Authentic and fearless: Nitro Circus' leap into licensing

Robert Hutchins

By Robert Hutchins

August 30th 2016 at 3:26PM
UPDATED September 2nd 2016 at 10:47AM
Authentic and fearless: Nitro Circus' leap into licensing

Born out of a few home made DVDs sold out of a garage, Nitro Circus has become a global phenomenon and with its sights firmly on the UK, the brand's head of licensing, Pete Maule, tells Licensing.biz why this is a brand to watch out for.

When Jonny Knoxville and co thrust themselves – often naked and covered in bees – onto television screens in early 2000, it hailed a global awakening.

Jackass gave life to a new strain of televised daredevilry in which the world’s population of thrill seekers and everyday goofs’ pain (and often shame) thresholds were pushed to the very limits.

A concept born out of the skateboarding scene and the largely underground 90s skateboarding magazine, Big Brother, the show echoed the culture of the skate punk movement, steeped in a history of extreme sportsmanship.

But the thrill seeker and his band of skateboarding pals weren’t the only ones to redefine the meaning of reality TV at the time and in 2003 a new brand of extreme entertainment entered the fray in the form of Nitro Circus.

And while Jackass viewers may have felt put through the paces as they watched the likes of Steve-O vomit copious amounts of off milk, Nitro Circus delivered a new kind of rush for adrenaline junkies altogether.

“Jackass stunts are designed to fail, with Nitro Circus you have to succeed or else you die,” said Knoxville when asked to explain the difference between the two.

Of course, he should know having famously fallen foul of a Nitro Circus motorcycle stunt himself that resulted in a…and brace yourselves, torn urethra back in 2010.

But despite his sporadic involvement in the extreme sporting franchise, Knoxville has only played a bit part in the success of Nitro Circus, a power brand that today stretches to all four corners of the globe, helped in no small dose by its ongoing slate of live touring events.

It was actually from humble beginnings and at the height of televised skate-punk daredevilry that Nitro Circus emerged from a successful run of underground DVDs produced by an indie team of action sports enthusiasts: Jeremy Rawle, Gregg Godfrey and Travis Pastrana.

By 2009, Nitro Circus had teamed with MTV to create a new series that, having since aired in over 60 countries over two seasons and been named one of MTV’s most popular series of all time, it is fair to say, has taken the world by storm.

What started out as a crew of skillful thrill seekers performing stunts on a range of vehicles from bikes and skateboards to ride on toys, has become a ‘global phenomenon that has obliterated global box office records and cultivated legions of diehard fans.’

But why stop there?

Recent years have seen Nitro Circus take a brave leap into the world of consumer products and, with new licensing partnerships popping up across the globe, it’s a move that seems to have paid off.

“Nitro Circus is one of the fastest growing youth entertainment brands, delivering a 360 degree IP business across TV, live touring, digital and social media, world class athletes and a new and innovative consumer products business,” Pete Maule, global head of licensing, tells Licensing.biz.

A fast growing brand with a focus on family and kids, Nitro Circus stands itself on the seven key marketing pillars of fun, authenticity, humour, approachability and fearlessness. And with that concoction, it’s little wonder it fits so well into a consumer products programme.

“The brand will deliver a complete cross category offering for retailers across apparel, headwear, toys, video gaming, sporting goods and home décor,” continues Maule.

“We have already secured several of the world leaders in their respective categories such as Hyper Bikes, Tech 4 Kids, K’Nex, Hexbug and we are very excited about the wider category opportunities that the brand opens us up to.”

Bikes, scooters and skateboards all present themselves as obvious product categories to take a brand that lives and breathes extreme sports into. But what may come as more of a surprise is the property’s move into the more left field markets, such a home décor, stationery or publishing.

Perhaps that in itself is testament to the vision to Nitro Circus’ UK agency, Lisle Licensing who has helped make the UK one of the fastest growing regions around the world for the brand name.

“We secured a wonderful partnership with Lisle Licensing last fall which has proven to be an outstanding decision for us,” says Maule.

“We have completed sell-out shows all across the UK in 2016 and we look forward to placing our TV content next year. Nitro Circus is about world first and doing things that no one else can.”

And this, according to Maule, is an ethos that is no more obvious than in the headway the firm is making within the toy sector, where early range development has focused on bringing new innovation and an authentic play pattern to the category.

“We are working on delivering a wide price range to allow for strong retail distribution,” says Maule. “Our goal is to launch products in autumn 2017 or spring 2018.

“Our next step it to lock down a strong US anchor retailer to integrate and support our ranges. But as well as that, we will also be focusing on securing strong TV placement in the UK and Europe to help grow our brand awareness further.”

Of course, such a goal is only achievable through maintaining that audience engagement that has so far helped propel the brand to the level of success it currently enjoys.

And at the heart of that is Nitro Circus’ all-important portfolio of performers, driving the property throughout its 100 plus live shows completed across the globe each year.

“Our athletes are the centerpiece for Nitro Circus, led by founder and frontman Travis Pastrana, arguably the greatest action sports icon in history,” enthuses Maule.

“We have 25 of the world’s greatest action sports athletes under contract with Nitro Circus, so we have the ability to leverage their likeness and personality to support retail and licensees around the world.”

And you can expect to see a lot more of their faces here in the UK, if Maule’s expectations for the property are anything to go by.

“Our main territory focus over the next 12 to 18 months will be North America, the UK and Australia as well as key markets throughout Europe. I absolutely see Nitro Circus becoming a staple of UK entertainment in the coming years,” he concludes.