Sanrio's Hello Kitty Reaches a Landmark Milestone

The year 2024 marks the beloved character's 50th anniversary, and Sanrio celebrates through exciting collaborations and experiences for its fans.

Alex Markovich, Sponsored Content Editor

May 27, 2024

5 Min Read
Hello Kitty, Hello Kitty
Hello KittySanrio

Sanrio’s Hello Kitty – a beloved pop culture icon – is a character that has grown into a global powerhouse brand boasting an extensive product lineup available in more than 130 countries. In 2022 alone, the company achieved $3.8 billion in annual retail sales globally. And, since her debut in 1974 on a vinyl coin purse, Hello Kitty has continuously embodied “cute culture,” stayed true to the brand’s values and captured the attention of both children and adults. With 2024 marking Hello Kitty’s 50th anniversary year, the brand is producing new content, creating new products and expanding the Hello Kitty universe to grab the attention of new audiences and express the brand’s deepest appreciation to its fans who have helped Hello Kitty reach such a significant milestone.

Hello Kitty’s History and Climb to the Top

A symbol of friendship, kindness and inclusivity, Hello Kitty is a product of "cute culture," also known as Japanese Kawaii culture. This cultural phenomenon started in the 1970s and embraces feelings of love, fun, care, joy and protectiveness. Early examples of cute culture are kids’ illustrations decorated with symbols, such as hearts, stars and big round eyes; all of which can be seen in Hello Kitty’s character design.

Kawaii culture is also meant to have a calming and healing effect. In fact, the character of Hello Kitty has had such a far-reaching influence and has been felt by so many different people that the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) named her the children's ambassador for the U.S. in 1983 and children’s ambassador for Japan in 1994. She was also given the unique title of “UNICEF Special Friend of Children” in 2004.

However, before she became known as a symbol of comfort around the world, Hello Kitty’s popularity took off when celebrities like Mariah Carey and Paris Hilton began incorporating the character into their fashion choices. At that same time, the brand was also expanding into collaborations, home décor and other lifestyle products. Her presence introduced audiences to a new aesthetic and opened doors for a globally wider appreciation of Japanese culture and storytelling.

But what is most unique about Hello Kitty’s success is that her popularity grew solely on her image and merchandise. Most top-grossing character media brands and franchises don’t reach global popularity until a successful video game, cartoon series, book and/or movie is released.

Hello Kitty X Crocs Collection, Sanrio

Celebrating Through Unique Collaborations

Now that she has been around for 50 years, Sanrio, owner of the intellectual property (IP), is celebrating all the goodness Hello Kitty has spread and her fans who have helped her get to this point. One way Sanrio is commemorating Hello Kitty’s 50th anniversary is through several collaborations throughout the year.

The brand kicked off the anniversary year with the highly anticipated Crocs collection featuring three new shoe styles – a new iteration of the Classic Clog, the all-new Stomp Slide and Siren Clog Crocs – as well as new Jibbitz charms for customizing, all inspired by Hello Kitty’s cuteness.

Other collaborations include a toy partnership with L.O.L. Surprise!, created by MGA Entertainment. The partnership features a limited-edition Miss Pearly doll and Crystal Cutie doll that is accompanied with Hello Kitty-themed clothes and fashion accessories.

L.O.L. Surprise Doll x Hello Kitty Collaboration, Sanrio

Igloo Cooler is also celebrating Hello Kitty’s 50th anniversary by offering fans the ability to take her wherever they go. It features a limited-edition seven-quart cooler and a 16-ounce stainless steel reusable can.

Some other collaborations the licensing community can look for are with Funko Pop, Loungefly and Build-A-Bear, as well as other exciting retail programs and pop-ups giving fans many ways to celebrate Hello Kitty’s 50th anniversary in style.

Igloo Cooler x Hello Kitty Collaboration, Sanrio

Bringing Hello Kitty to Life

Sanrio will also be opening various Hello Kitty Cafes this year to honor the milestone. As of now, fans can find these cafes around the globe, including various locations across the U.S., such as Irvine, Calif., and Las Vegas, Nev. More cafes are expected to open across North America this year, including a location in Vancouver, Canada. These cafes are perfect for fans looking to completely immerse themselves in the Hello Kitty universe and enjoy fun-shaped treats like cookies, cakes, seasonal items, handmade hot and iced drinks, merchandise and much more.

Alongside the opening of various cafes, Hello Kitty is making special appearances at various sporting events, including the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Golden State Warriors games for special Hello Kitty nights, which include collectible merchandise, Hello Kitty meet-and-greets and several in-game activations, such as trivia with fans.

“By participating in these various sporting events, Sanrio bridges two authentic fandoms, offering fans a truly memorable experience with a lasting impression,” says Jill Koch, senior vice president of marketing and brand management, Sanrio. “We are always looking for ways to surprise and delight our fans with unique experiences.”

In addition to in-real-life activations, Sanrio is also celebrating heavily in the digital space with new content across YouTube, social media and in the digital gaming space.

All in all, as the world celebrates this landmark moment, it is important for the licensing community to recognize how far the Hello Kitty brand and franchise have come since her debut and the values and positive messaging she has contributed. Through Crocs, L.O.L. Surprise!, Igloo, MLB, NBA, Build-A-Bear, Funko Pop and other collaborations, Sanrio is excited to entertain Hello Kitty’s fans in new ways, capture the attention of new audiences and continue to be a symbol of friendship, kindness and inclusivity for fans around the world.

About the Author(s)

Alex Markovich

Sponsored Content Editor, License Global

Alex Markovich is the Sponsored Content Editor for License Global and currently resides in Denver, Colorado, USA. She has written across a variety of publications, such as SDxCentral, Housing Wire, Clear Admit and The US Sun. This experience has given her the ability to gain expertise in tech, energy, real estate, education, non-profits and news. Not only does she have a diverse writing portfolio, but Alex also has mastery in advertising, brand awareness, brand identity and content strategy. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in English from Florida State University and is professionally certified in editing from the University of Chicago.

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