Trudi Hayward, SVP, head of global merchandising, ITV Studios Global Entertainment tells what merchandise is heading to shelves to mark a milestone for Thunderbirds.

ITVS GE’s Trudi Hayward on the 50th anniversary of Thunderbirds

Firstly, how did the brand perform in 2013?

2013 was a great year for Classic Thunderbirds. Our established partners continue to perform well at retail both in the UK and internationally, particularly in Japan where we have a strong classic programme.

We have been busy laying the foundations to develop our long-term Classic Thunderbirds licensing programme and a year of celebrations for the 50th anniversary in 2015.

In addition to welcoming new UK licensees on board cross category, we were excited to announce a worldwide partnership deal with Egmont for original Gerry and Sylvia Anderson comic strips. 

In Japan we saw a dedicated Thunderbirds exhibition run at Miraikan, Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, from July to September. The event, ‘Thunderbirds and The Future of Science’ featured original TV footage, display models and memorabilia and saw over 100,000 visitors attend. The exhibition also showed in Osaka and due to demand will also now tour Japan.

How many licensees does it have to date, and in which categories?

Presently we have over 19 licensees in the UK and another 20+ internationally across key categories, including gifting (Paladone Products, Vibe Centre, Tartan Squirrel), alarm clocks & accessories (Bunkerbound) and figurines (Robert Harrop) all signed throughout 2013 and the Agents’ Technical Manual from Haynes Publishing.

What are some of the best performing products?

We’ve had great success with a wide range of products such as the Haynes Publishing manuals and the Brains by Rude t-shirt collaboration, which has generated a huge buzz in the high-end indie retail press over the past two years.

This illustrates that Thunderbirds has a loyal, strong and diverse fan base that has grown up watching the series in the ‘60s, ‘90s and 2000s. Our response at ITVS GE has therefore been to develop a brand strategy which appeals to fans across these demographics and our refreshed style guide creative is enabling us to develop a consumer products programme which delivers to their diverse needs, whilst keeping the iconic programme at its core.

Are you looking to sign more licensees this year – if so which categories are you targeting?

Absolutely. Specifically we’re in discussion with a raft of new licensees to develop authentic gift and collectible ranges for high-end retailers to celebrate the 50th anniversary for 2015.

The anniversary product and limited edition ranges will target core fans of the original series, men aged 35+, and we have introduced four iconic artwork styles to offer creative flexibility across these ranges.

Do you have any special marketing initiatives or promotional activity planned for 2014?

Plans are underway to deliver significant marketing activity which will celebrate the brand’s heritage and nostalgia throughout 2015, including events and exhibitions, further fashion collaborations, consumer PR and experiential retail events.

Brand awareness will be further heightened by the arrival in 2015 of the groundbreaking new children’s series Thunderbirds are Go! on ITV and CITV.

What has the reaction from retail been like to the brand?

Thunderbirds is a long-established brand with an appeal across a number of demographics and a proven success at retail.

During the last significant licensing programme in 2001, the brand was worth over £150m at retail and 17 per cent of boys aged four to nine years owned a Tracy Island playset.

That makes it very attractive to retail, especially given the inevitable media interest that the 50th anniversary and the brand new series will inspire.

What would you most like to achieve with the brand by the end of 2014?

Ensure that brand awareness is high and excitement is at fever pitch in anticipation of the 50th anniversary and the new series!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s creations have enchanted and amazed fans of all ages for nearly fifty years.

The continuing strength of the Classic Thunderbirds brand and the power and appeal of the images and designs that the Andersons made famous are more on-trend with today’s adult market than ever before.

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