Pop culture comes home to Toy Fair New York

More than just a toy fair, the Big Apple show is attracting more licensing business than ever, with a greater emphasis by organisers to expose more visitors to a greater variety of brands and IP

Written by Rhys Thomas

Posted 06.12.2019 | Events

Pop culture comes home to Toy Fair New York thumbnail

As the destination for scouting the hottest toys and games, Toy Fair New York, owned and operated by the US Toy Association, is also evolving to offer more tools to navigate the latest trends in pop culture and entertainment.

Today’s kids are consuming content from more places than ever, and at an ever-increasing rate. Beyond nonlinear platforms like YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon, new social media apps, such as TikTok, and gaming and esports platforms like Twitch and Mixer are influencing every aspect of kids’ lives, including their shopping habits.

“These new avenues for kids’ content are helping resurrect classic brands, turning family content creators like Ryan’s World into toys, and helping nonlinear properties rise to the top of the pop culture food chain,” says Adrienne Appell, leading trend expert at the US Toy Association. “What this means for the toys and games community is more opportunity.”

More companies are evolving from simply toymakers to year-round kids’ content producers thanks to major acquisitions (like Hasbro’s current acquisition of eOne) and partnerships (Mattel will launch eight movies based on its IP beginning next year), and with this, Toy Fair continues to grow as a global stage for sharing their announcements.

Major entertainment companies already partner with Toy Fair to host their upfronts, summits, and other high-profile gatherings to great success. In 2019, Nickelodeon hosted an invitation-only upfront at the Javits Center during Toy Fair, which revealed its slate of new programming for the year. This included a first look at Ryan’s Mystery Playdate based on the leading kids’ content creator.

Baby Shark Fingerling: WowWee / Pinkfong

What this proves is that the growth of entertainment, no matter the platform, is only widening the net for toy companies to negotiate new deals and tap into new categories of play. Licensing continues to make up a large part of the toy business— representing about 30 percent of total US toy sales – and exhibitors can continue to utilize the global reach of Toy Fair to make more deals around new digital-first properties, among others.

MGA Entertainment announced its first-ever licensing deal with a digital-first brand, Little Baby Bum, during last year’s show, while partners for pocket.watch’s Ryan’s World, Ninja of Fortnite fame, and Pinkfong’s Baby Shark gave a first-look at the toys inspired by these brands, which are now hitting shelves for holiday 2019.

Davin Sufer, CTO at WowWee, which serves as a major toy partner for Pinkfong’s Baby Shark, reveals: “The show has become a staple for us, and there are definitely a lot more meetings we’re taking with prospective content distribution partners and with creators who'd like to see if there could be a toy line around their content.”

As digital channels move beyond the screen and become toys themselves, kids’ content creators see the value in attending the show to forge these business relationships. Toy Fair 2019 welcomed more than 100 YouTubers and bloggers, and these numbers are expected to grow in 2020 as influential Instagrammers are added to the mix.

Programming throughout Toy Fair will also present opportunities for show attendees to better understand how the evolving landscape of kids’ entertainment, social media, and pop culture fandom are impacting the overall health of the industry and the opportunities for growth that come with them.

Margot Robbie heads a star-studded Mattel movie line-up as Barbie

This includes show events and educational sessions, as well as the Toy Trends Briefing session, presented on the first day of the show to highlight the must-have toys and games for the year and what’s influencing them. All these resources combine to provide the perfect roadmap to media, buyers, and other show guests on what to look for as they navigate the show floor.

“Toy Fair New York continues to evolve right alongside kids’ interests and habits and will grow in its offerings to meet the needs of all those attending,” adds Marian Bossard, executive vice president of global market events at The Toy Association.

Nearly 30,000 global toy and play professionals are expected to descend on Toy Fair New York 2020 (22-25 February) to interact with more than 1,000 exhibiting toy companies from six continents. To learn more about the latest show details, including events, registration, exhibitors, educational programming, hotel bookings, and more, visit www.ToyFairNY.com or download the free Toy Fair Mobile App.


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