Toy State has entered into a worldwide partnership with Sébastien Loeb Racing (SLR), a deal that includes both race sponsorships and product licensing components. The four-year global licensing agreement grants Toy State exclusive rights to develop ranges of toys in the R/C and lights and sound categories.
Having recently been promoted to the position of president of Toy State, it seemed like a good time to sit down with Andy Friess to talk about the state of his company, its high-profile sponsorship agreement with Tommy Baldwin Racing, its upcoming plans for the R/C brand, Nikko, and more.
The Toy Book (TTB): How important are new licensing agreements to the growth of Toy State?
Andy Friess (AF): Licensing plays a major role in our success. With the competition so tough in all toy categories, securing rights to strong licenses can provide the point-of-difference that separates us from our competitors. Toy State’s history of developing products featuring the highest levels of quality and innovation has been a great “selling” tool as we seek new licensing opportunities. We’ve been extremely fortunate to work with a core of outstanding global licensors, and these relationships have been instrumental to the successes we have achieved over our 30-plus-year history. The 13-year, multi-category relationship with Caterpillar has been the foundation of our licensing efforts.
Toy State has entered into a licensing agreement with WWE. The deal includes products developed for the R/C vehicle category for the North American market, the first of which will be in stores later this year. This agreement marks Toy State’s first licensing agreement under the Nikko brand since its acquisition of the company last year.
“There are few brands with as loyal and passionate a fan base as the WWE,” says Andy Friess, Toy State president. “The personality of the brand is perfectly aligned with the attitude and innovation of our toys, and we can’t wait for WWE fans to see our products when they hit the shelves.”
On Monday, Toy State unveiled new branding designs for its flagship lights and sound and R/C product lines, Road Rippers and Nikko. The company is showcasing the new-look product lines and branding at Fall Toy Preview in Dallas, and will continue to highlight them at Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair in January.
Toy State acquired Nikko and Nikko Entertainment BV in May. The moves came on the heels of a period of aggressive growth, including new licensing partnerships with Hot Wheels, Transformers, Hello Kitty, and Angry Birds.
“We couldn’t be more excited about the new logos and packaging these leading brands will have when they hit retail shelves in 2015,” said Andy Friess, Toy State’s general manager of U.S. operations and senior vice president of global marketing. “Redefining the Nikko brand was a major design objective following our acquisition, and returning Road Rippers to its signature ‘orange package’ roots provides an exciting refresh for the leader in the lights and sound vehicle category.”
Toy State has secured the worldwide rights to Nikko by acquiring the consolidated operations of its Japan and Hong Kong offices. Toy State has also acquired Nikko Entertainment BV, the European arm of the company’s R/C toy category.
Nikko manufactures R/C toys, from custom vehicles, boats, and flying items to an array of preschool R/C toys. These toys are marketed through licensing partnerships with global automakers, as well as brands such as Transformers, Hello Kitty, Fast & Furious, and Angry Birds.
The acquisition expands Toy State’s presence to Amsterdam and Japan, as well as in Hong Kong, the location of its current headquarters. The acquisition will also serve as a platform for the company’s continued expansion into Europe. Toy State’s U.S. office is located in Boston.