YouTube’s leading skateboarding channel, Braille Skateboarding, has partnered with R&R Footwear to launch a new skate shoe, marking yet another brand extension for the brand that has made its move on the lifestyle and toy licensing sectors in recent months.
In a deal brokered by Semaphore Licensing Solutions, Braille Skateboarding has been working closely with R&R to develop a skate shoe that will offer skaters comfort, support, quality, and style. The shoe’s footbed has been developed to provide the wearer with a level of comfort and support while allowing them to maintain a good level of board feel.
Available in three classic color ways, black with a white sole, black with a honey sole, and grey with a white sole, the collection (available in adult men’s sizes only) will be rolled out to the US and UK in early summer. Braille Skateboarding founder, Aaron Kyro will be autographing the shoe boxes of the first 1,000 pre-orders.
“This footwear launch symbolizes Aaron’s devotion to developing the best products for skateboarders of all experience levels. As a hobby turned official Olympic Sport, skateboarding as a category has rolled into the spotlight. We couldn’t be more excited for both Aaron and Braille as we help execute their mission to get the entire world skateboarding,” said Michael Bienstock, founder and CEO, Semaphore Licensing Solutions.
Nick Smith, head of sales and marketing, R&R Footwear, added: “R&R Footwear develops and manufactures high-quality footwear for a range of global brands. Braille’s commitment to design, develop and deliver a high-performing skate shoe has been equivalent to what we see from professional footwear teams from around the World and we’re delighted to see Braille’s dreams of creating their own range of skate shoes become a reality.
“The future looks incredible bright for Braille Skateboarding and we’re proud to be a part of their journey.”
Semaphore Licensing, the licensing and merchandising specialist in the online content creator and influencer market, is ‘thrilled’ with the current response and consumer demand for licensed products and toys for its Braille Skateboarding and Trinity brands.
Reception to product launches from Bonkers Toys, toy partner for both Braille Skateboarding and Trinity and Beyond has fuelled a second wave release, as both brands now continue to bolster their US retail offering across Target.com and Target stores across the country.
Series two toy lines for both Braille Skateboarding and Trinity and Beyond feature elevated versions of initial releases. Braille Skateboarding is currently the number one skateboarding channel on YouTube and has just released a fresh series of blind bags featuring collectable mini skateboards, as well as a mystery two-pack and a mystery six-pack of mini skateboards.
Meanwhile, Trinity and Beyond has release a new series of buildable miniature figure blind bags along with a mystery figure two-pack and a mystery figure six-pack.
According to Semaphore Licensing, these latest releases have been met with much excitement as fans look to their favorite virtual buddies to help keep them entertained while much of their activity is still limited to play time at home amid the pandemic.
“We are thrilled by the fan response to the licensed products from Bonkers Toys for Semaphore YouTube stars Braille Skateboarding and Trinity and Beyond,” said Lisa Berlin Wright, senior vice president of licensing, Semaphore Licensing Solutions.
“Semaphore Licensing is delighted to represent some of the best social media stars on YouTube and other dynamic platforms.”
Semaphore Licensing is celebrating a milestone anniversary, having continued to hit upon global success throughout a year that has been fraught with unease and uncertainty owing to the coronavirus pandemic. The company has said that it is now ‘well on its way to creating market disruption,’ despite those challenges.
Having worked with YouTube talent for over a decade through its sister company, Semaphore Business Solutions, the Semaphore Licensing team has secured deals for a portfolio spanning names such as Braille Skateboarding, Blogilates, SUperHero Kids, and Trinity and Beyond.
Following a year that has seen a ‘dramatic shift’ in the placement goal for product from in-store to online, Semaphore Licensing is priming itself to see the trend continue as ecommerce continues to grow ‘at a rapid rate.’
“The impact on influencers is rapidly evolving as well, as their roles and responsibilities as public figures take a new shape in our pandemic changed global community,” suggests the firm.
“We’re well on our way to creating market disruption despite the pandemic challenges of 2020,” said Michael Bienstock, founder and CEO, Semaphore Licensing Solutions.
“We accelerated throughout a tumultuous time, and connected fans with their creators when the need for connection was at an all-time high.”
For the past decade, the US outfit Semaphore Licensing has made a success of bringing YouTube and social media influencers out of their worlds of online clicks and views, and into the wider licensing space developing licensing programmes around some of the biggest names in the digital domain.
Most recently, Semaphore has been developing licensing programmes for Braille Skateboarding, the leading skateboarding channel on YouTube, as well as Blogilates, a female fitness channel that has swept across the social media space over the course of the last few years.
It’s without question that the social media landscape has helped carve out a new dynamic on the world of consumer products and licensing over the course of the last ten years. Throw into the mix a global pandemic that has forced a world’s population deeper into the digital sphere than ever before, consuming and engaging with content to new levels, and it’s small wonder why Semaphore Licensing approaches Influencer licensing with the passion that it does.
For ten years, this is a business that has been at the vanguard of a shifting landscape of licensing. Here, Licensing.biz talks to Semaphore’s VP of licensing, Lisa Berlin Wright about what Influencers are bringing to our industry, how they are fuelling fandom, and where the company takes things from here.
Hello Lisa, could you talk us through the story of Semaphore Licensing – you guys popped up on our radar with the Braille Skateboarding partnerships, and then with Blogilates fitness channel. What do you look for in the brands you work with?
Semaphore has been around for over 10 years as the leading Business Management firm for YouTube Influencers, with over 500 social media influencers as clients in various divisions. We recognized Consumer Product Licensing as a natural business extension for many of our leading Influencers who had shown the ability to develop sustainable brands with longevity.
Semaphore Licensing Solutions was officially launched one year ago this December and represents Digital Media Stars who are true leaders in their niche. Braille Skateboarding is the number one Skateboarding Channel on YouTube, Blogilates is the number one Female Fitness channel, Hyram is the number one Skincare influencer, and every four to nine year old girl wants a playdate with Trinity and Beyond.
We proudly represent a broad range of new media stars and to date, the current Talent Portfolio has a global audience that spans over 50 million subscribers.
What attracts you guys to these social media grown brands? To what extent do you think brands like these show us the future of the licensing space?
We believe these brands have the ability to evolve and thrive for many years to come. These new media stars offer licensees built-in fans. As we have seen in the past few years, more and more consumers make purchase decisions based on recommendations from people they are following people on social media.
There are studies that show consumers are more likely to buy a product recommended by an Influencer than by anyone else. What better license then the Influencer themselves?!
Mike Bienstock, Semaphore founder pictured with Aaron Kyto, creator of Braille Skateboarding
How have the events of 2020 helped to fuel the audience growth for brands like these? How has it driven the demand for licensing and merchandising partnerships?
While there have been many challenging things in 2020, for our Influencers, their numbers have skyrocketed due to the shelter-in-place restrictions. We have seen all of the key metrics increase: viewers, subscribers, likes – sometimes up over 500 per cent. With more fans and more engagement, the demand for licensed products dramatically increases.
What do you think YouTube creators and brands bring to the licensing space? How are they disrupting the traditional licensing space?
YouTube Creators are bringing a very powerful opportunity to licensing. Having worked with many film, TV and celebrity licensed brands in the past, we see a giant opportunity with Influencers. They have an emotional connection with their fans. They have a direct pipeline to fans where they can talk about the products and drive massive traffic to retailers. A film or TV show can’t feature the product and say: “Go to Target”, but our Influencers can and it’s authentic.
What are the challenges that you guys face in building brands like these? How receptive are retailers, licensing partners etc? How profound has the shift in mindset been towards creators and brands to emerge from social media over ‘traditional’ means?
Some of the challenges that we face are in teaching the difference in how to measure a Social Media Star vs. Traditional Licensed Properties. With Social Media our Influencers “own” their niche. Everyone in that niche will know and follow whatever that Influencer says. But they are not household names and outside of their niche they can be unknown.
What we try to illuminate for retailers and licensees is that 11 million people as a fan base (in the case of Blogilates) is bigger than an audience for most traditional TV properties. Our Stars’ audiences are deep not wide; you can sell millions of dollars of licensed products without needing to be broadly known.
Given the nature of social media and content engagement, it’s arguable that brands like Braille and Blogilates are that extra step closer to the core audience. Is that a fair assessment, and how far does that influence the kind of licensing partnerships you secure?
As we mentioned, that is the “secret sauce” of social media star licensing. Our brands are very close to their audience and there is a deep emotional connection. Our licensees can benefit from harnessing the connection.
What are your next steps for both Braille Skateboarding and Blogilates? What kind of partnerships are you looking for these brands?
We are seeking apparel and retail partnerships for both brands. We are also looking for HBA opportunities.With the Blogilates Sporting Goods arriving at Target in January we see a big opportunity for licensed active wear at retail.
What changes to the consumer mindset or to the licensing space do you think have been brought about by the past year’s events? How do you think these will now go on to shape the future of the licensing space? What will Semaphore Licensing’s role be within that?
Changes in the retail landscape in the past year have shown how important social media and a strong online presence is. It is vital going forward for any brand to have an online audience. Since Semaphore has worked with Social Media influencers for over 10 years now, we have been able to translate the digital landscape for licensees that might be new to it.
We also have deep relationships with influencers of all ages and even pets, so we are able to identify up and coming stars in any niche.
Thankyou Lisa, anything you’d like to add?
Philip DeFranco is one of the foremost authorities for news and pop culture commentary in the digital media space. His YouTube Channel currently has 6.39 million subscribers, while the content receives 20 million views per month.
Hyram is a YouTuber turned TikTok Skincare Sensation who has accelerated into the spotlight by creating new media content that makes skincare approachable – particularly Gen Z. Hyram’s authentic, informative and humor infused videos have achieved over 232 million lifetime views with 3.85 million subscribers, while his TikTok fan base is in excess of 6.1 million followers
Trinity and Beyond have become the best virtual friend next door for girls 4-9, creating wholesome videos showcasing scavenger hunts, fun skits, slime pranks and games for children. Sisters Trinity and Madison have evolved into America’s sweethearts, as seen on their YouTube channel with over 6 million subscribers.
Braille Skateboarding is the #1 skateboarding channel on YouTube with over 5.24 million subscribers and over 1 billion lifetime views. The channel is known for its videos that educate all ages on how to learn various skateboarding moves and tricks
Blogilates is the #1 female fitness channel on YouTube featuring full length POP Pilates, PIIT 28, and fun Bootcamp Sculpting workouts. The channel currently has 5.38 million subscribers and over 813 million lifetime views.
SuperHero Kids features a family unit that captures epic action and comedy videos for all ages with over 6 million subscribers on their YouTube Channel.
Maymo is the most popular pet personality on YouTube with the most subscribers of any pet channel – over 9.9 million – with his content viewed 125 million times per month.
Ireland Boys Productions is known for its Vlogs and behind-the-scenes look at pranks. The YouTube Channel currently has over 3.9 million subscribers while its content has had 631 million lifetime views.
Vat19 is led by a team of creators who channel their inner child to bring videos to life featuring “curiously awesome” gifts, candy, toys, gummy, putty, puzzles, games, and more – with over 6.5 billion lifetime views and 7.5 million subscribers.
Well, to answer the former we’ll have to take you on a journey to San Francisco via a childhood in Montana, chasing the trail of a professional skateboarder in the making and the pursuit of his dreams of hitting the big time. To answer the latter, you need only to travel to your local Smyths Toys Superstore.
Because Aaron Kyro is the talent behind the Braille Skateboarding brand; one that has emerged from the sea of YouTube content creators to rise through the ranks of global popularity and land on the toy shelves of one of the UK and Europe’s most preeminent toy retailers, with its popular line of Braille Fingerboards and accessories.
New to the UK this year, Braille Skateboarding has been met with a warm reception from fans not only country-wide, but across the globe. Projections made by the skate brand deduce that – should things continue at the pace of growth it’s been enjoying over the past year or two – Braille Skateboarding will have shipped around one million fingerboards to retailers by the end of 2020.
That’s not too shabby for a brand that only launched onto the toy scene in July this year. According to the firm, fans have already been ‘going wild for the toys,’ a range that not only comprises fingerboards and skate ramps, but mystery surprise sets and accessories, too, propelling the franchise to international fame.
With 5.24 million subscribers to the Braille Skateboarding YouTube channel and its Skate Everything series of videos – a series that sees Kyro and pals not only create skateboards out of the most bizarre materials they can lay their hands on (seriously, we’ve watched him craft a board’s grip tape out of Gummy Bears), but skate them on camera, too – Kyro is injecting something new into the skateboarding scene, and bringing it into the modern era of social media, virtual engagement and of course, merchandising.
Now, to answer the next question, Licensing.biz takes the (virtual) journey to San Francisco to catch up with Kyro and learn more about the plans for the Braille Skateboarding brand.
Hello Aaron, thanks for talking all things skateboarding with us today. Could you kick things off by talking to us about the Braille Skateboarding story? Where did this all start for you and what’s the journey been like to where you guys are now?
It’s really every skater’s dream. I grew up in Montana where I learned how to skateboard. Graduated high school and moved to San Francisco to pursue professional skateboarding. After getting kicked off my main sponsor due to budget cuts my career dreams were all but crushed. I dumped all of my footage onto YouTube where skateboard footage would go to die in 2006 and the video went viral. I realized the power of social media and the ability to reach lots of people, so I started making tutorial videos and teaching people how to skateboard and we grew from there.
When did you guys realise you wanted to break into the toy space with the Braille Skateboarding brand name? What has that process been like for you? What’s it now like to see Braille Skateboarding toys lining shelves not just in the US but internationally?
With our background in teaching people how to skateboard our goal is to make Skateboarding the largest sport in the world. This is a big goal and of course requires us to reach out to a lot of people in any way we can. So when the idea of creating toys came up it seemed like a perfect fit. The process has been amazing really, it’s so fun to create the different boards. Seeing our boards on shelves in this capacity is literally unreal. I could have never imagined things getting to this level. It’s really amazing.
What do you think is the strength of the Braille Skateboarding brand? Why does it translate so well to toys like it has so far? Why does the brand resonate with its audience in the way it does?
Braille is not just entertainment, but we teach skills that can translate into many different parts of life. If you go through all of the physical and mental barriers to learning a skateboard trick it gives you a great deal of confidence. I love helping people learn and grow through skateboarding, and I think when you do learn a new skill that sticks with you more than just a funny video. So that connection to the audience, I think, makes the brand resonate well.
We have seen the national and international interest in skateboarding surge as a result of the world’s covid-19 response and lockdown measures. Is this something that resonates with you guys? Have you seen increased fan engagement, increased brand engagement?
With the goal of teaching the world how to skateboard when the world all but shut down a lot of people took me up on that goal and started their journey learning. So yes, I think skateboarding helped a lot of people get through the pandemic.
I hope it’s going to continue to get a lot of people into skating. In order to grow a sport you need new people starting. I think that skateboarding is a healthy activity people can do that helps them during times like this and it’s perfect.
Braille Skateboarding has its own virtual element, in which we offer tutorials across the online platform. Virtual is so perfect because it allows us to safely reach a lot of people and help them learn. I think virtual will play a huge roll in the future of skating not only from people learning but also sharing experiences and making friends from literally all over the world.
That’s what amazing about our virtual skateboarding community – you can learn to kick flip at the same time as your new friend from Australia and share your experiences online.
Home shot videos, community, growing from the grass roots level – skateboarding has arguably always been very close to the ‘social media’ concept, so the idea that Braille has found such success through it seems only right. How do you decide where next to go with the brand?
My decisions are all based around how I can best achieve the overall goal. Reaching new people and getting them into skateboarding is the main piece to that goal. I think this helps the whole skateboard industry as well as individual people’s lives who have gained so many things from skateboarding.
What are the wider plans for the Braille Skateboarding brand? What product areas would you like to see it move into, and how will you ensure it keeps the Braille ethos at its heart?
Creating a global grass roots movement to grow skateboarding at a much faster pace. This includes online as well as in person lessons, but at the heart of it is creating a community that helps each other learn and supports each other in that learning process despite any and all differences.
I would like to see Braille move into any area that could help us grow and build that community. Any product that could help people learn in any way would be great, or any product that puts people’s attention on skateboarding as something they might do in the future, like toys for example, are great.
Keeping the Braille ethos at the heart requires constant work and constant reminders all the time. I can get so busy making fun videos that even I can forget the larger purpose of it all, so the constant reminders of what we are doing and communicating that to my team and beyond is so important.
I love to dream of the larger picture and all the cool impacts we could create with skateboarding all over the world, so just keeping those dreams alive and making sure we keep them at the heart of all the projects keeps it there.
Thank you Aaron, anything you’d like to shout about right now?
The leading skateboarding YouTube Channel, Braille Skateboarding, is building on the international success of its officially licensed range of toy fingerboards and skate ramps with a leap into the world of footwear. In a partnership brokered by Semaphore Licensing, the skate brand has teamed with R&R Footwear to develop a new range of functional skate shoes.
Braille Skateboarding launched onto the consumer products scene in July this year when it brought its first collection of toy fingerboard and skate ramps to the international market. The range – which also comprised mystery surprise sets – became a hit with retail giants Amazon and Target, as fans ‘went wild for the toys’ inspired by the channel’s popular Skate Everything series.
Skate Everything features a collection of videos that showcase Braille Skateboarding’s founder, Aaron Kyro, creating skateboards from anything other than what you would think to use, such as computer keyboards, ironing boards, electric guitars, and even gummy bears.
The toy range was quickly met with ‘huge demand from skate fans from across the globe’ and soon after retailers and stockists were reportedly placing reorders to meet the elevated consumer demand. According to Semaphore Licensing, this demand was fuelled by the brand’s YouTube Channel and its more than 5.6 million subscribers.
Braille Skateboarding has also secured its first international retailer in Smyths Toys, who has brought the brand to the UK market. Projections currently show that by the end of 2020, close to one million finger boards will have been shipped to retailers.
Following the initial success, Braille is now positioned to expand its licensing efforts into new categories. The company has since partnered with R&R Footwear in a move to develop and roll out a ‘stylish and functional skate shoe’ that would appeal to skaters and non-skaters alike.
Braille Skateboarding now plans to chronicle the development journey of the new shoe in partnership with R&R Footwear as it aims to launch the product to retailers in summer 2021.
“We are ramping up to bring unique products to shelves globally on behalf of Braille Skateboarding,” said Michael Bienstock, founder and CEO, Semaphore Licensing. “We join Aaron in his mission to ensure the entire world knows what a Braille board is.”