If you’ve never sat opposite Nickelodeon’s SVP of consumer products, Mark Kingston as he quietly asks you what you know about slime, have you ever really experienced London Toy Fair?
It turns out that while we at ToyNews like to think we are clued up on the latest trends, and slime is certainly one of them, Kingston is a font of knowledge on the topic in which we are happy to bask.
But of course, he would be. Nickelodeon has, after all, been synonymous with slime for the last 30 years. It’s a concept that has adorned the Nickelodeon logo in some form for the most part of a generation and the Nickelodeon channel is not shy of the odd A-list celebrity getting an on-air sliming.
“We can certainly stake a claim to having invented the slime genre all that time ago,” says Kingston, sipping from a bottle we assume contains water, yet could have equally been a fresh brew of the green stuff itself. Recently appointed to the role of vice president of consumer products at Nickelodeon and Viacom, heading up licensing for all international markets outside of the US, Kingston really is the only man for the job; living, breathing and exuding the kind of energy and excitement Nickelodeon is so well known for.
And when he began to notice the trend for the oozy compound picking up in the toy space, it wasn’t long before he and the consumer products team around him realised the huge potential for the studio within it. From there, it wasn’t a long journey to reach the conclusion that the only firm up to the job was the long-term product partner, Sambro.
“Sambro is a key partner of ours and has worked across multiple categories with us,” says Kingston. “So we really wanted them to come on board and develop not just Slime compounds – which they have done exceptionally well – but to really encapsulate the essence of Nickelodeon Slime in products.”
Unsurprisingly, Sambro said yes and used London’s Toy Fair as the opportunity to showcase the first line of products, including Slime Guns and a raft of Slime- themed games.
“We have had a unanimous response to this new line,” explains Kingston. “Sambro has had a great London Toy Fair and this is a very good retail pick up, so we are very excited about this.”
"PAW Patrol has been a phenomenal success for us, and as we move in to its fifth year, it is truly becoming an evergreen."
Mark Kingston, Nickelodeon
Having worked extensively on a style guide for the iconic Nickelodeon Slime, both the studio and Sambro are looking to expand the franchise into new categories, as well as search new partners to bring the brand into clothing and accessories.
Slime, however, is but one string to the Nickelodeon bow. Currently, the firm is sitting rather pretty, seemingly dominating the pre-school space with the likes of PAW Patrol, Shimmer and Shine and the newly launched Nella the Princess Knight.
“Pre-school is on fire for us,” said Kingston. “Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. in particular, have become the owners of pre-school and when we look at our brand positioning at the moment, we dominate that space.
“PAW Patrol has been a phenomenal success for us, and as we move into the fifth year of the franchise, it is truly becoming an evergreen property for us and our partners. Spin Master has done an incredible job as co-production partner in making sure each episode weaves into different themes that then carry through into their toy range.”
Now the number one pre-school property in the UK for the second year running, the demand for PAW Patrol doesn’t appear to be easing up. In fact, the company was all but forced to launch a new live PAW Patrol show last year, Pirate Adventure, supplementing Race to the Rescue and the surge in demand for more PAW Patrol, more of the time.
“Location-based experiences are big business for us in terms of our theme parks and PAW Patrol Live Race to the Rescue,” continues Kingston. “In fact, that show has been a sell-out in every single market it has been in. We now have a second PAW Patrol live show, Pirate Adventure. It’s just launched in the US, so we have two live shows on at the moment globally.
“There was too much demand for just one show to fill,” he adds. “Add to this the great new themes coming through with Ultimate Rescue at the end of the year, we see 2018 being another solid year of success for PAW Patrol.
"Pre-school is incredibly competitive - one of the most in the toy and games industry."
Mark Kingston, Nickelodeon
“At the same time, we are seeing really positive trends coming through for Shimmer and Shine as we start now to capitalise on the great ratings we had last year and see sell-through at retail. Retailers are getting- ting really excited about it, just as much as they are about Nella the Princess Knight.”
With a product line led by Vivid, Nella the Princess Knight represents somewhat of a step into new territory for Nickelodeon, working with an international-led master toy licensing partner. However, it is a gamble that has certainly paid off for the studio who has already witnessed ‘unanimous positive reception across trade both in the UK and globally,’ to the range.
“The work Vivid has done on Nella the Princess Knight has been phenomenal. The company has really got under the DNA of Nella and the toy line is a range that really encompasses the role play and transformation of Nella into a Knight.”
From a pre-school perspective, Nickelodeon appears to have it sewn up. The firm boasts a confidence that comes with its top ranking position in the space, and, with two new launches in Top Wing and Sunny Day (hitting screens in May this year and 2019, respectively), is certain of maintaining that strength in the years to come.
“Pre-school is incredibly competitive- one of the most in the toy industry,” continues Kingston. “But as long as you are staying true to the essence of what the show is and doing the literal translation for those products, you are going to stay ahead of the competition. We are proud of our position as number one in the pre-school space, but we have to work hard to maintain that position.”
"Audiences are consuming more content than they have ever consumed."
Mark Kingston, Nickelodeon
For Kingston and the team, part of that hard work is keeping ahead of the latest trends among its biggest consumer base: kids. It’s with its keen eye for what children and tweens are engaging with today that Nickelodeon was able to secure the JoJo Siwa brand and bring it under the Nickelodeon banner.
Having begun her career as a YouTube star, JoJo Siwa has since become the highly recognisable face of a number of Nickelodeon shows, including her own 30 min' show, JoJo My World and a role in the upcoming Nickelodeon movie, Blurt.
On top of that, you may have noticed the emergence of the JoJo Siwa name across multiple new products in the toy space, too.
“JoJo Siwa has not only gone from strength to strength here in the UK, but it shows the flexibility of how Nickelodeon is prepared to work in a changing media landscape,” says Kingston.
Seamlessly, Nickelodeon has managed to weave the JoJo Siwa brand into traditional linear TV while staying true to the emphasis on social media, where she rose to fame and from which her fan base grew.
“It’s a tricky dynamic for everyone to be working through the ever-evolving media consumption. Audiences are consuming more content than they have ever consumed in the history of mankind, and really, TV has never had a better time than now.
“Meanwhile from a licensing perspective, JoJo has been a runaway success. We are delighted with both partners coming on board to take that risk with us, but also retailers supporting it as well. We see JoJo having a phenomenal year in 2018 and we are already working with her and her management team on the next iteration of JoJo and what it means for 2019 and beyond.”
So armed with a slate of new TV series, new partners on board and a new passion for the slimy stuff, it is with some confidence that both Kingston and Nickelodeon stride into 2018 and beyond.