The outdoors type

Football clubs formed the foundation of Hy-Pro?s business over 15 years ago and since then, the range has grown beyond its core market to incorporate a whole host of strong licensed toy products. We speak to the firm?s brand and marketing manager, Alex Kovacevic, to find out more?
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Utilising a distribution network established in the sports industry, Hy-Pro began life with a range of sports products manufactured under licence from some of the biggest football clubs in the world.

Football remains at the heart of the business and the firm now has licensing deals with Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea. The FA is also a partner for the company’s range of England merchandise.

Its involvement in the world of football led the company to work with other major sporting bodies including the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and sports brands like Le Coq Sportif.

This licensing expertise soon saw it signing deals for major properties including High School Musical, Hannah Montana, Scooby-Doo, Dora the Explorer, Clone Wars, Spider-man and many more.

Alex Kovacevic, brand and marketing manager, explains how the portfolio began to grow outside of sports products: “With such impressive outdoor credentials from the sporting world, it was unavoidable that Hy-Pro would also become involved with some of the biggest entertainment licences.”

The company is perhaps best known for its licensed balls, but now also offers sports series for Dora and Scooby-Doo. Hero products in the Dora range include a talking trampoline and interactive skittles, and both licences have small and large playground balls, embossed balls, hoppers and twist out goals.

Alongside the licensed portfolio, Hy-Pro now also offers an own-brand range to most of the major retailers in the UK, including Argos and Tesco, again with a focus on the outdoor market. While the outdoor and sports sector has proved successful for the firm, a run of poor weather in the UK over the last few summers has created a tough market place. However, other factors help to overcome this problem.

Kovacevic explains: “Childhood obesity is on the increase and there is a growing concern that kids do not get the exercise or time outdoors that is healthy for them. For this reason, the outdoor sector still has a lot of goodwill in the market place, and being a cheaper source of entertainment than the electronic equivalent, is well placed to endure the [economic] downturn.”

In order to create a steadier footing in the toy industry, however, Hy-Pro is beginning to extend its offering to include indoor products and last year launched its first range of licensed football tables from Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.

Kovacevic continues: “Continued innovation and development of our own IP will also serve us well in the years to come.”

One of these IPs is Street Gliders – a craze which turns trainers into skates. Since the launch of the generic product, Hy-Pro has more recently signed up a range of licences for the trainers including Scooby-Doo, Hannah Montana, High School Musical, Barbie and SpongeBob Squarepants among others.

The firm is hoping its latest offering, the Phantom Scooter will follow in Street Gliders’ footsteps and evolve into another playground craze. The scooter features white headlights and green rear lights that respond to the user’s every move.
Kids can create their own light show on the scooter and when they jump off, the lights flash red.

Hy-Pro has also recently signed a deal with Magic Box for the industry’s latest playground craze, Gogo’s Crazy Bones.
The partnership will see the company developing a range of lunch bags, water bottles, wallets and play tents, all available throughout the year. It also spreads the product offering over a range of sectors.


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SECTOR GUIDE: Outdoor toys

The outdoor and sports toys sector was worth £363m in 2011, up ten per cent thanks to some extremely mild weather and, unusually, enjoys two peak periods. We take a look at what some of the key players are promoting this year.

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