Sports equipment goes hi-tech
Like toys, sports equipment appears to be undergoing something of a high-tech makeover right now. Take Creative Sports Technologies Head Rite Batting Trainer, for instance. Batting Trainer is a baseball helmet fitted with motion sensors on the back, which allows it to determine whether or not a batter is standing correctly when he or she hits the ball. Think of it as a virtual coach. If a batter’s head is too low, BT can detect it and will emit a buzzing sound, alerting the hitter to adjust his or her position. Likewise, when a batter’s head is positioned correctly, BT will play a more up-tempo sounding tune, reinforcing the proper stance.
Roger Socci, founder of Creative, a Woodbridge, Virginia-based sporting goods company, got the idea for the product after years of coaching Little League baseball and witnessing how frustrated kids would become when they couldn’t hit the ball. But at an SRP of US$159.95, Batting Trainer, which runs on one nine-volt battery, doesn’t come cheap. Currently, Batting Trainer is available in limited distribution through Creative’s site, headright.com, at sports e-tailer MVP.com and via mail order from specialty catalog house Hammacher Schlemmer. Snitzer says the company hopes to take BT to mass by early Q1 of next year.
eToys opens Lions shop
This month, eToys will unveil a Between the Lions feature shop on its site. The new section will offer a variety of licensed merchandise, including books and toys, based on the educational kids show, which debuted on PBS in April. The shop is part of the sponsorship agreement eToys inked with PBS last month, which, for an undisclosed amount, allows it to run the tag line ‘eToys: Where Great Ideas Come to You’ during the opening and closing credits of the show. In addition to solidifying the company’s commitment to children’s literacy, eToys spokesmen Jon Cutler says the deal allows the company to closely align itself with a top-notch children’s program, something he says that conventional TV and print advertising does not necessarily provide. The Lions deal marks the second sponsorship agreement that eToys has entered into in the last year. In October, the company signed an agreement with talk show host Rosie O’Donnell to sponsor Rosie’s Readers, a national children’s reading program, for which eToys also currently maintains a feature shop.
Toys R Us readies Osh Kosh merch and Dino-promo
Toys `R’ Us recently signed an exclusive licensing agreement with kids apparel manufacturer Osh Kosh, giving it the rights to create a range of hard goods, including playsets, that incorporate the Osh Kosh brand. According to Michael Tabakin, director of sales, promotion and licensing at the Paramus, New Jersey-based retailer, TRU has yet to finalize the product line-up, but he expects the first wave of Osh Kosh product to be available in Q4 of this year.
In unrelated news, TRU has put the finishing touches on its promotion for Disney CGI flick Dinosaur, scheduled to hit theaters later this month, which will draw on the film’s theme of exploration.
Tagged as the Dinosaur Expedition Sweepstakes, the promotion will give consumers a shot at winning two Ford Expedition sports utility vehicles, courtesy of Ford Motors. Additional prizes include five free trips to Walt Disney World Resorts, 25 US$1,000 Toys R Us shopping sprees, plus 1,000 free copies of Disney Interactive’s Dinosaur Game Boy video games and CD-ROM titles. Entry forms are at the Dinosaur feature shops at TRU’s 710 participating stores.
TRU will be promoting the sweepstakes, which runs from May 21 to June 18, in its roto starting May 28, and will highlight the contest in its stores via point-of-sale signage.
FAO debuts new look
Consumers may be forgiven if they do a double take when they first enter FAO’s new store in Atlanta. Opening next month at the Mall of Georgia, the 20,000 square foot, two-storey store, will be the first location to start using the chain’s new logo-three toy building blocks with letters that spell
F-A-O, above the company tag line, ‘Wish big.’ The new logo, which will grace store shopping bags and P.O.P. materials, replaces the previous rocking horse icon and company mission statement, ‘We’re serious about play,’ which focus group testing had revealed was far too corporate for the FAO brand.
FAO will also tweak the color scheme of the floor coverings and fixtures of the Atlanta store to match the muted yellow, blue and red that are prominent in the new logo. FAO will roll out all of the changes chain-wide by next January, including its new location in West Palm Beach, Florida, which is slated to open this October.