He may live in a pineapple under the sea, but this spring SpongeBob SquarePants is taking a short leave from Bikini Bottom to visit the Great White North, where Toronto-based L&M agent Studio Licensing is taking the character on a cross-Canada bus tour to kick off an extravaganza of 10th-anniversary celebrations.
Dubbed The 60/30 Tour, Studio Licensing president Robert Miller says two, 47-foot Greyhound buses decked out with iconic SpongeBob imagery – his eye on the side of the bus and his arms on the back so it looks as if he’s hugging the vehicle – launched the tour at a Toronto-area Walmart on March 1. One bus headed toward the East Coast and the other went west. When it’s all said and done, the buses will stop at 60 Canadian Walmart locations in 30 days. ‘We’ve tried to hit a lot of small cities and small areas that don’t get a lot of things like this happening,’ he says. ‘We’ve done character appearances in small towns and we literally get every person in town showing up, from 1,000 to 4,000 people.’
Miller has partnered with the retail giant in the past, though he says they’ve usually been March Break or weekend stints. Including in-store and local newspaper quarter-page advertising, ‘It usually ends up translating to a 30% to 40% lift in overall sales volume for the store that day.’
Miller also sent out SpongeBob t-shirts to local radio stations for contest giveaways, designed to generate awareness around the tour. The ‘Yellow is the new black’ tees, which mirror concert shirts with tour cities listed on the back, will also be given out during the SpongeBob-wrapped bus appearances, along with samples from General Mills, which is providing packages of licensed fruit snacks and Dunkaroos to fans at every stop. A crew will be on hand to give out the samples and provide photo opps with the costumed character.
Studio also has a number of events scheduled around the Greater Toronto Area throughout the year to keep the yellow guy top of mind. ‘We’ve got some Canadian monuments that are going to be lit up yellow at night to celebrate the anniversary, like the CN Tower and Niagara Falls on the Canadian side,’ he states, adding that the events will likely coincide with the actual anniversary date in mid-July.
But that’s not all. Miller is also looking to create the world’s largest cupcake to create a new Guinness World Record, which will probably weigh in around a thousand pounds. But you won’t see a massive SpongeBob-shaped cupcake, since it has to be the shape of a traditional cupcake in order to qualify for record-breaking status, so Miller says it’ll probably be yellow and bear the Sponge’s wide-eyed face.
Other events include character appearances at Family Fun Day at Toronto Raptors NBA games and the Toronto Marathon in October. Retail-wise, Studio has partnered with Toys ‘R’ Us to create an endcap filled with SpongeBob products in July, and licensed product will be going into the Loblaw grocery chain that same month.
Over in Alberta, the West Edmonton Mall will be hosting a SpongeBob-themed Bikini Bottom Beach Party to ring in the New Year in 2010, and it’ll be toward the end of this year that Miller will be seeking out additional partners for the event.