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Buzz-building 101!

Given that today's market is flush with kids programming from well-established production entities, getting a distributor or buyer to even look at a pitch from an untried creator can be mission impossible. But laying some early marketing and promotional groundwork to generate grassroots excitement for a fledgling property can sometimes go a long way to getting you in the door.
May 1, 2002

Given that today’s market is flush with kids programming from well-established production entities, getting a distributor or buyer to even look at a pitch from an untried creator can be mission impossible. But laying some early marketing and promotional groundwork to generate grassroots excitement for a fledgling property can sometimes go a long way to getting you in the door.

The following tips can help you create awareness and alliances that will add value to a new property by extending its reach to mainstream consumers and showing prospective buyers that the concept has already generated early market interest.

Public relations

The most cost-effective way to build momentum for a new brand is through strategic public relations. Campaign elements should include the following:

Media kit: A printed or on-line package that includes your company’s history, property fact sheets, appropriate graphics and recent press releases announcing partnerships and distribution deals.

News flow: Create constant news for audiences in the entertainment, consumer products and marketing communities by providing news publications and industry trades with info on new executive hires, alliances and current trends that your property taps into. The information must be timely and newsworthy–a release for the sake of a release will not get picked up.

Speaking opportunities: Get in touch with entertainment trade show and marketing conference organizers–including the Institute for International Research, Advanstar, Brunico Communications and the Promotion Marketing Association–to suggest eloquent spokespeople from your company as speakers on key industry topics.

Marketing materials

When establishing co-branded alliances leveraging your property’s value, potential partners will want a solid idea of your marketing capabilities and reach. Many components of the aforementioned media kit can serve double duty in a marketing kit, but additional elements should include:

Benefits fact sheet: It’s important to demonstrate the marketing benefits a company stands to receive from partnering with you, such as use of characters, media placement if you have a publication or website, tie-ins to special events or educational materials, and on-screen product placement potential.

Character demographics: Be as specific as you can because as companies choose alliances, they will look for products that reach the same target audience as theirs.

Case studies: If your company has been involved in cross-marketing initiatives in the past, show case studies highlighting the quantifiable results your partners enjoyed.

Non-profit partnerships

Securing marketing alliances for a new property is a struggle because it’s risky for a corporation to tap an unknown entity. However, a ‘spokescharacter’ can serve as a great asset for the print and media outreach efforts of non-profits looking to promote their programs/products. Marc Brown’s Arthur, for example, is a spokescharacter for the American Library Association. As such, he stars in a series of PBS spots promoting literacy and served as the Library Card Sign-Up Event ambassador in September 2001.

A word of caution about applying this strategy to a live-action property: because they live under a constant media microscope, some celebrities get involved in situations that may end up playing out in the tabloids or in court, which could prove damaging to the reputation of the non-profits they represent. If your property utilizes live talent, be sensitive to this potential problem as you present your opportunities.

In addition to the obvious benefits of a good cause association, non-profit partnerships can provide extra impressions via:

* Character exposure on collateral like brochures, fliers and banners

* Character appearances at special events

* Partnerships with existing corporate sponsors for fundraising and cause-related marketing programs (i.e. characters on packaged goods–in return, a percentage of sales would benefit the charity)

* Inclusion/endorsement in media materials such as press releases

One last piece of advice: make sure to diligently document the quantifiable results that these initiatives yield for your property. How many kids attended that outdoor concert? How many journalists followed up on that news release? Hard numbers have a powerful influence on execs, and if you can prove that your property has made a substantial connection with its target audience and the media, you stand a much better shot at nailing a deal.

As GM of Santa Monica, California-based strategic public relations and marketing firm Allison and Partners, Scott Pansky has developed cause marketing programs for properties like Star Trek and Archie Comics.

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