PR Team: In-house, Edelman and CJP
Campaign: Appointment of P-Y Gerbeau as Xscape CEO; unveiling of
expansion and 'brand reassessment'
Timescale: November 2001- ongoing
Leisure complex Xscape launched in Milton Keynes in July 2000 and is a
complex of indoor ski-slopes, shops, bars and restaurants, a 16-screen
cinema and a glow-in-the-dark bowling rink - all enclosed in a giant
'Snozone' is its central attraction and houses Europe's longest 'real'
snow indoor slopes. Xscape is a joint venture between shopping centre
and leisure-based property company Capital & Regional and US company
PRICOA Property Investment Management.
In the next three years, £250m of investment is planned. Further
Xscape projects are being pursued in Leeds and Glasgow, alongside its
joint venture partner, Capital Shopping Centres; an Xscape in Germany is
also in the pipeline.
Ebullient former Millennium Dome boss P-Y Gerbeau joined as CEO in
To heighten consumer and business interest in the brand on Gerbeau's
appointment and to present him as a worthy CEO to develop the
To explain the consumer and business concept behind the venture. To
attract funding partners. To drive visitors to the centre.
Strategy and Plan
In order to drive consumers to Xscape, the PR strategy needed to
emphasise that the destination was a retail and leisure facility that
should be treated as a destination at which a whole day could be spent.
This relatively novel concept presented a challenge.
Aside from the designs for planned developments in Leeds, Scotland and
on the continent, Xscape Milton Keynes is the only physical
manifestation of the brand and so has been used as a showcase for the
As well as handling consumer PR, Edelman's financial team worked with
the consumer team on Gerbeau's appointment.
The new wave of consumer and business PR kicked off with the launch of
Xscape's Christmas season on 22 November.
To spark initial interest, a delivery of three tonnes of snow was placed
in Trafalgar Square for a 10.30am photocall, featuring Gerbeau in an
He conducted TV interviews and a briefing lunch with the business media
at which expansion plans were revealed to attract business coverage.
Media, VIPs (including Mo Mowlam) and potential sponsors were taken to
Milton Keynes, where they were greeted with a fireworks and parachute
Gerbeau gave a presentation to the media and public. Guests were taken
on a tour of the complex and were able to try out the facilities.
One-to-one interviews were held with Gerbeau.
Xscape's target market has shifted since Gerbeau joined. Originally it
was 15 to 34-year- olds who live within an hour of the site. But the
demographic has broadened and the consumer PR strategy is now targeting
families who are up to three hours away. This point was conveyed both to
consumer and business media.
Milton Keynes-based agency CJP handled local PR and targeted local media
with messages of the brand's new direction.
Gerbeau has long been an advocate of internal communications. Staff
employed directly by Xscape (i.e. those who operate the Snozone) have
monthly meetings about the company's position and direction, chaired by
Gerbeau. Weekly management meetings are also held. Gerbeau says that
Xscape's tenants (retail outlets, bars, the cinema, etc.) are treated as
integrated partners to Xscape and components of the brand. Regular talks
take place between all the marketing departments.
Xscape's financial PR has been handled in-house and by Edelman.
Extensive dialogue with the City is managed on a weekly basis.
Hudson Sandler handles the financial PR for Capital & Regional. The
agency used Xscape as illustrative of C&R's business model.
It targeted financial analysts and invited them to Milton Keynes to see
the leisure park and has targeted media, capitalising on the success of
Measurement and Evaluation
All nationals covered Gerbeau's appointment to the company as well as
broadcasters such as ITN and LBC. Consumer magazines including Time Out,
Loaded and more! also ran articles.
Xscape won 'Best Major Leisure Scheme' and 'Best Innovative Concept' at
the Leisure Property 2001 Awards, beating competition from the
highly-regarded Eden Project in Cornwall.
March will see the launch of the Xscape Milton Keynes nightclub, with a
2,000 capacity. There are plans to build hotels near the park, for both
leisure and corporate clients.
Within its first year, Xscape in Milton Keynes attracted 4.2 million
Gerbeau claims that footfall has increased by 20 per cent during the
past four months. On average, visitors' length of stay (excluding time
at the Snozone and the complex's cinema) has increased from 20 minutes
to between three to six hours.
The financial community reacted to the venture positively and Xscape has
been instrumental in generating interest in Capital & Regional, which is
in advanced negotiations with an institutional investor.
Funding is already in place for the Leeds-based Xscape, which is due to
launch in summer 2003.