Geronimo Stilton starts his next adventure

Winner of the first License! Global Licensing Challenge at Bologna's Children's Book Fair this spring, Italian publishing phenomenon Geronimo Stilton is starting his next adventure in the world of licensed consumer products.

April 6, 2018

5 Min Read

Winner of the first License! Global Licensing Challenge at Bologna's Children's Book Fair this spring, Italian publishing phenomenon Geronimo Stilton is starting his next adventure in the world of licensed consumer products. The Geronimo Stilton licensing program may be in its early days, but the adventurous mouse author has a background that suggests he and his company of fun characters will go far. The award-winning Geronimo Stilton was first published in May 2000 in Italy as an illustrated chapter book aimed at children aged 6 to 11. It is now sold in some 100 countries, is translated into 30 languages and is set to debut on television screens as an animated series late in 2009. The property rights are owned by the Atlantyca Entertainment publishing and licensing business for Italy, and its international rights (excluding Italy) including licensing and merchandising are owned by Taffy Entertainment. Taffy's parent company Moonscoop is in production on the animation in partnership with Atlantyca and other co-producers.
Publishing partners include Edizioni Piemme—which was founded by Geronimo Stilton's creator and is now part of Mondadori—Scholastic, Random House, Albin Michel Jeunesse, Editorial Planeta and Egmont.
Cynthia Money, president, worldwide consumer products and marketing at Taffy, can hardly contain her excitement about the property and the way it has been nurtured by Atlantyca. "One of the great things about Geronimo Stilton is that the author [who is never named] actually does the adventures. That really gives the books an authenticity and the credibility of first-hand experience." The licensing program is two tier. The first part focuses on retailers who already sell Geronimo Stilton books, and the second part is tied in to the broadcast schedule and aims to have a mass-market appeal. Taffy's initial consumer product focus will be on toys—whose multi-territory European partner is soon to be named—plus stationery, back-to-school, travel and accessories, which fit the ethos of the stories.
Geronimo already has been seen outside of printed and audio books. There have been healthy food campaigns in North America, a promo with Wendy's, an ice hockey promo, a fun bus and a live show in Europe, as well as an outdoor activities project in Asia.
Money presented the Geronimo Stilton licensing plan at the first License! Global Licensing challenge held in conjunction with the Bologna Children's Book Fair last April. She said: "It's always great to win awards. For us it was great just to be part of the process with other great brands. We always thought Geronimo Stilton had a lot of potential, but the validation by our peers from all around the world was amazing."
Money added: "The fact that Geronimo comes from publishing and still won says that you can have a brand that's not on television and still have a really good licensing program. And the animation is not coming until there is a whole strategy to go along with it." The licensing debut will be in Geronimo's home country of Italy followed by a rollout across Europe, and then the United States. "All territories are a challenge, but there are different challenges in different territories for different reasons," Money says. "In the U.S., book sales are strong, but there is not the awareness that the property has in Italy or France, for example. Licensees in Europe already know the property. In the U.S., they love the brand, but if the licensees don't have kids, the awareness is not so strong." The strongest markets after Italy are France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal and The Netherlands, Money says. Elisa Pezzutti, licensing manager at Atlantyca Entertainment, says of the consumer products program launch: "Previously our policy was not to grant licensing because we wanted to strengthen the brand autonomously. Now, after eight years, the Geronimo Stilton phenomenon and brand awareness are enormous both on a local and international level—and thanks to the animated series we are preparing." Pezzutti says the policy to wait to build the brand first before embarking on a licensing program means that the company now has the ability to choose partners and the best conditions for the Geronimo Stilton brand. "The animation launch [in autumn 2009 in Italy] makes it possible to create a structured licensing plan both on the classic brand [books] and for the animation-derived brand," she says. The popularity of Geronimo Stilton "will increase in an exponential way," Pezzutti believes as a result of the exposure it will achieve. Neither Atlantyca nor Taffy is yet naming licensees, but the Italian program is expected to start to come to fruition with toys, apparel and stationery, starting this autumn. Toys are likely to hit the Italian market starting from the back-to-school period in autumn 2009; apparel collections will be launched to retailers for spring 2009; there is a continuing deal with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, backed by consumer advertising; two new Geronimo Stilton games are planned for March 2009; Easter eggs will be on sale for Easter 2009; and a Geronimo Stilton musical is in discussion for 2010, following the "Geronimo Stilton Supershow" of 2006 and 2007. The key for Taffy for the international rollout is that the existing fan base is not excluded as the brand is developed. Money says: "We really want make sure that we are targeting the existing fan base. The animation series, for example, will have all the integrity of the books. Geronimo Stilton and his stories are not going to change. The values of the books are critical for all of us involved in the brand. The stories are exciting and fun, but Geronimo stands for something. He's not a superhero, he's a reluctant hero who goes into situations for all the right reasons—and that will be fed back into the series and into the consumer products program."

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