Paddington Bear is in some illustrious company; he shares his 50th birthday this year with, amongst others, the Lego brick, the Smurfs, the Grammys and The Osmonds (it’s amazing what a quick search on Google will turn up).
And, while the bear from Peru won’t be embarking on an anniversary tour like Donny et al, there are some pretty hefty marketing plans in place to help him celebrate.
Involvement with First Great Western and Marmite, a presence at The World’s Original Marmalade Festival, being one of the featured books for World Book Day, working with the Action Medical Research charity and a possible tie-up with P&O Cruises, gives you a feel for just how wide ranging and varied the campaign really is.
For toys, the master licensee is Rainbow Designs. It has four Paddington ranges: traditional, classic, tourist and retro. The traditional line is inspired by the original FilmFare animation and includes plush – including a 50th anniversary Paddington with his black hat and blue duffel coat. Other products include a mug and plush/mug gift set, plus a phone charm to follow later this year.
Aimed at the adult and student fan base, the new retro collection uses the vintage look across products such as A4 and A5 notebooks, Pen in a Tin, mug gift package and travel journals.
Other toy and gift licensees include Jumbo (jigsaws), Blast (video game), Sega Amusements (amusement plush), while a deal with an interactive learning partner is also under discussion. Shreds, Robert Harrup, Blueprint, Slowdazzle and Hotchpotch will also be rolling out gift-related products.
“The retail reaction to Paddington’s anniversary has been unprecedented and licensees have had to revise their sales projections month on month to keep up with interest,” Copyrights’ Keith Pashley says. “As licensing agents, Copyrights is the caretaker of the brand ensuring that the character is sympathetically developed over time to reflect the changing cultural landscape across all territories.
“The different style guides and licensing treatments have always remained true to Paddington’s values as a character, as well as his personality. This is really important when dealing with an iconic character who represents the UK on an international level and is part of this country’s cultural make up and childhood tradition.”
The secret to Paddington’s longevity, Pashley believes, is the universal themes that are covered in the stories.
“The Paddington Bear stories reveal a loveable character that appeals to children through is ability to get into scrapes and situations in an unwittingly comical fashion,” he says. “The story line cover universal themes in a realistic way, that have as much resonance today with children as they did when they were first published 50 years ago.
“Paddington Bear has always been a popular gift purchase for newborns and pre-school children, so the tradition of growing up with Paddington has stood the test of time. In fact, his ‘old fashioned’ look means that he is now considered part of the popular retro trend.”
And with a film due to keep momentum for the brand going well into 2010, it seems likely that Paddington will still be packing them in long after The Osmonds have finished their final encore.