Year of the Dog: Peanuts and Cedar Fair

Peanuts/Cedar Fair deal shows Snoopy is good for the brand, good for the park

The Peanuts brand has been going strong for decades on multiple platforms, including location based entertainment and theme parks. Featuring Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and of course the beloved characters Snoopy and his friend Woodstock, Peanuts has become a true evergreen classic in the comics, on television with their holiday specials, and in 2015, in feature films with The Peanuts Movie that enjoyed great box office success.

Photo at top: Peanuts characters in their Halloween costumes at Kings Island’s Great Pumpkin Fest event. Photo courtesy Cedar Fair Entertainment Company.

Therefore it was no surprise that Cedar Fair and Peanuts recently renewed an agreement of 30 years standing, extending the licensing agreement for their popular Camp Snoopy and Planet Snoopy themed areas as well as for the characters to serve as overall park mascots to 2025 at all 11 Cedar Fair parks.

The relationship with Cedar Fair has been extremely important to Peanuts Worldwide and their desire for consumers young and old to experience the brand in location based entertainment (LBE). Peanuts Worldwide continues to explore and discuss new opportunities with licensees around the world, and in November 2017, representatives will once again attend the IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando to meet with creatives and potential partners.

In light of the current, global appetite for IP (intellectual property) in theme parks and location based entertainment, four attributes emerge from a close look at the Peanuts/Cedar Fair agreement and the Peanuts IP. And they’re all good news for the attractions industry:

–As a family-friendly IP, Peanuts offers just about everything an attraction operator could wish for. Roz Nowicki, EVP, Peanuts Worldwide, said, “Peanuts is a true, four-quadrant, family brand and that is exactly what makes it such a great property for the LBE space. Parents and grandparents want to share Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the gang with the next generation in as many ways as they can, and being able to do that in such an immersive way, beyond the screens, is so important and special. Our partnership with Knott’s Berry Farm goes back 30 years, so we now see people who grew up with this experience wanting to share it with their kids.”

–The way Peanuts has been sustained on multiple entertainment platforms over the years – including theme parks and location based entertainment – perfectly illustrates the reigning business model: tied to a franchise with broad appeal, multi-platform, regular media releases, collaboration between IP holder and franchisee, unique and innovative retail products, and a feedback loop in which each iteration feeds the others.

–Peanuts takes the LBE market seriously and has dedicated people to identify opportunities that are well suited for the characters and then collaborate with licensees. In the LBE market, two of the main point persons are Craig Herman, Director, Category Management, Peanuts Worldwide; and consultant George Wade of Bay Laurel Advisors, who will both be taking meetings at IAAPA in Orlando. Said Roz Nowicki: “With the LBE sector, as with all of our product categories, we are looking for partners who really respect and appreciate this brand. But we also want partners who are thoughtful and innovative – who are interested in continuing the tradition of Peanuts for families today.”

–Longevity and curation – of the brand and of the relationships. Peanuts is a brand that over the course of 67 years has remained alive, strong and authentic.

Peanuts around the world

Another long-term theme park/Peanuts relationship is with Universal Studios Japan, in Osaka. The brand has strong worldwide appeal. Roz Nowicki said, “Peanuts has a huge global following – in some countries and territories, such as Japan, Italy, Germany and Brazil, the property has been in the market for generations and it really feels local in those territories. When Charles Schulz created Peanuts, he was drawing on true, universal human experiences and emotions and those are what made the comic strip so translatable and what makes the brand live on around the world today.”

In other words, Peanuts is an IP that’s hard to beat in terms of evergreen, broad applicability and versatility, and pure family appeal. It’s got international market penetration and enviable social media statistics and demographics. It’s shown itself to be a great fit in the LBE market and there is capacity as well as desire to expand internationally.

“This is a brand that appeals to men, women, and children, and is not gender specific,” said Herman. “It’s never been controversial and yet remains universally meaningful, taking on all kinds of life issues. That’s what makes it an evergreen brand that remains relevant to today’s audiences as well.”

Year of the dog

Peanuts is a multimedia success story. Said Roz Nowicki,In terms of content and experiences, we are always looking for new ways to get in front of kids and their families. We did that with The Peanuts Movie, from Twentieth Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios in 2015, as well as with The Peanuts by Schulz animated shorts that are currently on air on Boomerang and Cartoon Network and on networks around the world.”

The Peanuts Movie did well over $100 M in box office domestically, and was ranked 5th in box office for animated movies in 2015. The ABC network has rights to air the classic Peanuts television specials; last year was the 50th anniversary of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which continues to draw devoted viewership year after year.

“We also have a robust social media presence,” said Nowicki, “where we have some of the most highly engaged fans of any entertainment brand. In addition, we are partnering with the premiere lantern festival developer, DDM, headquartered in Canada, to present festivals around the globe. The first festivals are planned for China in 2018, celebrating Snoopy and the Chinese New Year – 2018 is ‘Year of the Dog.’”

“The cornerstone of this brand is publishing,” said Herman. “Peanuts began as a syndicated strip, then moved into books, then television specials and movies. For 30 years, Cedar Fair has helped transform that 2D comic strip into a 3D experience in its parks.”

Good for the brand, good for the park

A beloved brand and characters (with 67 years of wonderful stories and memories) has reached across multiple generations, from young children to grandparents to become a core part of Cedar Fair’s offering, helping to create wonderful memories for its guests.

The details of the Cedar Fair announcement in September 2017 were that Cedar Fair, L.P. and Peanuts Worldwide, a subsidiary controlled by DHX Media, Ltd., and the family of Charles M. Schulz had renewed the license agreement to showcase the iconic Peanuts characters, created by Charles Schulz, throughout Cedar Fair’s 11 amusement park locations. The agreement covers Cedar Fair’s North American exclusive use of Peanuts in the company’s attractions, entertainment and sports, food and beverage, lodging and retail operations. The new agreement extends the relationship to 2025. Cedar Fair announced the debut of an expanded Peanuts themed children’s area at Carowinds, its popular park in Charlotte, NC. The Camp Snoopy area will feature five new rides, an 8,000-square-foot,  climb-and-play area called ‘Beagle Scout Acres,’ and enhanced dining and relaxation facilities.

The Peanuts characters were first featured at Knott’s Berry Farm, acquired by Cedar Fair in 1997; in 2014, the Southern California park unveiled a newly expanded and revitalized Camp Snoopy children’s area in celebration of the 30-year relationship.

“One interesting thing about the relationship between Peanuts and Cedar Fair is that in addition to permanent attractions, Cedar Fair has always made use of Peanuts to extend the operating season, with seasonal events for Halloween, Christmas and other occasions,” said Herman. “Over time, their brand has grown as well as ours, and the continued partnership is important to our brand strategy and a perfect fit.”

Herman followed up saying, “Few brands have this kind of depth of range in the LBE space. Peanuts is popular with a wide variety of consumers; young children, their parents, millennials (especially in international markets) and of course grandparents who have fond memories of the characters and the original Charles Schulz comic strips. At the end of the day, the Cedar Fair/Peanuts partnership is a wonderful opportunity to bring together great characters and stories with great theme parks, creating great family memories.”

Cedar Fair and Peanuts – a win-win for both brands

Interview with Kelley Semmelroth, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Cedar Fair

What are some of the ways this extended partnership will manifest in merchandising at the parks?

We currently offer our guests a range of exclusive Peanuts items that tie the characters to the parks; for example, you’ll find apparel or plush featuring Snoopy with an iconic, blue ice cream cone at Kings Island or a boysenberry pie at Knott’s Berry Farm. We look forward to offering a wonderful assortment of unique Peanuts merchandise for our upcoming WinterFest holiday events; these will offer our guests something original, seasonal and truly special. Further, we plan to expand into more diverse items that can only be found at Cedar Fair parks. It’s a win-win for both brands.

This relationship goes back 30 years, making Cedar Fair a pioneer in IP usage at theme parks. How has your approach evolved over time?

This is especially relevant as we expand our park offerings to attract more young families. Cedar Fair parks and the Peanuts enjoy a unique position in amusement park IP primarily because of the timelessness of these beloved characters. It’s as relevant today as it was decades ago, and our park guests – from toddlers to teens, moms and grandparents – adore these characters. We’re confident in the long term relevance of this IP; in fact, our Planet Snoopy area at Kings Island has been recognized as “Best Kids’ Area in the World” for the 17th year by Amusement Today.

We’re always looking for new ways to maximize the IP. This year a number of Cedar Fair parks held “Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown” events as part of our “Run and Ride” series, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the popular movie. Guests would participate in a road race through the park, then enjoy a screening of the movie as well as the rides and attractions park-wide. We found this was a great way to maximizes brand synergies for both Cedar Fair and Peanuts.

How do the discussions happen at Cedar Fair around the implementation of Peanuts within the parks?

We have an integrated brand planning process. By this, we make decisions that not only build up each brand, but also are focused on shared business goals; some examples include increased merchandise sales, greater penetration of incremental target audiences, and delivering relevant and engaging experiences to promote guest satisfaction and brand health. We’re getting ready to launch our immersive holiday experience, WinterFest, at three additional parks this year and have worked with Peanuts to create some new original themed entertainment that our guests will love, both out on the midways and in our theaters.

What were some of the primary reasons for renewing this agreement?

We have great brand synergies, and these extend through our special park events like The Great Pumpkin Fest and WinterFest, which feature the Peanuts characters prominently. For Cedar Fair, having the relationship with Peanuts is a great benefit as we expand our park offerings to attract more young families; for example, we’re offering a free season pass – the Pre-K Pass – for children ages three to five. We found that the youngest child in the family could be a barrier to a park visit; our parks are well-known for roller coasters and thrills, and parents would often wait to visit until a child was tall enough to ride a lot of rides. So we need to not only remind families that we have these wonderful Planet Snoopy and Camp Snoopy areas in our parks, but also give them a way to make visits affordable. The Pre-K Pass will introduce these families to the fact that we truly have something for everyone in our parks.

Having the primary IP for all of our parks in place for years to come makes it easy for us to do long term planning from a concept, design and capital standpoint. We’ve made significant Peanuts-related capital investments in the past five years, and recently announced a major expansion and renovation of our Camp Snoopy themed area at Carowinds near Charlotte, N.C. When we make a significant capital investment in a park, it needs to stand the test of time for decades; we know that Peanuts will do that. In addition, having IP with appeal that spans such a wide range of ages helps us attract and retain guests to our parks and their retail and dining establishments.

We want our parks to be the place to be for fun, and this partnership is just another way we deliver on that promise.

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