Sony Pictures is on a winning streak in this department. From classic programs to current hits, the company owns several properties that have left an imprint on international viewers, giving its Sony Pictures Consumer Products (SPCP) division lots to work with in terms of product licensing and allowing fans to relive their favorite programs again and again.
“Our strategy relies on making the best content possible and making sure the viewers engage with the characters of that property,” explains Greg Economos, senior vice president of Global Consumer Products. “It really flows from there. You can’t create demand in this industry, so we determine our strategy by looking at the properties and when it really hits, we take off.”
In recent months, SPCP has taken off in several directions. Sony Pictures’ three property categories – current TV, current film and classics – have each garnered notable traction this year that will continue into 2015. For one, there’s the 30th anniversary of the ’80s favorite “Ghostbusters.” Sony Pictures relaunched the film in theaters Aug. 29 on 700 screens nationwide. It also introduced “Ghostbusters” and “Ghostbusters 2” on Blu-ray. SPCP is reinforcing the relaunch in the food category with a special Krispy Kreme partnership. In all 7,000 grocery stores that carry Krispy Kreme donuts, the packaging will feature artwork promoting the franchise. Inside actual Krispy Kreme locations, patrons will enjoy limited edition donuts featuring favorite characters Slimer and Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
In addition to relaunching classic movie franchises, SPCP is moving forward with a reboot of another classic, “Annie.” The Broadway show-inspired film stars the Academy Award’s youngest nominee Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie and Jamie Foxx as Mr. Willstacks, the new Daddy Warbucks. The family film is due in theaters at Christmas and has spurred a convenient gift-giving option for holiday shoppers buying for tween and teen girls.
“We formed a really great program with Target for Annie,” Economos explains. “We are working with the movie’s costume designer, Renée Ehrlich Kalfus, who has designed a 25-piece collection of soft lines, including the red dress featured in the movie, that will be featured in Target from mid-November through the holiday season.”
Economos says another upcoming film, “Pixels,” also lends itself well to soft lines. The movie, featuring Kevin James and Adam Sandler, will appeal to the video gaming world, bringing in teen boys and young adults who have grown fond of arcade characters such as Pac-Man, Centipede, Donkey Kong, Galaga and Sony Entertainment’s own Q*bert. The movie is adapted from a popular YouTube video from 2010 and has already inspired licensees to design lines featuring mashups of characters in the movie alongside arcade heroes.
That film is due July 24th and soon after that Sony Entertainment will breathe new life into the school-age favorite “Goosebumps.” Economos remembers working on the TV show and book franchise in the 1990s and is confident the success from that decade will continue today. Sony will bring a new “Goosebumps” movie, featuring Jack Black as the series’ author R.L. Stine, around next year’s back-to-school season.
“We are working very closely with Scholastic and they are the licensing agent in the North American territory so who knows better than them the whole ‘ology’ of ‘Goosebumps,’” Economos says. “We are creating books based on the movie and will cover categories from interactive to toys to plush to clothing and everything. We’re really excited about it, especially when looking at how well the books have done.”
In addition to film, Sony Pictures is catering to fans still reeling from hit TV shows such as “Breaking Bad.” Economos says the overwhelming international love for characters such as Walter White and Jesse Pinkman and the high anticipation for the show’s upcoming prequel “Better Call Saul” are evidence of the power of mobile devices.
“With ‘Breaking Bad,’ the first season did OK because it’s a great show, but it wasn’t until it was available on Netflix that it really took off,” Economos says. “Then people could download it on Netflix, and continue to watch it on AMC once they caught up.”
In Europe and Asia, Economos says the tendency to watch programs from mobile devices is higher than in the United States. As more viewers find themselves watching programs on laptops, phones and tablets, Economos says it creates a synergy with online shopping. SPCP has created online stores for almost all of its entertainment properties to give fans, especially the diehard ones, immediate access to merchandise associated with their favorite shows. They even offer exclusive products that you can’t find in general department stores. A $15 t-shirt with a clever Breaking Bad line printed on it is one thing, but $30 cufflinks and $80 wall clings are another.
“This is a big trend we’re seeing,” Economos says. “Once they see the show, they immediately do a search to find merchandise. So we created an online store that will lead them right to that. You will see networks that have a shop button where they have merchandise for all their shows, but we are really pushing dedicated sites for each show.”
Dedicated sites are not only a good move for consumers, but for licensees, as well, since it gives them additional outlets to sell their products. In Asia, for instance, online shopping is three times higher than in the United States.
SPCP will be relaying the benefits of online shopping and the upcoming news on its properties at the Brand Licensing Europe 2014 show held Oct. 7-9 in London. SPCP will give two presentations Oct. 7 and Oct. 8 to showcase its major properties for next year.
“We’re still in the mode of success for what’s happening this year but we also have some great films and shows that we are working on for next year,” Economos says.