The only thing that might make Tim Rothwell more excited about his move to Marvel is if he had been made a member of the X-Men on his way in…or maybe if a pristine copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 had been waiting on his desk. All kidding aside, though, the timing really is perfect for both Rothwell and Marvel.
For his part, Rothwell had been senior VP of Universal Studios Consumer Products Group for seven years, and he was looking for the kind of challenge posed by a portfolio of 4,700 characters, 99% of which haven’t been tapped for TV or merchandise development.
Marvel’s consumer products group, meanwhile, has had a fantastic merch run with its Spider-Man and Hulk lines. Net sales for licensed product in the first six months of 2003 were up 405% from the same period in 2002, and the Spider-Man: Dual Action Web Blaster was number six on NPD’s top toy sales chart for 2002.
But Rothwell, who will serve as Marvel’s president of worldwide consumer products, says that however impressive these individual property performances have been, they’re just the tip of the iceberg. ‘The consumer products business is strong, but they haven’t even begun to scratch the surface yet.’ Global expansion is definitely in the cards for the near future, and Rothwell expects that he’ll need to grow his ‘lean and mean’ team to fully exploit all the opportunities on the international market.
The other linchpin of his long-term strategic plan will be to work with retailers to orchestrate long-term, in-store initiatives that tie together all the core characters (including Spider-Man, X-Men, the Hulk, Fantastic Four, Blade, Captain America and Daredevil) under a Marvel Universe banner. His reasoning is that although individual character-based properties will cycle in and out of consumer consciousness as their movies and TV shows peak and wane, an overall Marvel Universe brand would be constantly refreshed.
With literally dozens of character-based feature films in the development pipeline at major studios, Rothwell says his biggest challenge will be to keep up on the merch side. ‘When it comes to solid boy franchises, Marvel owns them right now. We just need to react fast enough to keep up with the growth, managing it correctly and always thinking long-term.’ Rothwell expects Fantastic Four, which is being aggressively developed by 20th Century Fox for a release in December 2004, to be a huge property for Marvel. Also coming up in 2004 are The Punisher (Artisan), Spider-Man 2 (Sony/Columbia) and Blade 3 (New Line).