‘Tis the season for Santa, and some virtual reality, for Six Flags.

The world’s largest regional theme park company is capping off the year with a national marketing partnership with Hallmark Channel billed as “Countdown to Christmas” to spread some extra cheer during the holidays. And for those interested in screams instead, the two brands are bringing a wild VR experience with “Santa’s Wild Sleigh Ride.”

Hallmark Channel is leveraging its holiday programming with original promotional content, custom signage and behind-the-scenes video playing throughout Six Flags’ eight domestic theme parks, and on Six Flags’ online channels. In return, the TV network is promoting “Holiday in the Park” online and integrating on-air with the daily lifestyle show Home & Family.

Six Flags is also continuing its push toward immersive, heart-pumping experiences with yet another VR ride where guests can launch snowballs at flying targets as they follow a mischievous elf trying to spoil Santa’s mission to deliver toys on Christmas Eve.

In March, Six Flags and Samsung pushed the boundaries for consumers and partnered to launch the first VR roller coasters in North America locations across the United States. The broad marketing partnership has been a hit with guests who like to take their thrills to entirely new levels with VR rides like “Shock Wave,” “Goliath,” “The New Revolution,” and “Superman.” 

[a]listdaily was joined by James Geiser, corporate vice president of marketing and sales for Six Flags, and Stephanie Borges, vice president of North America strategic marketing and partnerships for Six Flags, to discuss the theme parks holiday marketing strategy.

“Holiday in the Park” will be open daily beginning December 17 and running until January 1, 2017. It was operating only weekends until last Sunday.


Why was it imperative for Six Flags to partner with Hallmark Channel for “Countdown to Christmas” through a content partnership?

Stephanie: When it comes to working with partners, we are always looking for an endemic fit. We have an incredible holiday platform and with the Hallmark Channel being the marquee network for holiday programming, it aligned perfectly.

What are you trying to accomplish with this national marketing deal?

Stephanie: We are always exploring new opportunities to entertain our guests in unique and relevant ways and providing experiences they cannot get elsewhere. Through this strategic partnership, we are able to bring the joy of the holiday season to guests through the Hallmark Channel platform. In addition to Hallmark Channel being featured through our holiday-themed virtual reality coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Hallmark Channel’s ‘Countdown to Christmas’ content is also showcased in-parks on Six Flags TV. Finally, the partnership includes promotion of Six Flags’ tentpole event, ‘Holiday in the Park,’ via Hallmark Channel’s on-air and online media elements that take place across eight Six Flags parks across the country this season.

How have your original branded content activations been received in the past?

Stephanie: Original branded content has been very well received by our guests. There’s a natural synergy between our brand and the entertainment properties as our target audiences are very well aligned. The environment lends itself well to engaging guests who are looking to be entertained, and the content resonates with fans.

What is the social and digital marketing strategy for “Holiday in the Park” that you plan on executing this year? Do you plan on testing any new platforms?

James: Our strategy for social and digital marketing during ‘Holiday in the Park’ is to be where our guests are—to engage with them within the platforms they are using, and to convey to them what a wonderful family experience it is to visit us during the holiday season. We look to our advertising agency to help us identify the best places for us to be in order to connect with our audience, and yes—we are constantly exploring and testing new platforms because we need to be where guests are, when they are searching for and sharing their experiences.

What are you doing to have guests wanting to walk into your park, rather than the competitor, during the holiday season? Is Christmas just as great a season as Halloween?

James: Six Flags prides itself on providing our guests with new and innovative offerings year-round. During our signature seasonal events—‘Fright Fest’ and ‘Holiday in the Park’—our parks are transformed to provide a fully immersive experience. During ‘Fright Fest,’ hundreds of scare-actors roam our midways and we feature intricately themed haunted attractions, along with our signature collection of record-breaking roller coasters, rides and attractions. For our ‘Holiday in the Park’ event, our parks become winter wonderlands filled with millions of dazzling lights, holiday-themed entertainment, seasonal culinary offerings and of course, our great rides and attractions. Both of these signature events are extremely popular with our guests.

How does Six Flags welcome experiential marketing in its parks?

Stephanie: Our parks are the perfect venue for a wide variety of experiential marketing programs throughout the season, including mobile tours, character appearances, as well as digital and social media activations. These promotions provide new activities and entertainment for our guests and pass holders, while brands receive one-on-one interactions and undivided attention from their target consumer.

“Santa’s Wild Sleigh Ride” is the park’s latest virtual reality addition. How have your VR coasters been received by consumers in 2016? Is there a growing appetite for such gaming-like experiences?

Stephanie: There is definitely a big market for virtual reality and immersive entertainment. Six Flags was the first in North America to introduce this 360-degree degree ‘virtual world to real world’ experience on a roller coaster and it has been a game-changer. Guests’ response has been extremely favorable.

Are you working with Samsung and other partners for more VR experiences in your parks for 2017? 

Stephanie: We are excited about offering our guests more virtual reality experiences in the future.

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