The Geronimo Stilton IP was originally launched in early 2000 by leading Italian publisher Edizioni Piemme through a series of books. The simple format of excitement, adventure and humour was an immediate hit, and once brand owner Atlantyca Entertainment began to realise the potential of the character, it started the process of selling international rights to key publishing houses worldwide, including Scholastic in the US, Planeta in Spain and Albin Michel in France among others.
Today, 680 publishing contracts have been secured, granting rights in 33 languages, and over 30 million copies have been sold worldwide, of which 9.3 million are from Scholastic.
“There is an incredible amount of heart and creativity in Geronimo Stilton,” says Cynthia Money, president of worldwide consumer products and marketing at Taffy Entertainment, Atlantyca’s Geronimo Stilton licensing partner. “Whether Geronimo is travelling to exotic locations around the world or simply investigating an unusual phenomenon at home, there’s never a dull moment."
Claudia Mazzucco, Atlantyca’s CEO, adds: “Geronimo’s sense of humour is immensely appealing and engaging for children, while maintaining strong core values, which are loved by parents and teachers alike. We saw this as having enormous marketing potential and created a ‘live event’ driven marketing plan, designing a character costume which took Geronimo from the pages of books to becoming a genuine, visible live character who appeared in bookshops, schools and hospitals.
“This marketing/promotional campaign was so successful it was soon adapted by many of our international publishers including in North America, Spain, France and China.”
Following the success in the publishing sector, it seemed almost inevitable that a full licensing and merchandising drive would follow. However, as Money notes, Atlantyca had turned down licensing opportunities for Geronimo Stilton for a number of years, preferring instead to let the brand grow, something which is now standing it in good stead.
Now it is sufficiently well-known, Taffy is in negotiations with a handful of potential licensees and is hoping to complete deals in the toy, stationery, travel journals, home entertainment and educational software categories soon.
There is also an animated TV series in the works, which is due to debut in autumn 2009. Partners have already begun to sign up, with Italy’s Rai and France’s M6 becoming the first major European broadcasters for the new show.
On top of this, the publishing side of the business continues to be the bedrock. New books are being launched, on average, every two months including specialty and hard cover books from some publishers.
“Between the books and the new animated television series, we anticipate Geronimo Stilton will continue to be a strong brand for many years to come,” Taffy’s Money continues.
“There are new readers discovering Geronimo every year. With over 30 million books sold worldwide, we – and our licensees – are very fortunate to be able to tap into an existing customer base of that size.”
The focus for the next 12 months, then, will be on transferring what makes Geronimo Stilton work on paper onto the small screen. “We are very focused on bringing the integrity of the books to the screen and with our production teams, both here and in the US, look forward to completing the series in the forthcoming year,” says Atlantyca’s Mazzucco.
Taffy’s Money agrees: “We want to continue the momentum of the books in the TV series and build on that in our licensing. Strong broadcast distribution worldwide is also key, as are a handful of top quality licensed products and maybe an award or two.”