Cartoon Network Europe’s efforts to grow The Powerpuff Girls property beyond its traditional TV-led merch demo may be two years in the making, but the sports- and fashion-driven product and promotional execution is, like, sooo today.
Based on research and anecdotal indications that the property appealed to an older (13-plus) girl audience from a design perspective, Cartoon Network Europe took some cues from U.S. brand initiatives and explored promotional partnerships in the area of extreme sports.
‘We started with [extreme] sports because of where it sits demographically and because female participation is growing increasingly on a global level,’ says Simon George, VP of off-channel commerce for Cartoon Network EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa). Beginning in October 2001, Cartoon Network sponsored snowboarding events and athletes, and developed giveaways and branding to support those events. And in 2002, this initiative was expanded to include skateboarding in the U.K., with Cartoon sponsoring the first girls Big Air competition at the Urban Games (July).
On the fashion front, Cartoon Network teamed with fashion designers Markus Lupfer (London) and Tom van Lingen (Paris) to launch high-end ranges at retail in the U.K. and France. Lupfer’s Selfridges line launched at the start of London Fashion Week this past February, while van Linger’s Colette SKUs debuted in January 2002.
To differentiate the product from TV-led apparel, the ‘characters were style-guide-based, but the elements used in the designs were original and came from the fashion world – you wouldn’t see these in the show,’ says George. ‘We’re trying to speak to an audience that doesn’t necessarily watch The Powerpuff Girls.’
Now that Cartoon has a foothold in these categories, the company is looking to expand the program. ‘The [extreme] sports activity was positional stuff, and we want to bring it down to the next level – product execution,’ says George. ‘We are looking to work with a credible partner in that space, whether it’s hardware or apparel.’ Cartoon Network would also love to extend its fashion activity into ‘a more affordable arena’ (price points for the Selfridges line ranged from US$80 to US$800), as well as moving into health & beauty product categories like cosmetics and aromatherapy.
The company is also considering music applications like associations with bands/solo artists, original product and working with VJs at festivals. ‘Creating a band (perhaps animated) is a possibility, but music is so fast-moving these days that it’s quite difficult to pin down exactly what it needs to be,’ says George. ‘And in Europe, it’s hard to do one piece of music because local sensibilities are so varied. You can’t get economies of scale in music unless it’s a kid-targeted, show-led product, which is not where I want to go right now.’