The quintessential 70s musical hit, Grease, is still the word, 30 years after its debut.
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The story of two teenagers finding love on a summer beach, losing it amidst the tumultuous times of that final year at high school and ultimately coming together again has entertained audiences young and old with its catchy musical score, dramatic yet comical script and quirky mix of characters, all set amongst the familiar backdrops of the drive in and malt shop from the 50s and 60s. talks with Darren Kyman, the executive director of marketing and retail development at Paramount Licensing about the brand’s development.

Grease has been a phenomenal success since it first premiered. How did it come about and how have its creators reacted to its success?

Grease has continued to attract new fans since its original incarnation as a stage play in the early 1970s. Its popularity hit soaring heights with the release of the movie in 1978 starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. The success of the movie surpassed everyone’s expectations, including the creators of the stage play. Grease continues to add young fans as the musical is routinely performed at schools worldwide. This year, Grease is enjoying its 30th anniversary celebration, and its popularity remains as strong as ever.

How did the film translate into a brand and what are its main qualities?

Grease merchandise really took off with the success of the film and has continued to be a strong performer in softlines, collectibles and gift and novelties. Consumers instantly relate to the iconic characters in the film - Danny, Sandy, Rizzo and Kenicke - as well as the school cliques such as the T-birds and the Pink Ladies. It’s a really fun movie musical that has since spawned many successful shows that have a similar format.

What have been some of the brand’s highlights to date?

Grease has always maintained a strong apparel program, especially t-shirts, but collectibles have been a strong category driver as well. We’ve had a great partnership with Mattel that has produced several collectible dolls, including two lines of co-branded collectible Barbie dolls that were released this past spring. Additional dolls are planned for the line, as are outfit changes for the existing dolls.

What kind of affects did the less successful, sequential films have on the brand?

Grease 2, although not a box office success, has been a surprise hit on DVD and only enhanced the brand awareness of the property as a whole.

Do you see Grease as an evergreen brand? What makes it as appealing today as it was when it was first created?

Definitely, Grease is an evergreen brand. The global awareness for Grease is amazing, so it’s up to us as brand ambassadors to make sure we’re constantly creating fresh, exciting, contemporary artwork for our partners. The appeal today is even greater than in the past, as high school musical-related properties are so hot right now, and we’re positioning Grease as the original high school musical. If you take a peak at our all-new style guide, you will see there is a strong emphasis on addressing the brand, so it will appeal to teens and tweens, as well as adults.

What are some of the current licensing deals in place? What markets and audience do they target? How successful have they been?

Grease has been a global success but the strongest territories continue to be the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. Partners include: ABG Accessories (headwear and cold weather accessories – US); Freeze (adult t-shirts – US); R.H. Smith & Sons (costumes - UK); Mattel (collectible Barbie fashion dolls - worldwide); and Bravado (adult t-shirts – UK).

How have the last 12 months been?

The last year has been very strong buoyed by a renewed interest in high school musicals.

What plans do you have for Grease over the next 12 months?

We plan to extend the consumer target age to reach girls eight to 12 via a new style guide that was introduced this spring with graphics targeting that age demo. The new style guide presents potential and existing partners with designs that are fashion-forward, but that still respect the brand’s origins. We’re proud of the balance we’ve been able to strike with this new style guide, and licensees and retailers are responding to it with great enthusiasm.

Will Grease still be 'the word' in five years time?

Grease will still be the word five hundred years from now. There’s something timeless about this fun, vibrant, youthful musical that will continue to appeal to future generations of fans.


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