Playdium partial to partnerships: Sees joint marketing as cornerstone of firm’s strategy

For the second year running, place-based amusement company Playdium Entertainment has signed a deal with Molstar Sport & Entertainment to host the kick-off event for the Molson Indy in Toronto. Throughout the week leading up to the annual July race, Playdium...

For the second year running, place-based amusement company Playdium Entertainment has signed a deal with Molstar Sport & Entertainment to host the kick-off event for the Molson Indy in Toronto.

Throughout the week leading up to the annual July race, Playdium and Molstar will stage a range of activities, including holding races on a mini-race circuit called the Mario Andretti Racetrack.

The deal is par for the course for Playdium, which, since opening its first centre in Mississauga, Ont. in September 1996, has aggressively fashioned partnerships with a long list of like-minded brands, entertainment concepts and activities.

Scott Allison, Playdium vice-president of sales and marketing, describes partnering as one of the cornerstones of the firm’s marketing plans, adding it gives marketers the opportunity to extend their brands and take advantage of the synergies of working together.

‘Wherever you’ve got an established relationship with customers or a particular demographic group and you can help another company leverage that relationship, you’re adding value beyond what a dollar of traditional advertising will buy,’ says Allison.

‘It allows each company to trade off the other’s brand recognition and awareness.You’re able to take one plus one and get three – and that, for all companies, is a critical point of difference.’

Other companies Playdium has worked with include Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Coca-Cola, the Toronto Blue Jays, hmw and Famous Players.

Allison says that simply co-branding or having a logo mention doesn’t really add value any more. Partnering, he says, has to go well beyond that to find something of value for the customers of both partners.

In 1997, some 870,000 guests visited Playdium in Mississauga. That’s a significant number, by any measure, but it’s the demographics of the visitors that make partnering with the entertainment facility attractive for many brands.

Allison says about 40% of its market comprises the 18-to-34-year-old segment, skewed a little heavier to males, but not significantly.

The next major segment is the tween household, the eight-to-14 year old generally travelling with their parents.

The third segment consists of corporate groups that use the entertainment facility for team building, sales meetings and new product introductions.

Not all of the partnering programs have been complex. Some have been as simple as giving Playdium coupons to fans attending one of the Blue Jays’ games as a way of adding value.

In turn, the Blue Jays have run baseball camps at Playdium and have created strong brand awareness at the site with an area called the Blue Jays Clubhouse.

With HMV, the retailer was able to create excitement and added value behind the launch a cd, which, in turn, helped Playdium expand its awareness with the female segment of the eight to 14 Tween group.

Playdium has maintained a database of its customers right from the beginning, and has enhanced that with a membership program called Virtual Citizen. Right now, its 150,000 members are entitled to discounts on game playing and in Megabytes Restaurant on Monday and Tuesday nights.

The company is enhancing its relationship with its members through its Web site, Allison says he anticipates the soon-to-be-improved site will prove an excellent medium for partnering because a higher percentage of its members are active on the Internet than the population at large.

Allison says it’s not only national but regional companies Playdium wants to partner work with, and more opportunities will arise later this year and next as three new facilities open their doors.

These include a the 36,000-square-foot Playdium in Burnaby, B.C. opening in November in the Eaton Centre Metrotown; a 40,000-square-foot centre in Phase 3 of the West Edmonton Mall scheduled to open this December; and the 50,000-square-foot Festival Hall centre opening next May in downtown Toronto.

Where a full-sized Playdium contains at least 200 games, the company also has 15 smaller game centres or Tech Towns in the lobbies of Famous Players theatres across Canada. This is its most visible partnership and one that is continuing to grow.

All full-sized Playdium centres are located near a Famous Player’s theatre. In Western Canada, Famous Players and Playdium are in close proximity in the malls; in downtown Toronto, a new Playdium is being built right under the theatre.

While Playdium and Famous Players may appear to be competing for the same entertainment dollar, Allison says the relationship is truly complementary.

‘We know we can only ever get a share of the entertainment dollar – it would be unreasonable to expect we’d ever get 100%.

‘By complementing companies who, in the broader scheme, would be competing for that entertainment dollar … maybe by working together we can expand the size of the pie and all get a bigger share.’