Hold the muscle-driven mayhem! The macho world of superheroes is getting in touch with its softer side this month with the debut of Marvel Entertainment’s latest consumer products lines at Licensing Show.
First up is Marvel’s entrée into the world of tween/teen girls. Estrogen-charged fashion brand Marvelous will feature iconic images reflecting the comic book company’s 4,700-strong catalogue of female characters, with powerful heroines like Storm, Elektra, Rogue and Mystique banking on their film-driven mainstream toehold and leading the way. Tim Rothwell, president of Marvel’s worldwide consumer media group, says the company has been toying with the girls fashion brand idea for two years. But a recent spate of focus groups in which girls ranked the Marvelous concept right up there with mary-kateandashley and Hilary Duff convinced Marvel to turn up the heat.
Rothwell is initially concentrating on locking in apparel and accessory licensees to drive phase one of the program, but no deals were in place at press time. Rothwell’s next priority will be to scout for partners in footwear, eyewear, hosiery and health & beauty to round out the line, which should roll out in fall 2005. And depending on its success at retail, Rothwell might consider spinning the brand off into publishing and TV down the road.
Playing to new parents who want to pass their love of comic book heroes on to their wee ones is Marvel Babies, a comprehensive licensed baby brand that will have a product for every infant and toddler need. Marvel has turned back the clock on superheroes including Spider-Man, Captain America, Thor and Rhino-Man, using a pastel palette to render them as roly-poly infants in diapers and sucking on pacifiers.
Encompassing apparel, room décor, baby gear and health & beauty, the first wave of Marvel Babies products should hit mass retail in 2005. Rothwell says the program is a blank slate right now, and he’s entertaining overtures from licensees in every category not covered by Marvel’s rejigged umbrella agreements.
Speaking of these, the company has been consolidating its licensee list over the past six months, inking a number of over-arching deals granting one manufacturer the master license across all property initiatives (including classic and movie programs) and target demographics for a given category. ‘We’re basically getting married,’ jokes Rothwell about the deals, which he says offer Marvel and its partners a number of advantages.
Each property becomes easier to manage from an inventory perspective; it’s easier for retailers to deal with one manufacturer; and it improves the bottom line, explains Rothwell, because three or four different manufacturers selling the same brand will naturally try to undercut each other to secure more shelf space.
So far, Marvel has blanket licensing deals in place with Toy Biz (master toy), Hanes Apparel (underwear), BBC Footwear, Disguise (costumes) and RM Palmer (confectionery). In early May, Marvel struck a deal naming Jay Franco & Sons its sole manufacturer of products in the domestics category, including beach towels, bath towels, bedding and other home décor SKUs. Looking ahead, Rothwell plans to cut similar deals for apparel, publishing, electronics and construction toys.