Mattel plans entertainment centers; Disney celebrates Star Wars Day; Target unveils outdoor brand; Foot Locker partners with Champion; plus, other top brand licensing and retail news.

Licensing, marketing and retail expert/opinion leader Tony Lisanti provides insight and perspective for the top headlines of the week. “Licensing and Merchandising Report” is a must read for top execs who want objective, straightforward and authoritative analysis for the retailers, licensors and brands. 

Mattel Plans Entertainment Centers

With its turnaround strategy clearly driven by entertainment, Mattel added another component that will extend its franchises to a multi-branded indoor family entertainment concept.

The company reported that the indoor interactive entertainment centers will bring Mattel’s iconic brands—including Barbie, Hot Wheels and Mega Construx—to life “by combining physical and digital play experiences and offering, events and experiential retail.”

This project certainly supports the company’s focus to extend its brands beyond the toy aisle, expand its fan base, and create brand awareness year-round. And the entertainment centers will be a welcome addition to malls and strip centers, which are looking for major tenants and new ways to build consumer traffic and interest.

This project will be developed in partnership with iP2Entertainment, a global developer of entertainment centers that has worked with other major licensors. The first location, a 25,000 sq. ft. space, is scheduled to open in Toronto in Spring 2020 with additional locations planned.

According to Mattel, each themed area will offer various creative play possibilities for kids and families that will: “reaffirm that girls can be anything they want as they explore a magical Barbie mini-world filled with near limitless possibilities; ignite kids’ challenger spirit by putting them in the driver’s seat for experiential activities –including customizing their own Hot Wheels car, designing their race track and creating custom rides they can experience on a massive racing simulator; and challenge kids and families to test their construction skills in the ultimate Mega Construx building scenarios.”

In addition to these brand-themed areas, the centers will offer events such as family game night, experiential retail and high-quality food and beverage options.

“The family entertainment centers will extend the emotional connection of our brands with kids and allow Mattel to continue to bring wonder and imagination to families,” said Janet Hsu, Mattel’s chief franchise management office. “The family entertainment centers offer a powerful combination of physical and digital play that give kids the chance to interact with Barbie, Hot Wheels and Mega Construx through live events and experiences, gaming and content.”

Roger Houben, CEO, iP2Entertainment, said: “Our partnership with Mattel reimagines the indoor entertainment center experience, which, until now, has seen limited innovation for nearly four decades. Together, we’ll create brand new physical and digital play-based experiences for kids that will get them moving and engaged in ways that no small screen device could.”

Mattel Expands Pixar Deal

Mattel announced the expansion of its global licensing agreement with Disney to span new titles and to design and develop toys inspired by characters from all Pixar Animation Studios’ film properties. Included in the new agreement are upcoming 2020 movie releases, including Onward, Coco, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., and The Incredibles.

The deal, which encompasses North America, Europe, Latin America, Australia, and New Zealand, will feature a wide variety of products including action figures, miniature and novelty figures, plush and playsets, available beginning in May 2020. The agreement builds on Mattel’s strong relationship with Disney and Pixar for Toy Story 3 and Cars, and Toy Story 4, which hits theatres June 21.

“Pixar is a legendary animation studio renowned for creating some of the most iconic and diverse sets of characters,” said Janet Hsu, chief franchise management officer, Mattel. “We look forward to bringing these characters to children of all ages so they can create their own adventures and stories through play. This relationship is the latest example of Mattel’s commitment to collaborate with globally-recognized franchises as part of our transformation into an IP-driven, high-performing toy company.”

“Whether under the sea, in the clouds, on the racetrack or in deep space, we’re thrilled to bring Pixar’s innovative creativity to life through new interactive play experiences with Mattel,” said Josh Silverman, EVP global product commercialization, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. “These new lines of toys and products will celebrate Mattel’s commitment to imagination and extend Pixar’s iconic characters and stories in unique ways.” 

Disney Promotes Star Wars Day

In a major initiative that crosses its divisions, The Walt Disney Company is celebrating “May the 4th Be with You.” The company is also prepping for Triple Force Friday on October 4 in anticipation of the final Star Wars movie that hits the big screen December 20, the first live-action series called The Mandalorian, and new game from EA and Respawn. This is a comprehensive brand extensions strategy at its best that involves numerous content and merchandise opportunities. It not only promotes the upcoming movie, but also builds interest and awareness for the franchise throughout the year.

Promotions and deals include:

  • Meet the Fans, a collection of articles on that spotlights the mega fans.
  • Numerous events at the Disneyland resort.
  • Special Star Wars playlist on Obi-Wan.
  • Discounts on console and mobile games.
  • Tour of the Lucasfilm Campus through Adventures by Disney San Francisco Escape.

Dozens of special deals on Star Wars merchandise from numerous licensees including Bandai, Build-a-Bear, Munki Munki, Retrospective, Cubcoats, Design by Humans, Fanwraps, Fathead, Fifth Sun, Flex, Hallmark, Hanna Andersson, Hasbro, Her Universe, Heroes & Villains, IDW, Inkkas, Invicta, Lego, Loungefly, Lovepop, Out of Print, Picnic Time, Plasticolor, Popsocket, Rags, Tee Turtle, Tervis, Uncanny, and York Wallcoverings. 

Target Adds Outdoor Brand

For the past year and a half, Target has introduced one new private brand after another across all merchandise categories. Following its environmental brand Everspring, released in conjunction with Earth Day last week, Target has unveiled Sun Squad, a new seasonal outdoor collection of almost 600 products. The products range from pool floats to sprinklers to coolers to games in various prints and patterns utilizing flamingos, shells and pineapples.

“We created Sun Squad to help guests celebrate the pure joy of summer,” says Mark Tritton, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer at Target. “The collection is brimming with bright, joyful style and affordable designs that encourage families to get outside, create lasting memories and make the most of the season together.” 

Foot Locker and Champion Esports Deal

Foot Locker announced a new collaboration with Champion Athleticwear that features five top tier esports teams. The collection reflects each team’s heritage and includes jerseys, sweatshirts and T-shirts.

“Foot Locker has a storied history elevating traditional sports and athletes in unique ways, and now we are excited to elevate esports for our consumers within the Foot Locker family of brands,” says Andrew Gray, VP and chief merchandising officer, Foot Locker, North America. “This is a great opportunity for us to continue our mission of inspiring and empowering youth culture.”

To celebrate the collection, Champs Sports will host an exclusive in-store tournament at its Times Square Flagship on May 18, which will be streamed live on Twitch.

“With a rich history in athleticwear and growing presence in esports, this collaboration is the next step in further cementing the Champion brand’s influence and impact on esports culture,” says Larry Gemmell, HanesBrands’ general manager, Licensed Sports Apparel. “Together with Foot Locker, we’re uniting the esports community and, for the first time, introducing it at retail positioned squarely alongside other sports-inspired apparel. We’re thrilled to do so, and for esports fans to see the new collection.”

Teams featured in the collection, according to Foot Locker, include:

  1. OpTic Gaming. Founded in 2006, the Texas-based organization competes worldwide for some of the most recognizable titles in esports, including Call of Duty, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), Gears of War and League of Legends. Outside of competitive rosters, OpTic is known as a cultural leader in gaming and esports amplified by its extensive roster of streamers and personalities.
  2. Counter Logic Gaming. Los Angeles-based Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) is a top tier North American esports organization that competes in a range of games including League of Legends, Fortnite, CS:GO and Smash.  CLG strives to uplift its community through championship wins, unforgettable fan experiences and pushing the boundaries of esports entertainment.
  3. Dignitas. Founded in 2003, Dignitas is one of the esports industry’s heritage professional teams and is home to one of the top all-female CS:GO and Rocket League teams in the world. Owned by Harris Blitzer Sports& Entertainment, whose portfolio includes multiple professional sports teams, Dignitas has produced over 34 World Champions and over 500 tournament wins.
  4. Spacestation Gaming. Spacestation Gaming was founded in 2017 by Shaun McBride(Shonduras) around the idea of building a community.  Spacestation has found success by creating unique content with an emphasis on supporting its teams and fan base.  The organization currently has competitive teams in 10 games including Rocket League, Rainbow6, Smite, PUBG and Paladins.
  5. Renegades. Renegades is a global esports franchise featuring professional athletes and teams in the world’s most competitive titles. Founded by professional basketball player, Jonas Jerebko, the Renegades’ recent breakout performances in CS:GO and Fortnite launched the franchise into becoming one of the most prominent and internationally recognized brands in the world.

 adidas Partners with Little League

Little League Baseball and Softball announced a multi-year partnership making adidas be the official uniform, footwear and coaches apparel supplier for the Little League World Series (LLWS) and an Official Sponsor of Little League.

Beginning this season, adidas will design and create on-field uniforms for all seven of the Little League World Series events throughout the U.S. Additionally, adidas will outfit all teams with adidas cleats, training apparel and accessories and all coaches will be supplied with athletic footwear and apparel.

“adidas and Little League have long and storied histories in sport, so it’s both an honor and a privilege to partner with like-minded organizations,” said Jeff McGillis, VP of adidas U.S. Sports. “We believe that through sport, we have the power to change lives and this new partnership exemplifies our commitment to empower young athletes, provide equal access to sport, and help inspire boys and girls to play the sports they love.”

“We are excited to welcome adidas to the Little League family and are looking forward to the great opportunities we can both create for our young baseball and softball players through this partnership,” said Liz DiLullo Brown, Little League senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “More than just the official uniform and footwear to the Little League World Series, adidas will help us to inspire Little Leaguers around the world to achieve their dreams, both on and off the field each year.”

NRF predicts record sales for Mom’s Day

Mother’s Day spending is expected to reach a record $25 billion, up from $23.1 billion in 2018, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey.

“Mother’s Day spending has been growing consistently over the past several years, and this year’s spending is expected to be the highest in the 16-year history of our survey,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Consumers are excited to celebrate all the moms in their lives, and retailers are ready to inspire consumers with unique gift options.”

  • The number of people celebrating Mother’s Day is consistent with last year at 86 percent.
  • Those celebrating are expected to spend more–an average $196 compared with $180 in 2018.
  • Consumers ages 35-44 are likely to spend the most at an average $248, up from $224.
  • The report found that special outings and gift cards are growing in addition to more traditional gifts including flowers, greeting cards, and jewelry. Increased spending on jewelry represents 31 percent of the expected increase over last year.