In 2010, Alton Towers launched its Thirteen rollercoaster amidst an ultra-hyped marketing campaign.
And while the drama of the television adverts and press releases was somewhat ridiculed among theme park enthusiasts, the ride was a resounding commercial success.
Riders having to sign disclaimers, a “psychoaster” dubbing and claims of the the “ultimate rollercoaster” were largely the handywork of Morwenna Angove, the park’s Sales and Marketing Director at that time.
With Angove in the role between 2007 and 2010, the Staffordshire theme park reversed its declining guest numbers in spectacular style.
It added an estimated half a million visitors in 2010, taking admissions to the 3-million plus mark for the first time in years.
Ticket promotions held with the Sun newspaper were resurrected by Angove in 2008, following their huge successes in the 1990s.
But it was Thirteen’s marketing campaign that drew back the crowds to Alton Towers in huge numbers.
A ‘post watershed’ television advert with a creepy girl walking through woodland and being taken over by supernatural vines captured the public’s imagination.
Thirteen was designed with theatre in mind, and the world’s first element of a vertical freefall drop in which the track feels like it is collapsing, was superbly alluded to in the television adverts both pre and post watershed.
The supernatural Dark Forest concept and eerie animations also traversed the newly-emerging Facebook audiences of the time.
“In terms of the marketing leading up to the ride launch, we need to ensure maximum exposure before the ride opens,” Angove said in the aftermath of Thirteen’s launch.
She acknowledged the criticism that some fans had over the ride being marketed as a truly terrifying attraction, but she was unapologetic of her tactics.
“Thirteen has always been a 1.2-metre ride, meaning that children from the age of 8 can ride it.
“The bulk of our marketing campaign has been aimed at teenagers to make it aspirational as they represent the largest number of people riding,” Angove said.
She pointed out that the ride “scored well” among both families and young adults.
Indeed, Thirteen has remained consistently popular more than nine years later, and while much of that credit is due to Alton Towers’ choice of ride design, it a testament to Angove’s successful original launch.
As Angove’s time at Alton Towers came to an end after the Halloween Scarefest season, many simply remembered her for the questionable but memorable press releases.
These included bans on speedos in the Alton Towers waterpark and clowns going on strike over being presented as objects to be feared in the Scarefest mazes, rather than adored.
Despite the large doses of radically left field PR endeavours, it is clear that Angove left Alton Towers in a much stronger marketing position than when she arrived.