Sega's Sissel Henno on how Sonic Boom is set to boost the brand even further

The firm's head of brand licensing talks expansion across EMEA and offering insight into the video games business.
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Firstly, can you tell me the history behind the brand?

Sonic The Hedgehog is a true global phenomenon, being one of the world’s biggest gaming icons for more than two decades with over 140 million video games sold or downloaded worldwide. Sonic has featured in over 70 video game titles, four animated TV series and has an extensive global merchandising line to his name. There is now a new branch to the Sonic universe, entitled Sonic Boom, that will debut a new look for Sonic and friends. Sonic Boom is the first-ever CG animated television series which is set to launch on screens across Europe in autumn.

How did the brand perform over the past 12 months?

The last year was a very busy one, as we were preparing for the launch of Sonic Boom. We launched the animation on Cartoon Network in the US and Canal J/Gulli in France at the end of 2014, and the initial response has been very good with lots of buzz and very strong ratings. We're looking forward to seeing the show go live across EMEA later this year. We also had good sales of our Classic Sonic lines, including products such as apparel and gift/novelty items.

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

We have around 80 licensees across EMEA and looking to expand this significantly with the launch of Sonic Boom on TV.

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What are some of the best performing products?

The new toy line from TOMY has proved a strong performer already with the US reporting of stores selling out in the weeks following the initial launch. Apparel also continues to do well across different territories.

Are you looking to expand the consumer products programme further this year – for example into new categories or territories?

Yes, we're looking to grow the business across EMEA, opening up further opportunities in the Middle East, Iberia, Italy, Germany, Benelux and the Nordics. We're also adding categories in more established markets such as France and the UK.

Do you have any special marketing initiatives or promotional activity planned for 2015?

From a trade point of view, we're doing a lot of marketing activities around the French licensing show, Kazachok, in April. We already have strong partners in place for toys (TOMY), publishing (Hachette) and apparel (Sun City), and will be looking to team up with additional French licensees for complementary products. On the consumer front, we have plans for various initiatives in Q4, focusing particularly on in-store engagement at key UK retailers. There will be good opportunities to cross-promote with upcoming games as well as the TV show.

What has the retail reaction been like to the brand?

Retailers know the brand well as it has a rich history and is a well-known and likeable brand. The response to the new toy offering has been very positive and our investment in new trend driven style guides are prompting a lot of excitement on the apparel front. We will be working closely with buyers across different categories to drive consumer engagement and boost sales in stores.

What are some of the main challenges you've come up against? And how are you overcoming them?

Working on a video games based IP, we sometimes come across people who don't know much about this industry. We therefore try to offer insight as to the scale of the video games industry and how the consumers invest a lot of time with their favourite games, thus allowing for very high levels of brand engagement.

What would you most like to achieve with the brand in 2015?

We are aiming to get Sonic Boom off to a strong start on the various TV platforms, and to excite the fans with fresh new story lines and engaging products.

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