As the premier event for the most successful sports league in the United States, this Sunday’s Super Bowl XLII offers a brief respite from the recent steady stream of negative economic and financial news. Looking ahead, IBISWorld Inc. released a report that examines the challenges that franchised sporting leagues face as they balance the interests of their fans, the media, sponsors, and the players.
“The past 15 years have been good to the franchised sports industry, and technology has reinvigorated spectator sports in many ways,” says George Van Horn, senior analyst at IBISWorld. “With expanded broadcast channels, the Internet, innovative mobile broadcast rights, new state-of-the-art stadiums, and more disciplined financial management, franchised sports have enhanced the game for fans and sponsors alike.”
While revenues have been highly favorable, the proliferation of media exposure also provides additional opportunities and challenges to sports franchise operators. At the same
Historically, the franchise sports industry has been somewhat immune from short-term economic swings. While changes in disposable income have a broad influence on discretionary consumer spending, most spectators will weather a short-term economic downturn without giving up their season tickets.
Since 2002, the franchise sports industry’s revenue has increased by an average annualized rate of 3.3 percent to $26.52 billion. IBISWorld forecasts industry revenue will hit $30.06 billion by 2012 and a significant proportion of that growth will come from the country's largest sporting league, the NFL. Over the past 12 years, the NFL’s average team value has gone from $160 million to around $960 million, eclipsing the other major leagues and creating a new generation of multimillion-dollar sports dynasties.
Looking to the future, with less robust economic conditions likely to prevail in 2008 and beyond, corporate sponsors will be looking for consistent and measurable results from their sporting investment. As a result, management will have to exert greater control over their players’ sometimes scandalous off-field behavior to hold onto lucrative sponsorship and advertising dollars or risk losing them to better behaved rivals.
And yet, IBISWorld believes the NFL and other major leagues, will continue to deliver the best results for corporate marketers, which is less than positive news for smaller and up-and-coming sports. “It seems they may have to wait in line,” says Van Horn. “And it looks like a long one.”
Sharper Image Enters Deal with EB Brands
Sharper Image Corp. signed a multiyear licensing agreement with EB Brands, a manufacturer and marketer of men’s gifts and accessories items, the 11th license signed by Sharper Image’s Brand Licensing Division since announcing in February 2007 that it had created a new licensing division that enabled leading manufacturers to license The Sharper Image brand across a broad range of product categories.
Under this agreement, EB Brands will offer uniquely featured men’s gifts—including automotive, golf, and household accessories—that represent the values of quality, excitement, and innovation associated with The Sharper Image name. These new products are scheduled for a mid-2008 launch at Sharper Image stores, catalog, and Web site, and at select mid-tier and high-end department stores.
Says John W. Spotts, senior vice president, brand licensing for Sharper Image, “With this agreement, Sharper Image can now offer a more complete selection of men’s gift products within our own multiple channels as well as through other fine retailers where our customers typically shop for these items. We are very excited about this licensing agreement because it further strengthens The Sharper Image brand in categories where we already enjoy considerable success.”
United Media to Serve as Agent for Hallmark Characters
United Media will serve as exclusive merchandise licensing agent for Hallmark Cards Inc.’s playfully irreverent hoops&yoyo, as well as the ever popular “say it like it is” character Maxine.
hoops&yoyo has spiraled since its Web launch in 2003 at a rapid and successful pace to include a highly frequented Web site featuring animated shorts, e-cards, a blog, and select merchandise. UM’s plans for hoops&yoyo include a fall 2008 rollout. Building upon Hallmark’s core business of e-cards and sound cards, the company will target a broad range of product categories with an initial focus on toy, apparel and accessories, online interactive games, and room décor.
Maxine has experienced demonstrated success in the industry for over 20 years, and with hundreds of millions of cards sold to date, this “Queen of Crabbiness” continues to be a top performer for Hallmark with books, calendars, a Web site, and a variety of other merchandise. UM will continue to nurture and expand the offerings for Maxine as a true evergreen property.
“Partnering with Hallmark on hoops&yoyo and Maxine is a unique opportunity to grow dynamic properties into true evergreen brands,” says Joshua Kislevitz, senior vice president of domestic licensing at United Media. “While we will be open to certain immediate possibilities, both Hallmark and United Media are focused on building these brands for the long term.”
Diesel Seeks to Make Home Market ‘Cool’
, a brand known throughout the apparel business for attracting a younger consumer market with a “cool” approach, will make its debut in the home furnishings world in a licensing agreement with
for home textiles, the first of a broader range of home products including furniture, lighting, and decorative accessories.
The home textiles collection will be called Successful Living from Diesel, a reverse of the apparel brand’s Diesel for Successful Living slogan. The home textiles, as well as subsequent home furnishings collections, will be created by a design team headed by Wilbert Das, Diesel’s creative director.
The textiles line will debut at the Diesel showroom in Milan during the April Salone Internazionale del Mobile. Target retailers are leading department stores, home textile specialty shops, and the Diesel and Zucchi stores.
Fifi and the Flowertots to Set Roots in Canada
HIT Entertainment has made arrangements for deals, on behalf of Chapman Entertainment, with major Canadian television, toy, and apparel companies to bring the international sensation “Fifi and the Flowertots” to Canada for the first time.
Starting Feb. 25, Fifi will blossom on television on Treehouse in Canada. The show will air on Treehouse Monday through Friday and will be featured prominently on Treehouse’s Web site—treehousetv.com—with games and activities.
Additionally, HIT has selected Danawares to be the master toy licensee for Fifi and the Flowertots in Canada. Under the multiyear deal, Danawares would develop, manufacture, and market a full line of products based on Fifi and the Flowertots. The toys—expected to launch in fall 2008—would cover multiple categories, including playsets, plush, puzzles, games, and role-play items.
At the same time, One of the Boys will launch a full line of Fifi apparel. The all-new Fifi master apparel line, scheduled for launch at retail in fall 2008, will include sportswear, long- and short-sleeved shirts and sets, sweatshirts, sweaters, and more for Fifi fans in a complete range of preschool sizes. Adorable Kids Sleepwear has been tapped to design and market Fifi sleepwear, including pajamas and loungewear in sizes 0 to 16 for launch in tandem with the clothing line.
Mr. Men Taking Hold in U.S.
Chorion is busily signing on new partners in the United States to build a comprehensive licensing and merchandising program to support the new daily animated television series, “The Mr. Men Show,” premiering daily on Cartoon Network, Feb. 4 at 9 a.m. (ET). “The Mr. Men Show” builds on the momentum already generated in the teen and young adult market by the classic Mr. Men and Little Miss apparel and accessories lines. With the “Mr. Men” brand identity already established with consumers, the strong roster of licensees for the television show has come even before the show’s Cartoon Network debut.
Collections of TV tie-in merchandise will be introduced to U.S. retailers beginning in early 2009 with offerings from Freeze, Armitron, ES Originals, Skechers, Briefly Stated, American Greetings, and others. Toy rollout commences in fall/holiday 2009 with the first product introductions from master toy licensee Fisher-Price.
“With an iconic pop-culture status that is now well into its second generation of fans, this is a brand that speaks to the consumer in a big way,” says Cheryl Gotthelf, senior vice president of Global Brand Management. “The TV launch will take the franchise to another level as a new generation of kids discovers its singularly wacky and endearing appeal.”
Lawsuit Settled in ‘Thomas’ Lead-Paint Case
The maker of Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway toys has agreed to pay $30 million to settle a nationwide class-action lawsuit by thousands of families who purchased lead-tainted products.
Under the deal, Oak Brook, Ill.-based RC2 Brands will offer cash refunds or replacement toys, plus what the company calls a bonus toy; it also promises to implement new quality controls, says Jay Edelson, a plaintiffs’ attorney in the case.
The lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County last year, and the court gave the settlement preliminary approval last week. The judge is expected to give final approval at a hearing set for May 6.
RC2 CEO Curt Stoelting welcomed the preliminary agreement, saying in a statement that it “builds upon the many steps that we’ve taken to replace recalled products and improve product safety” and will help “continue to build parents’ trust.”
In June 2007, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that RC2 was voluntarily recalling about 1.5 million items in what would become the first of several major roundups involving lead paint on toys made in China. By mid-September, RC2 had recovered about 1 million items, sending bonus gifts to customers who returned a product.
But that goodwill gesture flopped when further testing showed that lead in the paint on about 2,000 Toad train cars in the bonus shipment was up to four times higher than acceptable levels. RC2 then recalled the affected Toads, along with about 200,000 other Thomas items.
The company—which had 2006 sales of about $500 million—has dropped its supplier, Hansheng Wood Products, which made the Toad pieces as well as the items in the first recall.
Mrs. Fields, Global Icons Bake Up Recipe for Licensing Success
Global Icons was named the exclusive licensing agent for Mrs. Fields, the famous premium cookie company. The agency will develop and manage the Mrs. Fields licensing program by leveraging the dynamic brand values to secure world-class manufacturers that can bring the delectable brand experience into consumers’ kitchens and homes. The Mrs. Fields licensed merchandise line will reflect the core standards of superior quality and taste that mix into several product categories including kitchen domestics, bakeware, housewares, small kitchen electrics, publishing, party goods, kids’ food play, activity and toys, and seasonal gifts.
New Strategies, Leadership at Sears
Sears Holdings is restructuring its Sears and Kmart businesses along key product category lines. Going forward, the company will be organized around five core operating business units, including consumer electronics, major appliances, and apparel.
Each of the units will be assisted by support units that provide operational and administrative functions, such as marketing, store operations, customer strategy, and finance.
Sears said its president and chief executive, Aylwin B. Lewis, will step down at the end of the week as the retailer undergoes these changes. Lewis will also step down from the retailer's board, and will be succeeded on an interim basis by W. Bruce Johnson, executive vice president of supply chain and operations.
“We are entering a new phase in Sears’ evolution as a multichannel retailer ... and the board has determined that now is the right time to put in place new leadership to take the company forward,” says chairman Eddie Lampert.
In addition, separate brand units will be responsible for growing the value of Sears Holdings’ brand portfolio, while a real-estate business unit and an online business unit will focus on increasing the sales productivity of the company’s physical and virtual real estate.
Each business unit will have a designated leader and an advisory group comprised of senior Sears Holdings executives who will provide direction and oversee the business unit’s performance, the company said. The leadership of each unit will have a separate, internal profit-and-loss statement to allow greater focus on managing the profitability of the unit, and rapid decision-making to capitalize on opportunities and mitigate risks.
The changes, which will be implemented in phases, were designed to simplify the way the retailer’s business lines are managed and to create “greater autonomy and focus for the business unit management teams,” Sears said.
It’s a Dog’s Life for 4sight
4sight licensing solutions—a subsidiary of 4Kids Entertainment Inc.—is renewing its relationship with the the American Kennel Club. Through this expanded, multiyear agreement, 4sight will remain the AKC’s exclusive worldwide licensing, marketing, and promotional agent, and continue to hold the AKC’s extensive collection of imagery and trademarks for all merchandise categories through 2011.
“Over the past decade, the pet product industry has grown exponentially, with more than $41 billion being spent on pet-related products annually, far outpacing the toy and candy categories,” says Al Kahn, chairman and CEO of 4Kids Entertainment. “We look forward to continuing our successful relationship with the AKC, helping them extend their leadership position in the booming pet retail marketplace and as the longstanding canine authority.”
Since joining forces in 2003, 4sight and the American Kennel Club have been at the forefront of the burgeoning pet-product arena thanks to their comprehensive focus on building the AKC into a premier retail dog brand. 4sight has successfully established the AKC as the “best of breed” in pet products by brokering multiyear deals with industry leaders including JAKKS Pets (dog toys and treats), Jewett-Cameron (luxury kennels), Sherpa Pet Trading Company (travel products), and Aspen Pet (grooming tools, collars, leashes, and harnesses). 4sight recently expanded the AKC brand into such categories as pet cleaning products, pet safety products, collectibles, clothing and accessories, collectible artwork, and memorial garden stones.
Additionally, JAKKS Pets, the pet division of JAKKS Pacific, has teamed up with Toys “R” Us to launch a new pet products section in all 580 stores nationwide, which will feature an exclusive line of toys, plush, treats, collars, leashes, bowls, and apparel for dogs based on the new AKC Jr. brand. The AKC Jr. line of products is designed to educate children about the American Kennel Club and teach responsible dog ownership from an early age.
Decode Embarks on ‘Adrenaline Project’
Decode Enterprises, the distribution subsidiary of DHX Media Ltd., is continuing to expand its third-party sales slate with its first factual entertainment acquisition, “The Adrenaline Project,” from Toronto’s marblemedia.
Decode has acquired worldwide TV rights to the series, which airs on YTV in Canada and 4Kids on Fox in the United States.
Each episode of “The Adrenaline Project” takes five thrill-seeking teens and dares them to compete head-to-head in intense physical and mental challenges. Dropped at “Base Camp” for training, each crew of 14- to 16-year-olds are put through obstacle courses that not only test the skills, strength, speed, and endurance of the contestants, but help train them for the unknown challenge that lies ahead.
Sesame Street Juice Goes Organic with Apple & Eve
Apple & Eve has expanded its popular Sesame Street line of juice boxes with the launch of new Sesame Street Organics 100% Fruit Juice Boxes, fortified with calcium and containing a full day’s supply of Vitamin C, and available in three favorite flavors: Big Bird’s Apple, Elmo’s Punch, and Ernie’s Berry. The Organic line will showcase each of the three Sesame Street characters dressed as a farmer—highlighting the “fresh from the organic farm” spirit of the new products. In addition, Sesame Street Organics will be packaged in kid-friendly 125 ml. (4-ounce) juice boxes, the recommended beverage size for kids ages 2 to 5, and the perfect fit for young hands to hold onto whether at the playground, preschool, or birthday parties. Sesame Street Organics are USDA-certified organic, and carry the Quality Assurance International seal that verifies that they are produced according to the strictest USDA standards.
Subway Restaurants Adopt ‘The Dog’
4Kids Entertainment Inc. announced a promotional partnership with Subway for the popular and adorably exaggerated puppy franchise, Artlist Collection: The Dog. Collectible The Dog premiums will be available exclusively with the purchase of any Subway Fresh Fit Kids’ Meal through Feb. 10, 2008, or while supplies last.
Officially licensed by 4Kids Entertainment, The Dog is a highly successful puppy photography franchise from Japan. The collection consists of more than 100,000 images of more than 70 different breeds of puppies photographed with exaggerated proportions at unique angles using a fish-eye lens to create a ‘strange ratio’ adorably enhanced image. Kids can collect one of four The Dog premiums with each purchase of a Fresh Fit Kids’ Meal, including The Dog Chihuahua Treasure Box, The Dog Love Play Cuddle Diary, The Dog Go Fetch Flyer, or The Dog Bow-Wow Baseball Set.
BBC Kicks Off Paddington’s 50th Birthday
Copyrights’ Paddington Bear has started his 50th birthday celebration with the BBC.
Last week, Radio 4 placed 50 Paddington bears in prominent places in train stations around the UK wearing the label ‘Please Look After this Bear.’ In exchange for taking the Paddington bears home, the finders will be asked to call BBC Radio 4 and leave a birthday message about the famous bear.
On Saturday, March 1, children’s author Michael Morpurgo will talk to the finders, hearing how and where they found the bears, their favorite Paddington memories and what Paddington means to them. Paddington’s creator Michael Bond will take part in the program.
Monster Jam Signs ‘Wheel’ Deal
4Kids Entertainment International signed a license deal with Universal Cycles to produce Monster Jam wheeled toys including bicycles, tricycles, scooters, skateboards, and skates featuring the monster truck theme for the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
The company will also launch a range of accessories including helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, and water bottles.
4Kids has also signed deals for the UK and Irish Republic with Aykroyds TDP for nightwear and underwear, with Pyramid Posters for posters, wall calendars, stickers, badges, and postcards and with DNC for lunch bags and sports bottles.
LemonQuest has taken a license for mobile games and themes for EMEA, Asia Pacific, and the United States, and Scandecor Marketing in Sweden has picked up the rights for posters and wall calendars for Scandinavian territories.
Upper Deck will launch a Monster Jam version of its Yo! Card in February 2008. This UK-wide release will launch as an exclusive to Woolworths and will be supported by a print and TV campaign, online activity, competitions in kids’ magazines, and in-store demos. The Monster Jam Yo! Card game begins to launch across Europe this month.
During 2007, five different European cities played host to the monster trucks, including a date in the UK for the first time in two years. The show will return to Cardiff, UK on 7th June 2008.
In other Monster Jam news, Activision has launched the first Monster Jam video game in the United States. The official Monster Jam video game, which hit shelves in November, brings the authentic experience home through exciting stadium racing, freestyle events, and challenging outdoor courses on Xbox 360, Playstation 2, Nintendo Wii, PC and Nintendo DS systems. International launch dates will be announced soon.
BRB Takes ‘Iron Kid’ to NATPE
Spanish BRB Internacional is taking cartoon series “Iron Kid” to NATPE in Las Vegas. Already aired in Latin America through Jetix Latin America, and in the United States—where it is known as “Eon Kid”—in February it will premiere in open-broacasting format in Portugal on TVI.
Ecuavisa in Ecuador, Channel One Russian Worldwide in Russia, B92 in Serbia, and Spacetoon TV in the Middle East are also airing the series on open-broadcasting formats. Licensing deals include a second toy collection by Famosa in Spain; action figures by Imexporta in Chile; and Playmates is the licensee for toy spinoffs in Mexico, the United States, Canada, and Australia.
Taffy Heads to Iberia
French Taffy Entertainment, the distribution, brand management, and entertainment company, has signed deals for eight Taffy titles in Spain and Portugal. The titles are “Dive Olly Dive!,” “The Fantastic Four,” “SamSam,” “Growing Up Creepie,” “Code Lyoko,” “Mix Master,” “Cosmic Quantum Ray,” and “Lamimila.”
In Portugal, the broadcasters are Canal Panda, CLAN TV, and TV, and in Spain, Nickelodeon Spain, Cartoon Network Spain, Forta, TV3, ETB, Telemadrid, Canal Sur, TV Aragon, Canal de Extremadura, and TV Canarias.
Purple Ronnie Rolls Out
Coolabi’s Purple Ronnie has landed several licensing deals for 2008, including new collections from Hallmark cards, H&A novelty items, and Greencore Cakes and Desserts.
Book licensee Pan MacMillan is launching two new titles,
in June, and new licensees Paul Lamond Games and Portico Designs will be launching products during the first quarter of this year.
“Later in the year we’re going to raise the brand’s profile even further with new licenses, a coordinated product offering across all categories, and increased retail presence,” says Janet Woodward, Coolabi’s head of licensing. “Our ultimate aim is to establish the brand as an international property and that will be a major focus as we progress with Purple Ronnie.”
Cartoon Movie Pulls in Projects
Cartoon Movie, the business forum aimed at boosting the production, financing, and distribution of European animation films will show 47 projects from 16 European countries at the event, being held from March 5 through 7 in Potsdam, Germany. The event is supported by the European Union’s Media project.
Of the 47 projects presented at Potsdam, nine are completed films and 10 are in the process of production, while the remaining 28 are in initial concept or development stages. Together the projects represent a total budget of over 325 million euros.
France is the most represented country, with a total of 20 projects followed by Germany with 12 projects. The remaining top five slots are filled by Spain, with six projects, and Denmark and Belgium with five projects each.
Studio100 Takes Russian TV Rights
Newly formed German Studio100 Media, a subsidiary of Studio100 in Belgium, has acquired extensive distribution rights to the animated series “Balloontoons” from German licensor FunGameMedia.
The contract includes all broadcasting rights including video on demand, databank, and home video rights, and extends to worldwide territories excluding the UK, Ireland, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, 12 GUS countries, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Serbia, and Montenegro.
Produced by Studio Petersburg, “Balloontoons” is targeted at 3- to 9-year-olds and is available in 52 x 13 minute episodes.
Random House Launches ‘Hana’s Helpline’ Tie-in Books
UK publisher Random House Children’s Books has launched the first of its titles based on the “Hana’s Helpline” series shown on channel Five’s Milkshake! strand.
The books feature some of the stories told on the program as well as extras, for example, tips for parents on an activity.
Random House Children’s Books is also launching tie-in books to the Milkshake! brand itself and the interactive books based on the TV show “Pocoyo,” which has just started its transmission on Milkshake!
Bon Bon Buddies Wins Pez Contract
Licensed confectionery and novelty biscuits supplier Bon Bon Buddies has won the contract to become the sole distributor of the Austrian Pez Candy and Dispensers in the UK. The two-year deal, which begins in February, involves the promotion, sales, and distribution of licensed Pez products to retailers.
The agreement is designed to complement Bon Bon Buddies’ existing range of seasonal and year-round products as both companies already have licensing agreements with characters such as Disney, Bratz, and SpongeBob SquarePants.
Pez has designed more than 300 different varieties, many of which are collected by a worldwide fan base.
Antik Denim LLC, one of the company’s wholly-owned subsidiaries, has agreed to a three-year deal with Canadian firm Multiprint Tex Manufacturing (Multigroup), to distribute men’s, women’s, and children’s denim apparel, and accessories, outerwear, footwear, and handbags bearing the Antik Denim trademark Multigroup’s current brand portfolio covers many major character, sport, and lifestyle licenses such as
, Warner, Nickelodeon,
, Gottex, and Sean John.
Blue Holdings also signed a three-year license agreement with Caitac International Inc., a jean and casual wear marketer, to design, manufacture, and distribute men’s and women’s denim and sportswear apparel bearing the Yanuk trademark in Japan.
In addition to this licensing deal, Caitac is currently the exclusive distributor for Taverniti So Jeans merchandise in Japan and has relationships with more than 1,000 stores.
“These agreements represent a meaningful milestone for two of our key brands,” says Glenn Palmer, president and CEO of Blue Holdings. “This is a successful step in building our international licensing business, and is another step toward achieving our goal for a strategic turnaround plan.”
TOUCH Brand Expanding into Other Sports
Alyssa Milano and G-III Apparel Group have entered into agreements with the National Hockey League, National Football League, National Basketball Association, and the Collegiate Licensing Company to design and distribute the TOUCH – by Alyssa Milano brand.
TOUCH – by Alyssa Milano is a licensed women’s fashion apparel brand designed for the female sports fan. Launched last year with Major League Baseball, this high-end brand blends fashion and function and is a great addition to existing women’s sports licensed apparel offerings. The TOUCH brand empowers the fiercely loyal female sports fans to look and feel their best. Whether cheering on their favorite teams or simply living life, TOUCH provides a platform for female sports fans to rally around.
The missy contemporary targeted collections will consist of outerwear, sets, fashion tops, denim, and dresses, as well as other key items. The apparel will be designed utilizing high-quality fabrics and body-contouring silhouettes.
Penthouse in Duet with Perri’s Leathers
Penthouse Media Group Inc., in collaboration with Perri’s Leathers Limited, launched a new line of Penthouse licensed guitar straps and accessories last week at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, Calif. The 20 high-quality leather and suede 2.5- to 3.5-inch guitar straps, with matching picks and bags, feature high-resolution custom artwork and will be available in spring 2008.
BBC Worldwide in MySpace Deal
BBC Worldwide has entered the world of social networking with a MySpace deal to play new and archive short-form content on video platform MySpace TV. The deal was announced last week with immediate effect.
Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP) announced that Heather Meeker was appointed director of worldwide public relations. In this role, Meeker will act as the day-to-day strategic executive guiding the public relations activities on behalf of WBCP worldwide.
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