday, the company is about to embark on its biggest U.S.-focused marketing campaign ever.
Fans of Thomas & Friends can enter a ‘Take the Train to the Train’ on-line sweepstakes to win four Amtrak tickets to attend a ‘Day Out With Thomas 2005: The Celebration Tour’ event. Held throughout the year at 40 heritage railroads across the U.S., each day-long tour stop gives kids a chance to ride on a Thomas replica train, meet the show’s conductor Sir Topham Hatt and send a card to congratulate the tank engine.
In return for sponsoring the promotion, Amtrak is sure to benefit from broadcast exposure in 15-second sponsorship spots bookending 13 episodes of Thomas & Friends that started airing on PBS Kids in early March. HIT will also give props to Amtrak in each Thomas DVD and video released in 2005, including the brand’s first full-length feature, Calling All Engines, which is set for a fall debut. Each package will include a flyer advertising a special 50% fare for kids, and the Amtrak logo will appear in all of HIT’s print ads related to the release of the vid.
On the toy side of things, HIT has signed up new licensee Lego to produce exclusive Thomas & Friends building sets that tie into the anniversary celebration. Existing merch partners are also getting in on the birthday action later this summer, with Learning Curve producing a green Henry wooden engine (SRP US$19.99), TOMY kicking in a steam engine set (SRP US$39.99), and Random House publishing a special three-book series.
To give the promotional effort some extra push in the consumer market, HIT will toot Thomas’s horn via mom-targeted print ads in commercial parenting magazines, television ads on terrestrial and cable outlets and a special 60th anniversary seal on all of its product packaging throughout 2005. There will be in-store displays to point shoppers in the direction of the exclusive anniversary merch. And finally, HIT will join forces with the American Library Association to distribute anniversary-themed posters and bookmarks through libraries across the country. All tolled, the celebration campaign should generate more than 50 million gross impressions this year.