10 Minutes With … Spin Master on the Licensing Strategy for ‘Unicorn Academy’

License Global speaks with André Lake Mayer, senior vice president, global strategic partnerships and consumer products, Spin Master, about the success of “Unicorn Academy” and how the licensing program has been developed alongside the Netflix show.

Ian Hart, Senior Digital Editor U.K. & EMEA

April 15, 2024

6 Min Read
André Lake Meyer, Spin Master
André Lake MeyerSpin Master

License Global: “Unicorn Academy” has gone from strength to strength since it premiered on Netflix at the back end of last year. From your perspective, why does the brand resonate so well with consumers at retail?

André Lake Mayer: “Unicorn Academy” has everything kids are looking for in a series – adventure, magic, friendship, fun and music. The story is set in a magical world, while the diverse group of aspirational characters feels very relatable.

Their unbreakable bonds with their unicorns and relationships with one another are very alluring for the audience. Not to mention the vibrant animation and musical elements that are quite compelling for our audience.

Finally, their extraordinary adventures and the intrigue created by the mystery and good vs. evil leaves you on the edge of your seat in each episode.

Unicorn Academy plush toy, Spin Master

How soon after the release of a new show do you believe, or know, you are going to have a successful show and, in turn, a successful supporting licensing program?

In the case of “Unicorn Academy,” we really imagined it as a full-franchise approach leading with the storytelling based on the original book series and re-imagined through the animated series. We gained strong validation when the series debut #1 on Netflix and held strong as a top five kids show and top ten overall globally during the launch window, November through December 2023.

With a broad discovery strategy, that encompassed a uniquely curated cadence of digital content, physical promotion, lead products and retailers, we built a solid foundation for the tentpole toy launch this summer that aligns with the second drop on Netflix.

We will closely monitor all consumer and sales metrics between summer 2024 and spring 2025, across all key markets and anticipate a strong consumer response to the commercial elements of “Unicorn Academy” that we expect will define the show as the undeniable home for unicorns globally.

Unicorn Academy Enchanting Graphic Logo Pullover Hoodie, Spin Master

What are some of the key collaborations that have defined the “Unicorn Academy” approach to licensing?

When we looked at our licensing strategy we really focused on expanding the “Unicorn Academy” experience through aspirational storytelling and lifestyle categories that resonate with our core audience of girls 5+, including trend-forward lifestyle goods, publishing, fashion/accessories (to start) along with Spin Master’s tentpole toy collection. We also pursued a retail-first strategy that allows us to seed the market and move from class to mass.

At launch, we created a fantastic in-store promotional program with Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt in the U.S. and Yogun Fruz in Canada highlighting signature yogurt sundaes inspired by each of the characters. It was such a hit with fans that together we extended the duration of the promotion. It’s key for us to find elevated collaborations that are aspirational, connect with core fans while also being authentic to the show and its themes. 

What do you look for when you are selecting partners for a new IP looking to break into licensing? I guess you lean on existing partners for other related IP as a starting point.

Yes, we benchmark based on existing partnerships and long-standing relationships. We look for well-trusted manufacturers who are key vendors for all the most influential retail accounts.

Those with an enduring track record and expertise in their category and within the overall industry. This translates to great design and quality, reliability, staying on trend, aligned distribution and responsiveness when the time is right to scale and optimize.

Unicorn Academy Silhouettes Graphic Tote Bag, Spin Master

What excites you most about creating new collaborations? 

We see collaborations and promotions as a mutually elevating and experiential way for our fans to discover and/or engage with “Unicorn Academy” that can lead them deeper into the story world and or into the product touchpoints.

This year in celebration of National Unicorn Day (April 9) we hosted events with CAMP in five key markets where girls were able to channel their inner unicorn through transformation bars, role play, music/dance and thematic Unicorn treats from the Flour Shop.

Coming this summer, we are bringing “Unicorn Academy” music front and center, as one of the key experiences in the Kids Bop Summer Concert Tour. We look forward to finding more magical collaborations for our fans that will allow girls to be extraordinary.

What strategies do you employ to expand the “Unicorn Academy” brand licensing into new markets or demographics?

We’re so fortunate to have Netflix as our streaming platform for “Unicorn Academy” because it provides the franchise with instant reach to global audiences. Spin Master and Netflix are partnering with their mutual strengths to build the next kids’ global franchise. With that in mind, we are sufficiently incubating, marketing and tracking data leading into and out of the second drop on Netflix in summer 2024.

We do this while strategically road-mapping timing of toy and CP rollout on three factors: Netflix top countries, Spin Master Toy’s strongest markets and complementary second-window launches on linear for the TV series.

Unicorn Academy figures, Spin Master

What can we expect from “Unicorn Academy” and Spin Master more generally for the remainder of 2024 and into 2025? 

There is so much more in store for “Unicorn Academy” in 2024 and beyond. Beginning this summer, we’ll release the next chapter of “Unicorn Academy” on Netflix, which includes a new special and nine more episodes.

We’ve partnered with Kidz Bop, the N0. 1 kids’ music brand, to sponsor their summer tour which will have 60 dates across North America. This is a perfect demographic for our show and our partnership will include branded photo-ops and activations on-site, including a pop-up “Unicorn Academy” experience and of course, music from the show.

And, as mentioned, the highly anticipated toy line will launch this fall centered around Sophia and Wildstar and the other favorite characters from the show. The line includes gorgeous fashion dolls as well as premium plush developed by our GUND team. 

We also launched an adorable new preschool series this year, “Vida the Vet,” which follows 10-year-old Vida who nurtures and cares for the charming and silly woodland creatures who live outside of her home. The show is already on BBC Cbeebies in the U.K., Corus’ Treehouse in Canada and on Netflix in Germany and the U.S. We’re close to announcing new free-to-air partners for the series and our toy line will launch this fall. We’re currently working with licensed partners for the rollout of a larger consumer products program.

This year marks the 50th anniversary for the iconic Rubik’s Cube and we have some amazing licensed partnerships tapping into pop culture, including co-branded cubes with the NBA, “Stranger Things,” Barbie, Hello Kitty and many, many more. And, we will be exploring licensing opportunities for our award-winning digital app, Toca Boca, that has an incredibly engaged fan base. With 62 million monthly active users this brand is perfectly positioned for licensing partnerships.

To learn more about the licensing opportunities for “Unicorn Academy” and more, visit the Spin Master booth O214, at Licensing Expo, May 21-24, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas.

Registration for Licensing Expo is open now, find out more.

About the Author(s)

Ian Hart

Senior Digital Editor U.K. & EMEA, License Global

Ian joined the License Global editorial team in May 2022 as digital editor for the U.K. and EMEA, becoming Senior Digital Editor in April 2023.

Ian is a huge fan of sports and entertainment brands and, as a father, toys and kids' brands are a large part of his life!

He has been at Informa (formerly UBM) since 2018, where he was previously the editor of SHP, a B2B digital publication aimed at health & safety professionals.

Ian studied journalism at university before spending seven years in online fantasy gaming. Prior to moving to Informa, Ian worked in B2B trade print media, in the automotive sector, working on various publications aimed at independent automotive technicians and parts distributors.

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