SPORTS MONTH: The making of Match Stars

We find out about the action figure firm's designs on the toy sector.
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Pattni Imaginations is due to enter the toy market this year with Match Stars – a series of posable action figures made in the image of today's top Premier League football players.

Mayur Pattni, director of Pattni Imaginations, explains how he ended up making toys and licensing sports teams: "When I was a little boy, I was into cartoons like Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, TMNT as well as wrestling - so action figures were massive for me growing up.

"I knew I couldn't do any thing with superheroes, wrestlers, famous film characters and the rest, as they were already tied to existing licensing deals. It wasn't until I was watching a match between Man United and Arsenal that I thought, what about football player action figures? I immediately got in touch with Man United - fast forward a year and here we are."

The seven-inch figures have movable heads, shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees and ankles, as well as a spring-loaded kicking action.

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The teams currently on board are Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Champions League winners Barcelona. The current crop of stars includes the likes of Rooney, Gerrard, Lionel Messi and new signings like Andy Carroll.

Although there are previous examples of licensed football figures – such as Corinthian’s successful Microstars collectables – Pattni might have found a fresh way to tap into the enthusiasm of football fans with these fully-posable players, and football's healthy worldwide growth means that Match Stars has sales potential in Europe and beyond.

Pattni says: "Working with football teams in particular is great, it's the most popular sport in the world and there are so many big competitions all year round, like the Premier League and Champions league, big matches between top teams and so much more that strongly supports products and fuels demand."

While character franchises need to be carefully refreshed regularly, sports licences are organically updated as new players join teams and kit designs are changed, year-on-year. Despite the changes, the appeal of a favourite football team is always constant.

Pattni says: "People are so passionate about sports and especially football; it's like a religion. Football clubs have such strong histories. They've all been around for more than 100 years.

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"Consider the popularity of football shirts, every season fans flock to get them to support their team – our product can tap into this demand and be new every season with new kit updates, new rising players, the multi-million transfers and the further addition of new teams."

Pattni also cites another advantages that sports licences have over their character counterparts: "With the character-based shows there's a risk there when a new show pop up it can reduce the popularity of others and so reduce demand for licensed products. The clubs are always going to be here and will continue grow in popularity, with star players popping up all the time - that's sports."

Pattni has set his sights on getting Match Stars into the key toy retailers, supermarkets and leading sports stores, securing a key distribution deal with Dynamo - a UK distributor of licensed sports goods with links to the likes of Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Argos and Toys R Us.

Ahead of the launch, promotions have been set up with top footy magazines Match, Kick! and Match of the Day.

So what's next for Pattni Imaginations?

"We are looking to extend the Match-Stars line into a number of other sports which we are interested in," reveals Pattni.

"But for now, we're fully focusing on Match-Stars and establishing ourselves in the market."


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