Saturday, July 10, 2004

Beyblade Powers Activate!!

From a recent article on O’Dwyer’s:

Interpublic's Rogers & Cowan beat four other firms to handle global PR for this summer's Beyblade World Championship, an event for fans of the toy fad to compete in New York. Hill & Knowlton, Burson-Marsteller, Edelman and Porter Novelli also vied for the work, which was awarded after a two-step RFP process.

One hundred million Beyblades have been sold around the world, by R&C's estimate. The toys resemble spinning tops and players compete in miniature "stadiums" to see which device can knock the other out.

R&C is charged with drumming up international support of the event, as well as coordinating with licensees like Hasbro and ABC Family. Matt Losordo and Fran Curtis, EVP's for R&C in New York, headed the pitch.

Hasbro, which began marketing the toys last year under an agreement with Takara Corp. of Japan, credited strong sales of the $7 plastic and metal devices for its strong earnings in 2003.


IMHO, this is the type of account that should have been handed off to a few boutique firms - boutique firms like POP! Public Relations that understand the audience, has some street sense and skillz. Not a big corporate firm, but cool boutiques that have some geeks that have actually played with Beyblades, not just watched their kids play with them fandangled new top thingies. And, while it might be more expensive to have a few different boutiques regionally, it might have helped keep a grass roots feel for the games.

Now, if you are an old, non-hep cat, let’s explain what Beyblades are. They are tops. Well decorated tops, that kids put into a little arena and try to knock each other out of the arena. Sounds vaguely familar with what kids in the 1950's did with, oh, marbles and tops (we've all read Jean Sheppard's stories - or at least seen A Christmas Story). But, Beyblades have characters and a great cartoon to go along with the marketing.

So Rogers & Cowan won the account. When I think of R&C, I do not think of the children's market and the tween cool/hip factor. I think of great entertainment publicity, some great book publicity, but, well, not toys. I'm sure they have done toys, but how plugged in to the kid market are they?

I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for the pitch meetings from any of the agencies that pitched the business, with button-down old white men trying to be hip and pretending they know what Beyblades are, and how best to put on a tournament. Going out on a limb on this one, but how many of those executives have ever set foot in a comic book store, where local tourneys take place? Or, how many of them had actually seen a Beyblade, or watched one of the cartoons before the RFP came across their desks?

Hasbro has a winning toy right now - it has generated amazing buzz through kids and the cartoon (give credit where credit is due). But, what is going to happen when you take the regional tournaments, hand over the planning and execution to a PR firm, which will indubitable make the tournament too corporate and commercial, which will in turn possibly lose street cred for Beyblades.

Then again, how much longer before Beyblades become the next Magic or Hero Clix or Pokemon, or whatever was hot last week that's already dying down?
Post a Comment