The first Beyblades were launched in Japan by Takara (now Tomy) back in 1999, before being introduced worldwide in 2001. The show aired in over 100 countries, with merchandise revenues exceeding $500 million, with over 400 partnerships worldwide.
Part of these revenues came from the sale of 150 million Beyblades worldwide. The success continued throughout the early Noughties, with the property becoming the number one toy in the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, France, UK and Germany in 2002 and 2003. It was also voted Property of the Year in 2003 at what was then known as Brand Licensing UK, and Toy of the Year in 2002 and 2003 by the British Association of Toy Retailers.
And now, five years since the original, Beyblade is back and has been brought bang up to date to appeal to the boys of today.
“Beyblade: Metal Fusion is a completely new story and does not have any of the characters, beasts or tops from the previous season,” explains Antoine Erligmann, VP of licensing for Europe at Nelvana Enterprises. “It stays true to the original Japanese series; the names are kept in Japanese instead of translating to English, for example. There is more focus on the tops, battling sequences and the competitors. There are a lot of ‘beast’ brands out there already so we are focusing on the key product, the tops and the gameplay. We are excited to re-introduce the brand to those who are old enough to remember it, and to allow a whole new generation of fans to enjoy it.”
A number of agents have been appointed to boost Metal Fusion across several key territories. Lagardére-Jeunesse Interactive is on board for France and it has already finalised deals in back to school, bed linen, apparel and accessories areas; CPLG is due to reveal partners in key categories for the UK, Ireland and Spain soon; Kidz Entertainment/EEMC is handling the brand in Eastern Europe and the Nordic region and is currently completing deals in categories such as back to school, stationery, melamine, home furnishings and apparel; in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, m4e is on board; CLM is looking after the brand in South Africa; Telescreen is dealing with a number of potential partners in Benelux; and, finally, Brand Licensing Israel has finalised agreements across several categories.
The licensing programmes will no doubt be boosted by the success of the TV series, which is already airing in the US on Cartoon Network, Canada (YTV), Spain (Telecinco/Factoria de Ficcion), South Africa (M-Net) and the UK (Nicktoons).
“It is tracking very well in comparison to the other boys’ action properties like Star Wars, Ben 10, Chaotic and Pokémon,” says Peter Maule, VP of worldwide home entertainment and licensing, The Americas, at Nelvana. “From the eight weeks of Canadian data, it is ranking in the top three from week to week, and is growing. It has the three Cs – Collect, Customise and Compete. All three aspects, along with a strong tournament component, make this brand unique. Others properties may be strong in one of the three areas, but only Beyblade delivers on all three in a meaningful way.”
As you might expect, online is a key area. A dedicated Beyblade site is tailored to each country, while www.beybladebattles.com is tied with Hasbro’s toy line through on-pack codes and there is also a website for the video game. “All three are closely linked, along with a social media presence on Facebook and YouTube,” says Erligmann.
The overall aim though is to manage the brand with longevity in mind, according to Maule. “[For the end of this year] goals include completion of our global launch (most regions will be launched by fall 2010) and the growth of our secondary merchandise categories. We will support the core TV, toy brand pillars and grow the fan base through promotions, demos and web. We are managing the brand with longevity in mind; it is much more than just tops battling.
“We see the core 3Cs as the basis for the brand; all the aspects associated with the core values will continue to evolve and stay relevant.”