“We always believed in the great potential of Ben 10, but the speed with which the brand has grown definitely exceeded all initial expectations,” Alan Fenwick, VP of Turner CN Enterprises explains to Licensing.biz.
Ben 10 launched on Cartoon Network across EMEA in 2006 and since then has consistently maintained the leading position both as top rated show on the channel (which reaches 55.5 million homes across EMEA) and on the firm’s websites (which receive an average of four million unique users every month).
The added boost of the licensing and merchandising drive means that Ben 10 is by far one of the most successful Cartoon Network original shows to date. And new series Ben 10: Alien Force – which debuted in February – is continuing to grow the brand even further, while two live-action films are also planned.
The licensing programme launched in EMEA in 2007 and has rolled out at different times across the region, says Fenwick. “Plans have been implemented consistently according to the different stages of the brand lifecycle in each territory or group of territories. For example, Ben 10 is well established in the UK, Spain, South Africa, CEE and France, where it is the number one boys brand in almost all territories, but the series and licensing programme has only just launched in Italy, Greece and Turkey.”
There are over 150 licensees on board with all key product categories covered. Pan European partners include Cesar, Topps, PEZ, Ravensburger, Giochi Preziosi and Simba, while Fritolay, Nestle and KFC perform promotional duties and Egmont and Panini boost the publishing side.
It’s the toy sector, however, which has played a fundamental role in the success of Ben 10 and really given life to the brand away from the TV screen. Master toy licensee Bandai has seen its 10cm action figures become the top selling UK toy by value in 2008. Notably, three Ben 10 toy products were ranked in the top ten by value and the Alien Force line has maintained pole position in the UK NPD data in 2009. The action figure collection was also named the 2008 Toy of the Year at the British Toy and Hobby Association Awards, while in January Ben 10 was voted Toy of the Year and Boys Range of the Year by the Toy Retailers’ Association in the UK.
Other best selling products include DVDs, which have shifted 600,000 units across EMEA in eight months, plus the Ben 10 interactive game – Ben 10: Protector of Earth – from D3, which has sold over 2.5 million units worldwide.
Fenwick and his team are now eyeing up new categories to move Ben 10 into. “The repositioning of the business to Turner CN Enterprises means that we are able to offer partners business solutions that sit outside the traditional licensing model,” he explains. “We are now looking to develop our live events business which encompasses everything from personal appearances, mall shows, theatre and arena tours to coin-operated rides, 4D cinemas and theme parks. Cartoon Network has just opened an indoor theme park in Kuwait City that is a great start for our events strategy.” Fenwick is also keen to sign deals to deliver Cartoon Network content on mobile TV, mobile wireless, DVD and portable services.
As well as the stalwart UK performance, there are also some great stats across EMEA for the brand. For example, Ben 10 is the number one licensed property in Spain, with eight items in the top 15 selling action figures segment and the Omnitrix number one in the total toy market. Moving on to Germany, and Ben 10 is number seven in the boys action sector YTD and was highlighted as one of the top ten brands for 2009 at the Nuremberg Toy Fair.
Three Ben 10 products are in the JAM top 20 in France and over 25 licensees have been signed to date. CN is working with such retailers as Carrefour, Auchen, TRU and Joueclub to build the brand’s in-store presence.
In the Nordic region, Top Toy says that Ben 10 is the fastest growing boys property in the last five years, while the show is now the number one boys action brand in CEE with over 20 licensees covering the region. There’s also a growing market for Ben 10 in South Africa, with some 24 licensees working with retailers including Mr Price and Ackerman’s. New agencies have also just been recruited in Benelux and North Africa tasked with rolling out the licensing programme.
Italy, Greece and Turkey have just launched the Ben 10 ranges, with Alien Force following in the second quarter of 2010.
So, why does Fenwick think the show has been such a hit? “It combines fantasy with reality,” he says simply. “Boys can relate to Ben’s real life, but the TV series and product also fulfils the dreams and imagination of kids who love Ben’s ability to metamorphose. In licensing terms it’s a dream brand with a key central character, interesting secondary character and a great gadget, the Omnitrix, that has been reproduced by Bandai and has been an incredible success across the EMEA region.”
Now, with all the key pillars in place, it’s just a case of onwards and upwards for Ben 10 – the show and the licensing push. “Investment in new programming, solid scheduling, working with innovative key partners with the vision to produce licensed products that inspire retailers and consumers will ensure Ben 10’s status as an evergreen brand,” continues Fenwick.
“Our aims for Ben 10 over the next five years are not just to maintain, but further grow the brand’s incredible success. This will be achieved by a strategic roll-out of new television and film content and licensed product launches in line with the brand lifecycle in each local EMEA market.”