In 1991, Dirk Kiefer was sent to the UK from the States to head up a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles campaign for Burger King. The promotion was very successful and led to MAPS working with some of the major players in the toy and FMCG sectors.
Subsequent campaigns included work with Tomy, Nestle, Disney, Cereal Partners, Coca-Cola, Danone… the list goes on.
Sharman explains: “With its own UK-based design team, MAPS quickly became known as the best in the business for designing and manufacturing from its own factory, high quality, attractive and innovative promotional toys and figures.”
The company grew quickly and now employs ten staff in the UK as well as operating offices in Hong Kong, New Zealand and Malaysia.
In 2006, Sharman was drafted in to set up MAPS Toys, a toy company in its own right. Following on from its wealth of experience in the space, this development seemed a logical next step.
Sharman’s appointment strengthened the proposal. With over ten years experience in international toy design, distribution, retail and marketing, he was the ideal person to launch the new business.
His brief when he joined was to establish MAPS Toys as an innovative new player in the UK and European market and so far, he has fulfilled this role at an impressive pace.
Last year, saw the company sign exclusive UK and European distribution deals with a range of American companies. The portfolio now consists of Squashblox from Daydream toys – giant construction cushions; Slicer from Icemeister – all-season sledges, and a UK only deal for URock –mini guitar MP3 players.
Sharman’s plan is to continue bringing US ranges into the UK and Europe and also for the company to grow its own ranges.
One of the MAPS products is the Build-it collection, a real brick construction toy. Toy Fair 2008 saw the launch of the Build-it with Bob product, featuring Bob the Builder.
Sharman says: “Response to the Build-it with Bob range has been phenomenal and MAPS will be rolling out the brand internationally for 2009. We are also looking at growing the Build-it brand in 2009 and are in discussions with other major licensors as part of this.”
The firm is also due to introduce a new range of electronic games and Sharman reveals: “We are in negotiations with a current hot boys property in this sector. We are aiming for launch of all the new products at Toy Fair 2009.”
The company currently sells its range direct and has secured listings with assorted high street names as well as selling through wholesalers such as AB Gee. Sharman is also looking at taking on more independent agents to service the independent trade.
As the company grows, it is putting more weight behind a marketing campaign, beginning with a national promotion with The Sun for the Build-it with Bob range in the run up to Christmas. Sharman says he is also currently evaluating the possibility of TV advertising for 2009.