Enthusiasts: The Good The Bad and The Ugly

Football teams have fans, railways have train spotters, and the theme park industry has coaster enthusiasts. Just like football fans, they’re loyal supporters, and just like train spotters they can be incredibly knowledgable. But are they harmless regulars to a park, or are they a park’s worst nightmare? Amusement industry consultant, Marcus Gaines finds out…


or anyone new to the theme park industry, the level of passion from enthusiasts can be quite a shock to the system. As Lizzie Roberts head of PR Alton Towers

Resort discovered: “When I joined Alton Towers Resort’s PR team in Oct 2017, I quickly learnt that enthusiasts can be both our greatest supporters and our harshest critics.

It is

wonderful to have such an engaged group of guests whose love of, and knowledge about, the Resort I have come to respect hugely.” For a marketing team they can be an incredibly powerful

tool. Want to tease ahead to a new attraction and spread the word? Then they can help with that. With a number of enthusiasts regularly getting 10,000 plus views on their social media channels, it’s possible to quickly get higher engagement than through mainstream media. Some channels can even get well in excess of half a million views. You can work with some of the most prominent influencers

in the theme park world, for often little more than a free ticket and maybe some behind the scenes exclusives. Europa-Park’s UK agency find them an incredibly powerful

way to branch out in to new or small markets. Dominik Seitz of Collab-Ed explains, “You need to choose who you work with carefully to maximise gains. They’re tremendous for getting the word out, bringing in peers and cooperating on social media, perhaps answering questions on Facebook before we do.” Enthusiasts are a resourceful group and will go to any lengths to find out the secrets of what’s coming next. Whether

MARCH 2019

that’s flying planes over a park during the closed season, snooping for survey markers in the ground or digging through trade mark applications to guess what a new ride might be. For Lizzie Roberts, managing some enthusiasts or citizen journalists who don’t understand the media game can be challenging “Part of our job is to control the flow of information about the Park, particularly about new attractions or changes. Journalists understand that some information may be shared ‘off the record’ but isn’t ok to publish, but those ‘rules of engagement’ don’t always apply with enthusiasts.” In the case of Wodan at Europa-Park, fans spotted footers

for the track and quickly realised that the sheer number meant the new ride would be a wooden coaster. The news quickly spread across the internet, just a week before the big press announcement was due to take place, spoiling the planned media campaign. Back in 1993, Paul Burton chairman of the European Coaster Club spent his spare time travelling to Stafford to trawl through council archives to find the secret of what Alton Towers were building. “I felt like Indiana Jones looking for the Lost Ark. No one outside Alton knew what was being built and everyone was desperate to find out. Eventually I found the plans, I found Nemesis” It lead to a close relationship between Alton Towers and the ECC, with every step of process being documented; they even had some last minute input in to the ride design, and the secrecy was kept until the time was right to make the big reveal.


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