With a third big-screen installment in the Smurfs franchise hitting theaters across France next spring, Belgium-based property owner IMPS has named TF1 Licenses as licensing agent for the timeless brand that was created in 1958 by Belgian cartoonist Peyo.
Combined, The Smurfs and The Smurfs 2 cleared US$911.3 million at the global box office. And in anticipation of another on-screen success, TF1 Licenses, the licensing arm of TF1 Enterprises, is putting together a full-scale consumer products program in France for the wee blue characters.
Heading up the initiative is TF1 Licenses director Marina Narishkin, who joined the company six months ago from CPLG. Narishkin has more than two decades of experience orchestrating licensing programs for some of the biggest properties in the kids business, from Marvel to Star Wars. Her mandate at TF1 Licenses is to expand the company portfolio (which includes iconic IPs like Hello Kitty and Barbapapa), while focusing on box-office hits and properties with long-term viability.
“Smurfs is a fantastic opportunity,” says Narishkin. “It’s one of the key classic, inter-generational, historical and vintage properties out there.”
Considering all of those qualities, Narishkin says apparel will be the driving category, and her strategy will be to start out at high-end retailers with category leaders. TF1 Licenses also plans to forge direct-to-retail partnerships in apparel, as well as support its publishers and global master toy partner Jakks Pacific. Meanwhile, products like home décor, collectibles and gift items will be available at boutiques first, before rolling out to mass retail along with the rest of the secondary categories.
So far, thanks to worldwide and regional deals, TF1′s Smurfs partners in France include Le Lombard, Dupuis, Hachette and De Agostini-Altaya (publishing); PEZ, Haribo and Chupa Chups (confectionery); Panini (stickers); Ferrero (chocolate); TF1 Vidéo (VOD); Delacre and Oreo (biscuits); MegaBrands (toys); Ubisoft and Capcom (videogames); H&M, Zara, Benetton, Women’s Secret (closed circuit retailers); and Tesco (mass retail).
“When we do big programs at TF1, we get up to 40 licensees, so we’ve still got a lot of work to do, which is great,” Narishkin adds.
One of the great things about Smurfs, she says, is its potential to attract suitors from a broad range of categories. “This is the kind of property that permits you to go from kids sneakers sold at mass retail to jewelry,” she says.
When asked what factors have made the Smurfs resonate with fans from one generation to the next, Narishkin credits licensor IMPS for keeping the brand top of mind.
She says good licensors make sure there is always plenty of marketing and public relations activity in play, that the TV show is produced regularly and with new seasons airing in prime slots (Smurfs has a total of 272 episodes over nine seasons), and that there are plenty of live events and celebrations commemorating milestone birthdays and anniversaries. “We’re going to help them construct their program in France, but a lot of kudos goes to them for all the work they’ve been doing,” she adds.
Narishkin says the different divisions at TF1 Enterprises and parentco TF1 Group, which span broadcast, digital, production, live shows and distribution, offer licensors a full 360-degree experience and maximum exposure for any given property. “We have a definite expertise in each division and a capacity to launch and mediatize things, which is quite amazing,” she says.
While the majority of Smurfs merch is scheduled to hit retail shortly before the film’s 2017 release, The Smurfs comic book is due out next month, and a Smurfs musical concert premieres later this year at Folies Bergères music hall in Paris.