We spoke to marketing director Jerry Healy and Lesli Zador, International brand manager of Hit Entertainment, about the launch of the new toy line.
So, firstly, why choose Character as master toy licensee?
Lesli Zador: We wanted to take Fireman Sam to the next level in line with Hit’s investment into the new programming now being broadcast.
With this in mind, Character was a natural choice to work with the new CGI animated format as we have an existing relationship with them (on Barney) which we wanted to expand in light of their proven track record on pre-school properties, their investment into TV advertising, their excellent retail relationships as well as their commitment to innovative product development.
We also believe the excitement generated by having a licensee such as Character on board would have a positive overall halo effect on the Fireman Sam licensing programme.
Character’s licence is for the UK and Eire but as we roll out the new CG series across Europe, the product will be available for distribution via Character’s distributors or locally-appointed licensees.
Why did Character want the Fireman Sam licence?
Jerry Healy: Character has enjoyed huge success in the pre-school sector and the natural way forward was to expand our portfolio. When you look at the profile of Fireman Sam it complements perfectly our other licences. This is a licence enjoyed as much by parents as by children and they are happy to invite Sam into their home to be part of their child’s development. What’s more, Fireman Sam has heritage behind it and has been enjoyed for generations. This was attractive to us, knowing a new generation of parents will be introducing him to their children, having experienced him when they were kids.
What does the addition of Fireman Sam bring to Character’s range?
Jerry Healy: The addition of Fireman Sam to our portfolio will position Character Options as a major supplier of licensed pre-school toys.
What’s the current situation with the TV series?
Lesli Zador: Fireman Sam is currently broadcast in the new CGI format twice daily on Cartoonito, weekends on GMTV’s Fluffy Club and the classic series is aired on Milkshake. The new CGI debuted in March 2009 to a great reception and audiences have continued to love it since. It has continuously been the top rated show on Cartoonito and is the top rated show in its segment on The Fluffy Club. The second CGI series will debut in March 2010 on Cartoonito.
Tell us a bit more about the product range.
Jerry Healy: Collectable figures, play-sets, plush and vehicles make up the miniature play part of the collection whilst there will be a number of dress up items too. We also have lots of plans for future development
What are the key products? Are vehicles the most important part of it?
Jerry Healy: We have a focused selection of products that are based around delivering traditional play patterns. The range of vehicles ties in closely to the new CGI series and reflects the expanded range of locations, vehicles and storylines in the new series. The vehicles come with accessories and sounds and are bound to prove really popular.
How closely are Hit and Character working on this?
Lesli Zador: Investment on consumer marketing and retail promotions is up on last year. Hit has a full-year marketing plan involving all licensees to raise the profile of the brand. Hit and Character have a comprehensive PR strategy and are developing a full trade marketing calendar of activity.
How much will you be spending and where?
Jerry Healy: There is a significant amount being spent on product development and marketing. Our TV campaigns alone are set to deliver over 750 TVRs during 2010. Two new TVCs are planned based around vehicles and play-sets and separately for role-play. This plan falls in line with Character Options’ general strategy to TV advertise every key product. We also have a robust PR plan that will work with nurseries and parents. This will be put together with Hit and will complement their year-round strategy for the licence.