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Elmo, meet Optimus Prime

It turns out one toyco's loss has become another one's gain. A full 15 years into a lucrative relationship with Fisher-Price, a division of El Segundo, California-based Mattel, Sesame Workshop has tapped rival Hasbro as the new master toy licensee for the Sesame Street brand. The 10-year deal goes into effect at the beginning of 2011, giving the Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based toy giant exclusive rights to produce a wide range of playthings featuring the iconic Muppet characters.
January 20, 2010

It turns out one toyco’s loss has become another one’s gain. A full 15 years into a lucrative relationship with Fisher-Price, a division of El Segundo, California-based Mattel, Sesame Workshop has tapped rival Hasbro as the new master toy licensee for the Sesame Street brand. The 10-year deal goes into effect at the beginning of 2011, giving the Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based toy giant exclusive rights to produce a wide range of playthings featuring the iconic Muppet characters.

‘We were particularly impressed with Hasbro’s strategy for growth,’ says Sherrie Westin, EVP and chief marketing officer for Sesame Workshop, referring to the reasons why the company made the switch. She stresses that the non-profit, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary, was not unhappy with Fisher-Price, but rather was struck by Hasbro’s proposal to move promo and sales strategy away from a seasonal, Q4-focused approach.

‘Hasbro recognizes that Sesame Street is present in children’s lives through various milestones and has a clear plan for making it more of an everyday brand,’ says Westin.

John Frascotti, chief marketing officer at Hasbro, also trumpets the year-round tack the company is endeavoring to take. ‘We think there is a lot of opportunity there to create products to entertain and educate kids throughout all four quarters of the year,’ he says. ‘It’s a 52-week-a-year message to bring creativity to product offerings.’

Sesame Street joins other blue-chip IPs sitting in Hasbro’s stable, such as Lucasfilms’ Star Wars, the Marvel Universe and its own Transformers, but is worlds away from the boys action category in which the toyco’s had its biggest successes in recent years. In fact, the deal marks the first major preschool-based license for the company, though Frascotti insists Hasbro is well-attuned to the preschool audience.

‘We have a very strong preschool brand, PlaySkool,’ he says. ‘So, it’s a consumer we are very familiar with and a consumer we market to and sell products to today.’

With a full year before retail shelves will see the new Hasbro-Sesame offerings, it is still too early to know what the products will look like. ‘People can expect to see more of their favorite characters and the opportunity to see other ones as well,’ says Frascotti, calling out Elmo, Cookie Monster and Big Bird as some of the most iconic and valuable, and Abby Cadabby as a character ripe for growth. GR

About The Author
Gary Rusak is a freelance writer based in Toronto. He has covered the kids entertainment industry for the last decade with a special interest in licensing, retail and consumer products. You can reach him at garyrusak@gmail.com

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