Fuelled by a cash injection from private equity and investment firm Beringea, L.A.’s PorchLight Entertainment is strapping in for an ambitious new marketing campaign. And the flightplan calls for the company to start off by tapping into Jay Jay the Jet Plane’s intrinsic aviation and science themes to hook up with non-traditional promotional partners.
The U.S. has a long history of supporting and celebrating its aeronautic achievements, and that’s certainly one reason why airshows continue to draw such a strong audience of families with kids. On average, smaller shows bring in up to 30,000 people, while their larger counterparts have been known to attract crowds of 200,000. And it was this promise of steady, significant exposure that prompted PorchLight to link its property
to a 32-stop traveling aviation show that Baker Leisure Group subsidiary Fun Events Company tours across the Eastern part of the U.S. each summer.
Fun Events picked up a license from PorchLight to offer a Jay Jay pavilion as part of its attraction, representing the first time the tour operator has featured a licensed kids property. The company has put up most of the cash needed to build and run a 17-minute live Jay Jay stage show featuring various characters from the CGI TV series, as well as a play area with bounce houses, activity stations for painting and drawing, and a merchandise giftshop.
PorchLight COO Bill Baumann says the airshow’s stage performance and multimedia presentation represents a ‘substantial investment’ for Fun Events, so for the company to maximize its ROI, he expects the show will head to the Western states in 2006.
Sticking to the skies for his next promo maneuver, Jay Jay will migrate from airshows to airports in the first half of next year. With most airlines now requiring earlier check-ins following 9/11, families are spending more time waiting in airports these days – time PorchLight would like them to pass with its classic property. The company has teamed up with Englewood, Colorado’s Playtime Creations (which is behind roughly 80% of all shopping center play centers in the U.S.) to produce soft-sculpted kiddie attractions based on Jay Jay. Strategically, the move comes at a good time since many U.S. airports happen to be in reconstruction mode right now and have funds set aside for upgrades and improvements.
‘We’re hearing from airports that it’s cheaper to spend money on a kids play area than worry about them running around their facilities,’ says Playtime president Mike Evans. Although this is the first time the company has applied a license to its airport work, Playtime has a track record of manufacturing generic play areas for this client subset, including a climbable toy for Tampa International. ‘Most existing play areas in airports have just home-use Little Tikes products that don’t hold up in a commercial environment,’ says Evans.
Measuring between 700 and 800 square feet, the Jay Jay structures Playtime is working on include large climbable planes and cost in the neighborhood of US$100,000 to produce. Evans admits it’s been somewhat challenging to sell the idea to airport managment executives; some airports have even started off expecting PorchLight to pay them because the play centers will deliver increased exposure for Jay Jay. But Evans argues that if airports are willing to shell out for generic kids activity attractions, a well-recognized licensed property like Jay Jay would help them offer this demo a much more meaningful experience. The play area concept was presented to airports early this May, and Playtime expects to secure some real estate before the end of the summer for installation in the first half of 2006.
Evans reckons that once 10 or 20 airports have signed up, corporate sponsors will start looking at the initiative as an effective way to promote their own brands with families in transit. And the two companies have already started talking to potential advertisers about a wide range of opportunities. For example, company logos could be sculpted into the structures, graphics could be imbedded into the flooring around the perimeter, detailed carpet prints might include company names, and a new theme could even be blended into the play environment (i.e. if an automotive partner signed up, the structure could include cars as well as planes).
With its aviation interests off the ground, PorchLight is charting a new course that will take Jay Jay into North American science centers and children’s museums in late 2006 or early 2007. As a first step, the company has handed over the script treatments for the upcoming fifth season of the show to the Orlando Science Center, which is working with design partner iTech to create a life-sized Tarrytown exhibit. The learning and play area will be built to travel, and the plan is to tour it throughout the U.S. and Canada over the next five to 10 years. The OSC is primarily on the hook to fund the development and construction of the Jay Jay exhibit and pay a license fee to PorchLight for the right to use the Jay Jay characters. For its part, PorchLight will contribute intellectual property rights, artwork and other design elements.
A member of the Association of Science and Technology centers, the Orlando Science Center will manage all on-the-road logistics, and it’s the first time the center has taken a proprietary role in a touring show. Dr. Brian Tonner, the Center’s director, says he’s currently interested in looking at other children’s brands that have a strong presence in television, publishing and toys, as well as clear educational objectives that would translate well into an exhibit.