When the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo were postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19, toymakers around the world had to rethink their game plans for summer product launches.
Some toycos like Mattel have chosen to move forward with consumer products programs as planned, while others like Hasbro have pushed back launches by a year. No matter how companies are handling the delay, however, all Olympics-inspired efforts have required a recalculation when it comes to marketing.
Mattel moves forward
Mattel announced its first Olympic items for brands like Barbie, American Girl and Hot Wheels in February. And while the toyco announced these ranges before the pandemic forced the Games to postpone, Mattel continued to roll out its consumer products program, with the first products hitting shelves this spring.
The Barbie products include dolls representing the new sports being recognized at the upcoming event—skateboarding, surfing, softball, sport climbing and karate. Hot Wheels items include die-cast cars designed to represent different events dating back to the first Olympic Games in Athens, including everything from track & field to basketball.
American Girl’s Olympic collection, meanwhile, includes a medal ceremony set and doll-sized Team USA gear for gymnastics, soccer, swimming, track & field, softball and beach volleyball (pictured). To keep kids engaged with the American Girl Olympic range, and to maintain excitement about the Summer Games through to 2021, Mattel is launching content on the brand’s website and YouTube channel.
Not all toycos decided to move forward with their Olympic-inspired ranges, however.
Hasbro hangs back
Hasbro was also going for gold with plans for Peppa Pig to join the British Olympic team as a special children’s ambassador. Unlike Mattel, the toymaker opted to delay its Summer Games toys until 2021.
Instead, Peppa will spend the next several months getting kids excited for the 2021 games. The year-long effort kicked off at the end of July and the “Big Inspiration for Little Piggies” campaign will feature live events, retail activations, digital content and consumer products. Items will launch in 2021 and they include toys, apparel, accessories, stationery, home gifting and publishing.
Because the Olympics can’t take place this year, Hasbro’s content push will instead focus on maintaining excitement through to next summer and encouraging kids to keep active during the shutdown. Upcoming digital assets include online weekly workout classes, downloadable reward charts, score cards and Team GB athletes posting fitness challenges.
“The product range was originally planned to launch in 2020, but we pressed the pause button along with the rest of the world when the Games were rescheduled,” says Marianne James, Hasbro’s VP of consumer products. The digital content, live events and retail activations throughout 2020 will now work to raise awareness and build engagement, and James believes even more retailers and licensees will come on board as a result, making next year’s product launch even bigger than Hasbro had initially planned for 2020.
The toyco had developed its product range, but hadn’t yet started production when the Olympics were postponed. Because that groundwork is in place, James says Hasbro will focus on new opportunities like additional categories that can strengthen the consumer products program.
James says there is a potential risk in partnering with live events like the Olympics—especially as the pandemic continues to cause uncertainty about large gatherings—but says that risk can be managed by focusing on themes that stretch beyond a single moment in time.
First, sports-related content can be found in a number of episodes of Peppa Pig, James says, and as such the upcoming Olympics products would still work with or without the Team GB branding. But beyond that, Olympians are always of interest.
“Team GB athletes have been working tirelessly for four years, and interest in their achievement and progress will continue beyond the Tokyo Olympics,” she says. “There’s a wide commitment to nurturing a love of sports and physical activity in younger generations. Our partnership will live beyond the event itself based on the shared values and synergies of both brands.”