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For half a century, the Star Trek franchise has ushered in genrations of fans that continue to support the enduring evergreen. This year, CBS Consumer Products will celebrate the monumental milestone with innovative and engaging live events, product assortments and marketing campaigns, ensuring that the franchise will go on to celebrate many more years of success.
April 6, 2018
For 50 years, Star Trek has managed to "boldly go where no man has gone before" and carve out a significant piece of pop culture history for itself.
Since 1966, the Star Trek juggernaut has seen six iterations of its flagship TV series and 12 (soon to be 13) films continue the storyline and build out the franchise. But, and perhaps most importantly, this iconic and continually relevant entertainment property has inspired a truly passionate fan base that in many ways has built an industry around itself, from licensing as we know it today to conventions and fan engagement activities.
"We look at Star Trek as one of the most loved and most influential brands of the last half-century," says Liz Kalodner, executive vice president and general manager, CBS Consumer Products. "Star Trek changed television, people's lives and their perspective, and because of that, it has resonated for 50 years."
The first series, developed by Gene Roddenberry, hit terrestrial television in September 1966 and only aired for three seasons, yet managed to gain a permanent foothold in pop culture. The original series starred William Shatner, who immortalized the role of Capt. James T. Kirk; Leonard Nimoy as the logical, yet empathetic Vulcan Spock; Nichelle Nichols as Uhura, who broke boundaries with her smarts and wit; DeForest Kelley as Leonard McCoy; George Takei as Hikaru Sulu; and many more who each made their mark in entertainment history. The show was ground breaking on multiple levels, what with its unique take and notions of space travel and the future, its non-violent approach to entertainment and even its seamless integration of a racially and ethnically diverse cast. The original series also tackled social issues that were pervasive in the late '60s–major societal ills like drug addiction, global politics, the environment, even the first interracial on-screen kiss–but it did so in a way that was approachable and positive, even optimistic.
Over the franchise's lifespan, fans of all ages continue to find Star Trek, whether through the original series, one of the many that followed or the feature films.
"Recently, people have gone to the movies, become engaged and then begun moving through the different series," says Kalodner. "We can see that in the DVD business and how we sell Star Trek in syndication throughout the world. Over time, the franchise has aired in more than 200 countries and, interestingly enough, has never been off the air, whether on broadcast, cable or in syndication. One of the series, somewhere, is always on."
The numbers only further support the depth and breadth of the total Star Trek brand reach. According to CBS Consumer Products, Star Trek has 1 billion social impressions per month, with 10-plus million fans on Facebook, 1 million tagged photos on Instagram and more than 375,000 followers on Twitter. Over its life cycle, the film franchise has banked $2.4 billion at the global box office.
"The fans of Star Trek are what have continued the franchise, and because of that, they feel an ownership that keeps it alive in many ways," says Kalodner.
Almost from the onset, consumer products became an organic brand extension for Star Trek as a way for fans to continually connect with the property's immersive universe.
"Merchandising began for Star Trek almost as soon as the show debuted," says John Van Citters, vice president, product development, CBS Consumer Products. "It was not very long after the show first aired that the first products–such as the AMT model kit of the USS Enterprise–rolled out."
Fans clamored to own a piece of the property, and they quickly embraced living the series as well, as the first Star Trek convention debuted in 1972.
"In a way, I look at Star Trek as having grown up alongside the licensing industry," says Van Citters. "As licensing has changed and expanded, it's now hard to find a category that doesn't have a licensing component to it anymore. And I feel like Star Trek has been there for each expansion of the business, growing with it and in some cases leading the charge."
It's a sentiment that is echoed by many at CBS Consumer Products.
"The licensing industry and Star Trek have literally grown up together. From the first branded merchandise catalogs in 1967 to fan conventions in the '70s, magazines in the '80s, online chats in the '90s to today's interactive fan experiences, Star Trek has continuously expanded its licensing model to not only grow the fan base but to be the leader in fan engagement," says Bill Burke, senior vice president, marketing, CBS Consumer Products.
The modern strategy for the Star Trek brand is three-pronged, says Kalodner, and addresses the many different series and films by packaging them up into a total brand approach.
"Even though there are many different series and films, Star Trek is ultimately one brand that we unified in logo and packaging to form a cohesive Star Trek statement," says Kalodner.
Kalodner has broken the Star Trek brand management strategy down into three pillars that address the different types of consumers–the core fan, the casual fan and the emerging fan.
This approach then informed the way the consumer product program has grown over the last decade, infusing the market with product that continually resonates with each generation of shopper, from those that watched the original series in 1966 to new viewers who first meet the Star Trek universe in the latest set of films from director J.J. Abrams.
A broad program of merchandise is planned for each consumer tier to celebrate the 50th anniversary and will roll out throughout the year.
"Star Trek is by nature a very collectible brand," says Veronica Hart, senior vice president, licensing, CBS Consumer Products. "Its fans, especially those that have been with the property since the beginning, are always looking for new ways to own Star Trek and be a part of it in a new way. To satisfy that, we have a wide range of collectible product from a variety of different partners."
Targeted to the core fan, Mattel, in a first-ever deal, has stepped up to produce a collection of collectible Barbies inspired by the classic Star Trek series that will include characters Kirk, Spock and Uhura; while Hallmark is again returning to market with its gold USS Enterprise ornament. QMx will produce studio scale replicas of the famous ship and the Franklin Mint, in conjunction with Wood Expressions, has created a tridimensional chess set.
Appealing to both the core and casual fan are a range of construction sets from MEGA Bloks based on the original Star Trek series, an Air Hog Enterprise from Spin Master, a Risk board game co-brand from USAopoly, Star Trek plush from Gund and a partnership with Build-a-Bear for uniformed character bears.
"Co-brands are a core part of the Star Trek product strategy for the 50th anniversary, and this summer alone there will be a broad assortment in a variety of categories. For the toy collector, there will be a full range of Star Trek Original Series MEGA Bloks construction sets, as well as Barbie dolls released by Mattel," says Hart.
For the casual and emerging fan, or those that "love Star Trek, but aren't going to collect every item," is a social game from Disruptor Beam, titled "Star Trek Timelines"; fashion accessories from Rock Love (necklaces) and Accutime (pocket watch); and a Bluetooth communicator from The Wand Company.
MAC cosmetics will also debut a Star Trek collection in August that will include 25 lip, eye and face products inspired by the iconic female characters from the franchise's run such as Commander Deanna Troi, Uhura, Vina Orion Girl and Seven of Nine.
"The MAC Star Trek collection is a beautiful line and ties in with pop culture and the more casual fan–it's not so overtly Star Trek, but is something that people can use every day in a fashion-forward way," says Hart. "It's a wink and a nod to the fan community, and if you are in the know, it's very interesting."
The casual fan has the gift category on lock with embossed journals from The Coop, a 50th anniversary champagne vintage from Votto Vines and even a collection of stamps from the U.S. Postal Service and the Canada Post.
On the publishing side, a category that has fulfilled brand extensions for the Star Trek brand since the very beginning, several projects are in the works. HarperCollins will create The Star Trek Encyclopedia; National Geographic will publish a reference guide, Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Night Sky; Titan Publishing will create the art book Star Trek: 50 Artists. 50 Years.; and Dorling Kindersley will release, as part of its Big Ideas Simply Explained series, The Star Trek Book.
But one category is resonating highly with all target markets–live events.
"Across all three fan groups, live events really are of interest to everyone," says Kalodner. "That's why the 50th anniversary has so many events as part of its core component–they give fans a way to engage with Star Trek directly and celebrate it."
Numerous live events are planned around the 50th anniversary and are as varied as they are engaging.
The flagship celebration will be hosted at the official Star Trek Convention 2016, set to take place Aug. 3-7 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev. Hosted by Creation Entertainment, in partnership with CBS Consumer Products, the convention will feature the most Star Trek celebrity guests ever in one location (65 have already been announced) over the five-day event and include activities such as panels, games, parties, photo opportunities, karaoke, autograph signings, interactive displays, costume and video contests and an auction. Tickets are already sold out.
Other conventions planned include Star Trek: Mission New York, hosted by ReedPop and CBS Consumer Products. The three-day event will bring the celebration back to the Big Apple (the very first convention in 1972 took place in New York City) and include interactive exhibits, exclusive merchandise, celebrity guests, panels, screenings and much more.
Across the pond, planned for October is the Destination Star Trek event, which will pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of the brand with interactive exhibits, fan events, panels and cast and crew meet-and-greets, including appearances by William Shatner, Christopher Lloyd (Commander Kruge), Walter Koenig (Chekov) and more. Destination Star Trek will take place Oct. 7-9 at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England.
Other events include a series of worldwide Trek Talks, an initiative that examines the impact and influence of the franchise over its 50-year lifespan through live conversations with thought leaders in the areas of technology, science, society, culture and more; a North America concert series, Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage, in partnership with CineConcerts and Paramount Pictures; a Starfleet Academy Experience exhibition, which uses the franchise as a springboard to teach visitors about science and technology, that will tour the U.S. and Canada; and an exhibition at EMP Museum in Seattle, Wash., that will feature set pieces from the original series, more than 100 props from all series, rare costumes, a transporter simulator, original scripts and concept art and much more.
There's even a cruise that is slated to set sail in January 2017. Entertainment Cruise Productions will host the six-day vacation experience, which will take fans to Cozumel, Mexico, and Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. William Shatner is again slated to appear on-board, as will other franchise stars Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Frakes, Robert Picardo, John de Lancie, James Darren and more. The experience will be as authentic as possible in every way, down to the ship's crew uniforms, which will include distinctive designs from the franchise.
To coincide with the publishing of Titan Publishing's book Star Trek: 50 Artists. 50 Years., a commemorative touring art exhibition is in the works and will kick off during July's International Comic-Con in San Diego, Calif. The exhibit will debut at Michael J. Wolfe Fine Arts and feature 2D and 3D artwork from 50 artists from 10 countries including original art from the late Leonard Nimoy. Following its San Diego debut, the art exhibit will tour to the Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, the Canadian National Exhibition in August and hit New York's Paley Center in September, before heading to the U.K. for Destination Star Trek. The tour will continue on after that through August 2017.
Social media and the robust Star Trek e-commerce program will also drive excitement around the anniversary, as well.
"We look at social media as a way to have direct communication and an on-going conversation with Star Trek's fans, 365-days-a-year," says Burke." StarTrek.com is the hub of all that we do, but Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr are also key to our strategy. Each platform provides a different opportunity and a different voice."
Through a focused, regionalized approach, CBS Consumer Products is able to showcase products based on a user's geographical territory and therefore tailor relevant assortments to a specific market, and then drive that customer to various appropriate consumer websites.
"The combination of e-commerce and social media has transformed the marketplace," says Burke. "Main Street has become the Internet and fans' favorite shops are now websites. StarTrek.com and our social media platforms enable us to engage and micro-target fans with content that connects them directly to our key e-commerce partners in markets around the world."
And while the 50th anniversary product and celebration activities will largely culminate this year as the milestone comes to a close, the future promises to have just as much on offer says CBS Consumer Products, thanks to more entertainment in the works.
In early 2017, a brand-new Star Trek TV series will premiere on the CBS network and then be available exclusively in the U.S. on CBS All Access. The new series will introduce all-new characters, new worlds and new civilizations, continuing the storyline that has endured.
This July, a new film, Star Trek Beyond, will hit theaters. Starring Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock, the new film, directed by Justin Lin, will continue the franchise reboot begun by J.J. Abrams in 2009 with Star Trek and continued in 2013 with Star Trek Into Darkness.
"The future is bright," says Kalodner. "We are extremely excited for the new TV entertainment, in addition to the movie franchise. The audience will continue to expand, and we will continue to pursue the categories we are in, grow and dive deeper."
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