Spin Master considering global roll-out of Future of Play Scholarship ‘based on interest’

Spin Master will be considering the expansion of its new Future of Play Scholarship Programme across its 28 global offices, based on the level of interest expressed within the individual markets.

Last week, the global entertainment powerhouse and toy maker detailed the launch of a programme to support the education and career advancement of individuals from under-represented communities across the toys, entertainment, and digital games sectors.

Through its Future of Play Scholarship, the firm has committed to investing up to $100,000 a year in financial aid, as well as mentorship and on the job experience for individuals from under-represented communities, including BIPOC, women, LGBTQIA+, and indigent students seeking post-secondary education with toy design, creative production, digital gaming, and app development.

The launch of the programme follows findings across all three sectors – toys, animation, and gaming – that suggest vast under-representation for many communities, including the matter that black inventors file for patents at one third the rate of white inventors. Similar patent disparities have been uncovered for women, who in 2019 accounted for just 22 per cent of US patents. Research also found that families in the top one per cent of income are ten times more likely to produce patent holders than families in the lower half.

Elsewhere, 2015 research in the animation space found that 60 per cent of animation students are women, yet men make up almost 80 per cent of animators in the workforce, according to Women in Animation data. Representation is even lower for women of colour working in animation, who are in less production roles than their white counterparts.

“At Spin Master, we create toys that inspire, characters that entertain and story lines that empower children around the world to be positive members in their communities,” Tammy SMitham, Spin Master’s VP of global communications and corporate citizenship, told Licensing.biz.

“We want to ensure that our teams creating these toys, games, and series are representative of the diverse communities in which we live and work and that children experience in their daily lives.”

With 28 offices around the world, Spin Master has stated that it will consider expanding the Scholarship programme outside of the US and across its global market based on the interest expressed by each.

“The industry is already having conversations and taking steps to increase diverse representation,” continued Smitham. “What needs to be considered is that not only are the toys, series, and experiences we create more inclusive, but that the people behind the scenes, creating, innovating, and telling the stories are diverse and representative of the kids and families they entertain.”

While the company has highlighted a commitment of $100,000 to the programme, as well as the offer of internships at Spin Master with the potential for full-time employment upon the completion of studies, the toy maker is also keen to see word of the initiative spread among networks, with an eye on awarding more scholarships that originally planned, should the firm receive more applications that expected.

“We want to be a contributor to the movement to increase diverse representation within our industry and within our company,” said Smitham. “At Spin Master we believe that diversity of thought can fuel new ideas and further innovations which will only benefit the children and families we entertain.

“We hope that our Future of Play Scholarship helps to increase representation in the industry as a whole, while also helping students who may have thought they couldn’t pursue their career dreams in the children’s entertainment industry because of lack of opportunity or funding.

“By increasing diverse representation, we can ultimately deliver even more inspiration to the children who we engage with every day.”

Gaming, events, and retro-appeal: Scalextric talks its brand new horizons through licensing

Anyone paying any level of attention to the general narrative of the toy industry over the course of the past 12 months will know that there’s been a re-awakening among some of the market’s more traditional sectors.

The hobby community is one among them. As consumers have found themselves with more time on their hands and a greater tendency to lean back into the pastimes and brands of yesteryear, it comes as little surprise that the hobbyist sector has undergone a resurgence.

The pandemic, for all of its ills, has played a helping hand in driving those dormant hobbies out of the shadows and into the limelight. Gaming – whether it is tabletop or role-playing – has never been so popular, with Hasbro citing record years for both its Magic: The Gathering and Dugeons & Dragons franchises, while the more traditional pursuits – and we’re looking at model building and the hobby trains segment here – have too ploughed full steam ahead into a wider-spanning, more mainstream audience.

As a result, Hornby Hobbies, a name synonymous with the hobbyist market, has reported some of its best results in years. It’s in fact the success of sales of Hornby Hobbies products over the past two years that have given the outfit a new lease of life, and a new grasp on the contemporary market. Consumers have rediscovered the joys of slowing down, and in turn, things at Horby Hobbies have been, well, speeding up.

Hornby Hobbies’ licensing consultant, Michele Pearce

Earlier this month, the company announced a definitive return to the licensing sector with the appointment of licensing consultant, Michele Pearce, who has taken on the role of leading a new charge of licensing opportunities for the company’s popular Scalextric brand.

Talking with Licensing.biz, Pearce has confirmed that the programme will commence with a few of the more pertinent categories, spanning luxury goods such as watches, video games, board games, sportswear, sports equipment, footwear, and apparel. While it may be early days for the programme still, the message is a big one; after a period of softer sales not some five years ago, Horby Hobbies is ready for growth, and licensing is a very viable route towards it.

“Hornby has dipped its toe into licensing in the past,but this has not been the focus for some years due to changes in the company and a need to really focus on the core product ranges,” Pearce told Licensing.biz.

“However, with the success of the sales of Hornby products over the last two years, the company is now in a great position to expand its options. This is also the perfect time to connect with the customers with other consumer products.

“There is a strong nostalgia response trending amongst all consumers right now as well as a focus on known and trusted brands, and Scalextric is definitely a good fit on all points.”

A traditional slot-car racing system with more than 60 years of rich history behind it, Scalextric is keen on bridging the gap between the surge in demand for nostalgia, with the necessity to contemporise for modern day audiences. It’s by no accident that Pearce talks about Scalextric in the same breath as Mattel’s Hot Wheels, or Hasbro’s Monopoly; each pedigree brands with the vision to remain contemporary and span audiences.

“Scalextric has both the fun and excitement of a dynamic speed-driven toy and the gravitas of being a retro brand,” says Pearce. “This is not something many toy brands can share as an accolade, and the few that do are already partnering successfully with licensees.

“Scalextric has a wealth of imagery in its archive relating to box artwork, catalogues, and old logs and slogans which can be utilised in bringing an extra zing and classic look to a range of adult product.

“Then the new style guide offers a bright and dynamic range of colours, logos, and the digital tie in with the Scalextric Performance App that will appeal to the younger audience.”

Racing into the future

While the potential for the Scalextric brand within the consumer products space lies before it like an expanding horizon, Pearce has already earmarked her markets for initial exploration, and amng them, of course, is digital gaming.

“With the Scalextric App already developed and the ability to play via your mobile phone or tablet to control your cars and then share scores and discuss via social media means that this is a natural extension for the brand,” she explains. 

Then, there’s the scope for audience engagement that live eventing – when the world opens itself back up to in-person events of course – has to offer.

“Once the opportunity is available again to participate in the public space, we will be looking for partnerships with stores and other types of events that could host Scalextric events,” Pearce added. 

Reading the signs offered to the Scalextric brand over the past 12 months, engagement with the slot-car racing brand is expected to remain high. House-bound consumers have rekindled their love and affinity with a brand to a degree that it has welcomed families back into the field, while Hornby Hobbies has been active in engaging new fans through its social media platforms.

“All of these actions have either reawakened past fans or brought the brand to the attention of new enthusiasts who have discovered the fun and excitement that is Scalextric. We now want to build out the partnerships over the next six months and have a positive story to tell at the Brand Licensing Show in late November,” Pearce continues.

“Over the last three years or so, Hornby has invested heavily into the Scalextric brand, with new scales, new sets, new features, and new licensed characters. The team has reinvigorated the brand with such innovations as SparkPlug, but there is still plenty to come.

“Scalextric is a 60 year old brand with an eye to the future with both product, brand awareness, and vision,” she concludes.