Nickelodeon: Merchandising Magic from SpongeBob to Snuggies

“We position our company as one brand under the Nickelodeon umbrella that really focuses on children and their families,” said Brodsky. “Although our focus is on the kids first, we are really well known for a lot of the co-viewing that goes on with children and their parents. For example, with ‘Dora the Explorer,’ we have a lot of preschoolers watching with their parents, and the same thing happens with older kids and their parents with ‘iCarly.’”

Audiences of all stripes seem to have an extremely strong connection to a certain character who lives in a pineapple under the sea, Brodsky said. “I always refer to ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ as a four-quadrant property because it appeals to everyone and brings in all the key demographics,” she said.

With SpongeBob, Dora, and “iCarly” as the network’s biggest properties, Brodsky said the consumer products division can successfully create effective products in most of the key categories in the licensing world. She said the keys to success in licensing include focusing on those properties that consumers have a close connection with, working closely with vendors to make sure the products meet consistently high standards, and doing effective research on what the consumers want.

“Having an emotional connection to a beloved show that is appointment viewing is one of the main things that leads to a successful merchandising program,” said Brodsky. “We don’t want to come out with a new product until we feel there is a need and the interest from consumers. We are very focused on consumer insights and doing a lot of research both in our programming divisions and in consumer products.”

Products across the spectrum

The consumer products division offers a wide selection of merchandise for fans of the Nickelodeon shows. “With the preschool properties, books, videos, toys, and apparel are all key categories,” said Brodsky. “When you have a property that appeals to older kids, there are also areas like video games and home products that are added to the mix.”

One way Nickelodeon has succeeded is by putting an emphasis on planning and making sure the products have a long-term appeal. “We see the consumer products as just one way of connecting with consumers and our fans,” Brodsky said. “When we launch a product, we are looking for ways to reinforce the same message that’s on television, online, and in the print media.”

Just as the Nickelodeon programs are lauded for their quality and appeal across generations, the products approved by the consumer products division are expected to meet those same high standards. “We have pretty rigorous approvals and product development processes,” Brodsky said. “We make sure the products that have our name on them and feature our characters to reflect the quality and care that goes into all of our programming.”

Although properties like “SpongeBob SquarePants,” who celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2009, and “Dora the Explorer,” celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, on Nickelodeon remain popular, Brodsky said it’s also important to continue to invest in programming. “It’s a key part of keeping these franchises and properties fresh,” she said. “New programming is a must, and that is one of the major reasons why we invest so much in research. We want to make sure we are doing the right thing for the consumers.”

Investing in new programming and opportunities encompasses more than just adding new television shows to the lineup. This summer, “The Last Airbender,” inspired by Nickelodeon’s animated series “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” hits the movie theaters as a major live-action motion picture directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

“This is a movie that will appeal to everyone,” said Brodsky. “We’ve created products for all the different potential fans of this movie, which we anticipate will be a big global success.”

Brodsky said Nickelodeon will continue to branch out from television to other facets of the entertainment world. “It’s our plan to continue to superserve our audience,” she said. “This year has been a great year for movies, and it’s is an area where we will absolutely continue to develop. We will also continue to develop online products and more traditional areas such as books. We want to touch on all the logical areas of kids’ lives where they would expect to find their favorite characters.”

The company is constantly looking to expand the boundaries of the merchandise it offers and where it can be found. It recently announced a deal with Lea Industries and Serta Mattresses to provide a new product line of home goods and accessories based on Nickelodeon characters. Brodsky said the company is also looking forward to continuing its relationship with Dell computers, which introduced a line of Nickelodeon-themed netbook computers last year.

“We constantly search for new product categories that we haven’t tapped into yet,” she said. “We’re doing a deal with Snuggie where we will be introducing SpongeBob and Dora Snuggies. The Snuggie is a category that rose to fame because it had a fun marketing campaign, and we are constantly looking for those types of relationships.”

With seemingly endless opportunities to bring the popular Nickelodeon brands to consumers, Brodsky said the consumer products division is committed to bringing forward high quality merchandise that appeals to consumers of all ages.