JAKKS looks to sick tricks for Road Champs

Marketer: JAKKS Pacific, Malibu, California-Jamie Wood, senior VP, Road Champs...
July 1, 2000

Marketer: JAKKS Pacific, Malibu, California-Jamie Wood, senior VP, Road Champs

Spot Shop: FLF Films, Reno, Nevada-Jerry Dugan, director/cameraman; Angela Sanders,

producer; Will Durham, art director

Sound Design: Bongo Bob Productions, Sacramento, California-Bob Smith

Markets: U.S. national

The idea: To sell boys ages seven to nine on the Road Champs BXS Street Competition Set, Road Champs BXS Pro Riders with Bikes, Road Champs MXS Race of Champions Megacross and Road Champs MXS Pro Riders with Bikes and Gear (all hitting mass in July). The key is to show how authentically the bikes and playsets replicate the real BMX and Motocross competition experience.

The campaign: Two :30s (Megacross and Action Figure) will begin airing on BKN, Cartoon Network, Kids’ WB! and possibly on Nickelodeon, ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC Saturday mornings starting this October. The spots, which follow a separate ad run for the finger bikes and halfpipe playsets in March, have a media budget of US$2 million to US$2.5 million each.

The strategy:

It’s the real thing, baby-er, dude. That’s the walk-away JAKKS is going for with these two spots for extreme sports playsets, vehicles and figures. Given the products, which include toy bikes meticulously modeled after competitive BMX and Motocross bikes, action figures spookily faithful to superstar riders and playsets where every incline and turn is vetted by circuit pros, the message is a given. But when it comes to extreme sports, the posers are everywhere, and the real fans can spot them a mile away. ‘I wouldn’t even try to fake it,’ says Road Champs senior VP Jamie Wood, ‘because that’s when you get people angry.’

Given a limited budget and no agency, Wood’s first move was to track down a director/cameraman who has been living and breathing extreme sports since he made his first skateboard at age four. Jerry Dugan, who has worked capturing the blood, sweat and broken bones of extreme sport on film for the last 15 years, fit the bill perfectly. Not only does he know how to get the great shots, but he’s down with the culture too.

Dugan and Wood decided that the best way to get the message out was to make the connection between the real tricks and the toy tricks a visual one. To do that, Wood used pro riders such as Dave Mirra, Ryan Nyquist and Jay Miron in the spots, both doing what they do best on the ramps and playing with the toys. Tricks performed on the ramp were carefully replicated in front of a green screen with the miniature bikes, and the spot cuts back and forth between the two so quickly and smoothly that sometimes it really is hard to tell which is which.

When it came to capturing the authentic BMX/Motocross feel, Dugan says he just let the riders call the shots. He asked them to bring their own rad threads, asked them which tricks they wanted to use, and recorded their Keanu Reeves-like outbursts of ‘Siiiiiiiick!’ while they watched other riders perform.

Wood says that even the tag, designed to highlight the Road Champs point of differentiation, a ‘trick stick’ that allows kids to mimic such maneuvers as 360s, 720s and back flips, came from the riders, not her. ‘The original tag was `The trick stick makes it cool,” she says, ‘but Dave [Mirra] goes, `That is soooo uncool. Nobody says cool anymore.” The solution? Mirra suggested ‘sick,’ a cooler synonym for cool, bringing the tag to its present form: The trick stick makes it sick. Instant credibility, and pretty catchy to boot.

Along with sponsorships of the Gravity Games and other major events, Wood figures she has the authenticity bases covered-but are the kids going for it? ‘The first round of ads for bikes with trick sticks aired in March and April, and sales of all Road Champs products increased 78% over the first two weeks the commercial aired,’ says Wood. ‘I believe heavily in TV advertising, and these spots helped prove to my boss that, hey, TV works, and it pays for itself.’

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