'We are focusing on STEAM toys as our core toy proposition,' says National Geographic Partners

Jade Burke

By Jade Burke

October 5th 2017 at 7:16AM
'We are focusing on STEAM toys as our core toy proposition,' says National Geographic Partners

After joining forces with Buffalo Games to develop a collection of board games, NGP has revealed plans to concentrate on STEAM toys. Here, the firm’s VP of consumer products and experiences for Europe and Africa, Maria Maranesi, details why participating in licensing shows like BLE is an ‘important part of National Geographic’s strategy’.

This year marks National Geographic Partners’ (NGP) debut at BLE. Why is the London licensing show a good fit for the brand? 

National Geographic Partners, a joint venture between 21st Century Fox and the National Geographic Society, is excited to be making its debut at BLE, introducing the region to its new and revitalised global licensing business, following its launch at Licensing Expo in Las Vegas.

Participating in major licensing shows like BLE is an important part of National Geographic’s strategy as we continue to build our CP&E business. It also provides a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the company’s commitment to this new consumer products division, to share information about new hires across the business, and to create new and valuable partnerships with licensees worldwide.

How important are these types of exhibitions to NGP? Do you exhibit at any others? 

Very. It’s the first time we can share with the licensing industry that National Geographic Partners is officially ‘open for business’ and looking to meet with like-minded, best-in-class licensees who share the same values.

National Geographic Partners participated in Licensing Expo, Las Vegas this past spring, in which we debuted our new revamped licensing business, plans for growth and shared the power of our brand reach through booth appointments and an incredible Licensing Summit. We’re also participating in licensing trade shows in LATAM and Asia, as we roll out our programme internationally.

The team at NGP is growing, with several new hires announced this year. Why is this expansion important to support the firm’s ongoing licensing business? 

When you invest and create any new business, you obviously need the right expertise to develop and execute the new strategy. Following the appointment of Rosa Zeegers, EVP of consumer products and experiences in December 2016, Zeegers has started to build this new team, with dedicated, talented and experienced leaders who will drive and transform the consumer products division of our licensing business in key markets.

My new position is the first regional consumer products and experiences position in Europe, and now my immediate focus is to build our regional business and start to staff a local team, which includes Angela Reuber, director of consumer products in Germany, and two positions based in the UK and Italy in the coming months.

We are uniquely positioned to create products and authentic experiences and are excited to meet with like-minded, best-in-class licensing partners.

Maria Maranesi, National Geographic Partners

You mentioned plans to expand your licensing offering in Europe and Africa. Why are these markets crucial for NGP? 

National Geographic has been working extensively in Europe and Africa, exploring and uncovering some of the most significant discoveries of our time, since the creation of the National Geographic Society 129 years ago and telling the stories of discovery in our magazine and now across our full media portfolio.

Consumers in this region have a strong connection to the brand, and this is why the UK, Ireland and the Nordics were chosen to launch the first National Geographic Channel 20 years ago, this autumn – a channel alone that now reaches 438 million households in 172 countries and in 43 languages.

We will also begin executing a global strategy that further creates and develops premium consumer products and brings out the explorer in all of us in these essential global markets.

Are there any new or current partnerships you can shout about? 

The Nature (Company) is our fastest growing licensee, operating more than 46 National Geographic branded flagship stores and retail spaces throughout South Korea. The partnership is inspired by National Geographic’s stunning visual storytelling in travel and adventure featuring outdoor adventure apparel, accessories, bags, luggage and camping gear.

In China, we are launching three National Geographic Ultimate Explorer Family Entertainment Centers by 2019, including our first Family Entertainment Center in Shenyang in May of next year.

We’ve partnered with a new outdoor technical footwear licensee Dachstein Outdoor in Europe, which will launch in 2018 across multiple territories. Plus, The Enounter: Ocean Odyssey experience will open to the public on October 6th in Times Square, New York.

You are planning a roll out of apparel, outerwear, accessories, footwear and STEAM products, what types of licensees are you looking to work with?

As a global, forward thinking multimedia company with mission at its core, we reinvest over a quarter of our profits directly reinvested back to the non-profit National Geographic Society, who fund work in science, education, conservation, and exploration.

We are uniquely positioned to create products and authentic experiences and are excited to meet with like-minded, best-in-class licensing partners across various consumer product categories who share the same values as our organisation and are passionate about protecting the world in which we all live.

What can fans expect to see from these items? 

Fans of National Geographic can expect to see the same level of quality and detail in our products and experiences as they see within our highly acclaimed storytelling. Be that our world-renowned photographs, beautiful artwork, breathtaking nature scenes, and the iconic yellow boarder and branding come to life across its licensed products and family entertainment experiences. Fans can also see National Geographic branding in places they never have before, such as exotic bugs displayed on a phone case and topography printed on a camping tent.

In the future, will NGP expand into toys? 

We are focusing on STEAM toys as our core toy proposition, as well as traditional lines within this category, including plush, games and puzzles. It is important that any experiences we create within this category provide an ‘edutainment’ experience for children, in keeping with our brand values and consumer expectations for what National Geographic stands for.

For example, we partnered with Venturelli to create a new plush line and with Clementoni to produce engaging and educational puzzle games for both children and adults. We will be announcing new category partners in this space very soon.

NGP has joined forces with Buffalo Games for the release of board game, Brain Games. How did the partnership come about?

We partnered with Buffalo Games to develop and released a two-part collection of board games based on our Emmy-nominated series, Brain Games. Demonstrating the concept of ‘edutainment’, the idea was to create an environment where children are exposed to science and inspire them to learn by leveraging the success of the show. When our consumers can enjoy these experiences, while also learning – is a good marker for the types of products we want to create.

Do you plan to develop anymore? 

Continuing to invest in Europe is a big priority, and we are actively looking for partners to work with us, either leveraging the brands and IP we already have across our media portfolio, such as Brain Games, or creating new properties that are authentic to our brand values.

What's next on the horizon for you guys? Will you be expanding into any more categories?

We are very much looking forward to the first family entertainment centers opening in Asia, as this will be a new milestone for our consumer products and experiences division, allowing families to really immerse themselves into the world of National Geographic in a new and unique way.

We’re beginning to work more closely with the National Geographic explorers, to collaborate and gain their valuable insight into the types of innovative products they’d value when out exploring, be that when they’re out in the field, or just spending time in their local neighborhoods.