Spinning Around

Having recently launched an iPad-based toy range in conjunction with Disney, Spin Master is staying at the top of its game. Katie Roberts met with MD, Kevin Jones and Marketing Director, Phil Hooper to see what?s happening?
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Spin Master strikes a careful balance between breaking into new categories and growth in its existing sectors, something that’s seen the firm flying up NPD’s top UK supplier list to its current eighth position.

The ranking has been achieved after just six years in the UK and NPD also shows the firm is the fastest growing supplier in the top ten, with sales increases of 22 per cent for the year, ahead of wider market growth of just four per cent.

Kevin Jones, MD, said: “We’ve had six years of continuous growth and this year is no different. We’re really pleased with our own UK results and that’s allowed the firm to expand into other international markets.”

The company has some exciting new launches but hasn’t forgotten its core lines. Jones continues: “When you look at our main brands, which are Tech Deck, Bakugan, Air Hogs and Moon Sand and Moon Dough, all of them are doing really well.”

Bakugan is in its fourth year in the UK and sales for 2011 so far are up over 20 per cent, while its action figure category has grown ten per cent. The brand has also increased its market share from ten to 13 per cent.

“Kids still have a huge appetite for Bakugan and everything that’s different about it. For us, it’s unbelievable,” explains marketing director, Phil Hooper.
Moving into girls, January saw the launch of Zoobles.

“We set ourselves the objective of coming in and becoming one of the top two or three brands in the collectables category,” continues Hooper. “And we went in at number two.”

The brand has maintained this success and NPD figures show it is still the number two property in play-set themed figures, with a ten per cent share. Zoobles is also number three new property across all toys for the year to date.

Zoobles’ success has helped redress the balance of the company. Jones says: “Certainly from where we started five years ago, it feels as though we aren’t just a boys business, but we’re boys, girls and activities. And the great thing is that brands which have continued to grow with the business are still developing, and within them is great innovation.”

And innovation is key. Hooper explains: “I think people expect us to be at the cutting edge of new technologies and new categories and to come out with something very different or something very special.”

Jones agrees: “We’ve got a reputation, I believe, in the industry for working the closest with the inventor community and being very open to ideas, wherever they come from. You never know where the best ideas are going to come from.”

Continuing in this vein, the firm is set to launch into the trading card sector later in 2012 with Redakai. Based on an animated TV series, the game features a lenticular design and a stacking gameplay with life lines, set to appeal to a range of ages.

Hooper says: “It’s a very simple way to play, but at different levels, it’s more complex. For the hardcore gamer, there is a full TCG, but there’s a simple game-play that younger kids can understand and enjoy.”

AppMates was launched globally last month and uses an iPad as the game mat for children to play with the Cars 2 AppMates characters. A free app is downloaded and provides kids with games, activities, sounds and other features.

Hooper is optimistic: “I think parents are very comfortable with letting kids play with such games and you only have to look at the successes of things like Angry Birds and other digitally driven games like Moshi to see it’s very fertile ground.”

So gradually, Spin Master seems to be breaking into more sectors of the market. What’s next? Jones offers: “We’re in the games category in the US, so when the product and timing is right, we’d look to develop into games, that’s part of our plan.”

Will the expansion continue? “The guys seem to be attracted not to the categories we aren’t in, but by what they love,” explains Jones. “If they love the idea, love the concept or love the product, whatever it is, if they can get passionate about it, it doesn’t really matter if we have ten other products in that category.”

Whatever comes next, it will be heavily supported by Spin Master. The firm’s ad spend has increased this year and 2011 is its biggest marketing year to date. The company is currently the number five advertiser in the market and TV spend and traditional marketing is supplemented by grass roots methods on all brands, along with social media activity, sponsorship deals, trade and consumer PR and much more.

Who knows where the firm will be after another six years in the UK…

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