Equestrian brand Bella Sara was originally launched in Denmark by Gitte Odder Braendgaard, before being introduced to North America in 2007 by Hidden City Entertainment. What started off as a horse-based trading card game and virtual world aimed at girls has expanded into an international entertainment property.
There are over 50 licensees which cover a wide range of product from toys, books and apparel, through to home décor, stationery, back to school, publishing and games.
In 2010, Bella Sara notched up over $25 million in retail sales. The toy category is, of course, a key driver, with Hidden City working with Giochi Preziosi in Europe and Jakks Pacific in the US, while the apparel area is growing in importance and performing strongly across the US.
As well as the US, and Denmark where the property originated, Bella Sara is most popular in France, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic. This February will see it launch in Russia – with trading cards, books, the fan magazine, toys and food leading the charge – while preparations are also underway for the brand’s introduction into Croatia and Poland in the later part of 2011. Although there’s no word on any further plans for the UK market.
There seems to be no stopping Bella Sara’s march – or, if you excuse the pun, gallop – across other parts of Europe, however. “We’re really excited about our recently publicised promotion coming up with McDonald’s in France,” George Stetar, VP licensing and international business at Hidden City Entertainment, explains to Licensing.biz. “However, we’re equally excited about other new deals such as Zazzle – a global online customisable product company – Rizzoli (calendars), WVG Germany for DVDs and HFE France for a new board game.
“With over eight million registered users worldwide, it’s obvious to see that the online piece plays an important part of the brand. Our trading cards, as well as a large portion of our licensed products, provide exclusive codes that can be activated on Bellasara.com. Our site has everything for young girls, such as nurturing and caring for their horse and decorating their cottage.
“As girls start to read and grow with the brand, they further their experience with the property and can create their very own avatar while entering into our popular Bella Sara Adventures. The site is constantly adding and changing our online entertainment to maintain the interest and attention of the consumer.”
As Bella Sara expands into Russia, Croatia and Poland, Stetar is also looking to expand the licensee base. He is also eyeing up some ambitious longer term plans: “[In five years’ time] we would like to have a TV series and/or movie in place by then, while at the same time having launched in more Eastern European countries, as well as countries in the Pacific Rim.”