Rocket Licensing receives ten Licensing Awards 2020 nominations for Hungry Caterpillar, Rebel Girls and more

Rocket Licensing is enjoying a run of industry success this year, having found itself with no fewer than ten inclusions in the shortlist for the upcoming Licensing Awards. Nominations in the 2020 awards span its work across licensed product ranges and experiential collaborations for a range of its licensors and licensees.

The slew of nominations follows the company’s recent win at the Licensing International Excellence Awards, where The Very Hungry Caterpillar campaign at the Royal Horticultural Society was named the Best Experiential or Location-based initiative.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar has now been shortlisted for seven awards, including the overall Best Preschool Licensed Property in the Licensing Awards. It has also been recognised for its RHS Summer Partnership in the Best Licensed Promotions Campaign category, its Butterfly Dress-up for George@Asda from Christys By Design is nominated in the Best Licensed Dress-up or Partyware award, and its clothing range from Denicci for Tu at Sainsbury’s is shortlisted in the Best Licensed Preschool Apparel Range category.

Rounding out the property’s nominations, its Gardening Range for the RHS from Robert Frederick is in the Best Licensed Giftware Range, Home Décor, Tableware or Housewares Range.

Meanwhile, Rebel Girls has been named a finalist in the Best Sustainable Licensed Product category, a new slot for the 2020 Licensing Awards. It’s the UK games and puzzles specialist, Gibsons and its Rebel Girls jigsaw range that has caught much of the industry attention and secured its place in the shortlist.

The puzzles, which carry Rebel sirls’ mission to highlight female role models, are printed on 100 per cent recycled puzzle board and FSC paper.

Christmas favourite, The Elf on the Shelf, has landed two spots on the finalist list, as contender for the overall Best Children’s or Tween Licensed Property (Age Group five to 12), and also in the Best Licensed Giftware Range, Home Décor, Tableware or Housewares Range category, for its Food Gifting Range from Kimm & Miller.

The Beano brand has been recognised in the Best Licensed Promotions Campaign category for the Beano Time Travellers! exhibition at Mottisfont, which explored the history of the longest running children’s comic in Britain. Meanwhile, the Horrible Science Kits and Board Game from James Galt & Co are in the running for the Best Licensed Toys or Games Range.

 Rob Wijeratna, joint MD, Rocket Licensing, said: “We’re so pleased that these awards have all been able to go ahead virtually despite all of the current restrictions, so that our industries can come together to support one another during a difficult time, and celebrate excellence in the sector.

“We’re thrilled for our licensors and licensees to have been recognised across such a wide range of categories, and would like to congratulate all the other finalists. Fingers crossed for virtual Rocket Licensing corks popping on the 16th December.”

Gibsons extends its partnership with Transport for London in new deal via the TSBA Group

Following record sales of its London Underground-inspired card game, Mind the Gap, the family owned jigsaw and board game outfit, Gibsons has expanded its partnership with Transport for London.

In a deal brokered by TSBA Group – the licensing agent for Transport for London – Gibsons will produce a raft of new branded products to complement the 2017 best-seller that has to date found particular success across retailers such as WH Smith, Amazon, John Lewis, and Waterstones.

Gibsons will now be growing its TfL licensed collection with the release of four jigsaw puzzles this spring, followed by two brand new games and additional puzzles later in the year.

In keeping with both Gibsons’ and TfL’s mission to become more sustainable, the new products will be produced using minimal single-use plastic. Made in the UK, the jigsaws will be manufactured using the thickest, 100 per cent recycled board and FSC approved paper.

The jigsaw puzzles will be available in 250, 500 and 1000 pieces and feature the iconic Underground maps and roundels, as well as a selection of the most popular graphics from Transport for London’s expansive poster archive.

The two new games have been developed in collaboration with talented game designers. They give fans the opportunity to competitively build Zone 1 of the tube map or race across London visiting famous stations while completing tasks along the way.

Julie Dixon, head of customer information, design and partnerships at Transport for London, said: “London’s transport network is recognised the world over and has been a symbol of the city for more than 150 years. We are excited to be continuing our relationship with Gibsons and develop new products with them to delight people young and old, while also generating vital funds for wider transport improvements across London.”

Emily Charles, product development manager at Gibsons, added: “We are so pleased to be working with TfL once again. Mind the Gap continues to be hugely successful and we have high hopes for these new products joining the card game at the top of our best sellers list.

“The London Underground is recognised all over the world, so it’s great to work with such a famous brand and increase our TfL collection.”

Gibsons and Portico Designs first UK licensees for Rebel Girls in deals from Rocket Licensing

Gibsons and Portico Designs have been named the first UK licensees for the award-winning brand behind the best-selling book series, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, a title that has sold 4.5 million copies and translated into nearly 50 languages.

The deals have been brokered by Rocket Licensing, the licensing agency for Rebel Girls across the UK and Eire. The firm plans to create educational, ethical and empowering products for the Rebel Girls consumer products programme across the territory.

Rocket’s deal with Gibsons is for the UK, Eire and Europe, with potential for wider distribution. The initial puzzles, which are anticipated to appeal to girls, teens and young women alike, launch in spring 2020, followed by a card game in summer and a board game in 2021.

Product placement for the range is mid-tier, with department stores, speciality toy and book stores, and online set to support the launch. 

Meanwhile, The Portico partnership covers an extensive range for the UK and Eire, including back to school stationery, gift items and lunchware. An initial range of gift stationery is anticipated to launch for autumn/winter 2020 with further product to follow across mid-tier, speciality stores and select grocers, again targeting girls and young women.

Rebel Girls is currently also available as a podcast with over three million downloads, and a recently launched digital magazine and newsletter. The Rebel Girls brand is now on a mission to ‘inspire a generation of confident girls through vivid storytelling, illustration and compelling multimedia content.’

Rocket Licensing will continue to target categories such as homewares and home textiles, daywear, nightwear, accessories and health and beauty for Rebel Girls.

Louisa Skevington, licensing executive at Rocket Licensing, commented: “We are delighted to be launching the Rebel Girls licensing programme with two partners who are perfect for the brand. Gibsons’ and Portico’s mid-tier positioning and beautifully designed products are in line with the property’s values and mission, and the initial product development looks fantastic.

“We are thrilled with the response Rebel Girls has received since launch. Many potential partners are already familiar with the property and reading the books to their own children. We’re excited to see how this one grows.”

Gibsons partners with Rebel Girls to launch new puzzle range inspired by the best selling book title

The family-owned jigsaw puzzle and board game specialist, Gibsons, has teamed with Rebel Girls, the award-winning brand behind the book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls to launch a new puzzle line.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is a globally popular book that has sold over 4.5 million and has been translated into nearly 50 languages.

Known for its innovative puzzle designs and best-selling games, Gibsons will release two jigsaw puzzles in spring this year, as well as a card game in the summer, and a board game to follow in 2021.

The jigsaw puzzles will be available in two piece counts, 100 piece and 500 piece, appealing to girls, teens and young women alike. Each product will make full use of the rich Rebel Girls style guide, which focuses on positive, empowering messaging and bold designs.

The partnership was brokered by the UK licensing agent for the Rebel Girls brand, Rocket Licensing.

“We are delighted that Gibsons has joined us on our Rebel Girls mission, encouraging girls to explore, learn and dream without limits,” said Louisa Skevington, licensing executive at Rocket Licensing.

“Gibsons has really reflected the core values of Rebel Girls in their game development and the puzzle designs look absolutely fantastic – we cannot wait to see them in store.”

Emily Charles, product development manager at Gibsons, added: “Rebel Girls is a fantastic brand that we are thrilled to be working with.

“It’s been fascinating and inspiring learning the stories of the amazing women featured in these games and puzzles through the product development process. We heard about the Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls books from our own gang of Gibsons Rebel Girls (the daughters of some of the team).

“As a company, we have a very strong female presence, 60 per cent of the team are women, including two of the directors, and so we felt straight away it would be a great fit.”

From wellbeing to rock ‘n’ roll: How jigsaw puzzling has reinvented its own image

It’s indisputable that jigsaw puzzles today aren’t what they used to be. And we can all breathe a sigh of relief for that, because if there was ever a sector in need of a real shot in the arm, it was one such as this.

A sector formerly soaked in cliché, it’s only really over the course of the last decade that jigsaw puzzling has managed to shake off the stereotype of its appearance of being all rather twee. Today, and thanks to an injection of fresh blood and a reconfigured way of looking at the sector, jigsaw puzzling really has become the new rock ‘n’ roll.

Just look at what the likes of Gibsons, Jumbo, Wrebbit, or Kidicraft have achieved in the space in the last few years, bringing in innovation and a wealth of accessible, popular, and ultimately powerful licenses, combined with innovative new slants on the puzzling hobby – be that 3D puzzling, or mystery images – that has brought the sector roaring into a new lease of life.

If further proof was needed, observe the partnership that Gibsons itself embarked upon when it partnered with the electro- pop band Metronomy in October last year to supply a licensed puzzle range as part of the group’s merchandise offering. Puzzling has learned how to be cool, and we’ve suddenly got an audience of youths keen on tapping their contactless cards on a sector that is now doing all it can to offer them what they want.

Even the old school rockers have been getting in on the act. 2019, afterall, witnessed the music merchandise specialists Plastic Head launch into the heavy metal album cover puzzle space under its Rocksaws arm, bringing artwork from the likes of Iron Maiden (among plenty others) into the category.

Yes, 2019 was the year in which jigsaw puzzling finally became appealing. So what can the sector achieve in 2020? Well, with its rise in popularity, so too has come an increase in research into the positive effects that the hobby can have on the individuals most partial to piecing them together. And it turns out, there’s a great deal more depth to the adult puzzling market than bringing in a few of those more off-the-wall licenses.

The UK independent puzzle company, Gibsons – now in its 101st year of business in the games and puzzles space – suggests that with the recent wave of young adults looking for a ‘digital detox’ and respite from their constant encounter with digital devices today, puzzling has been highlighted as an ‘excellent way to relieve stress and focus on the present moment.’

On top of this, research is now showing the assessable benefits of puzzling for adults, and studies have shown that keeping the mind active with jigsaw puzzles can lead to a better quality of life and reduce the chances of developing certain types of mental illnesses, including memory loss and dementia.

According to Professor Zoe Wyrko of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, a consultant geriatrician, and a member of the expert team on Channel 4’s award winning TV show, Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, it is the stimulation of multiple points of the brain that jigsaw puzzling engages that enhance an individual’s ability to focus.

“Jigsaw puzzles are an activity that can be enjoyed by all ages,” she states. “They give a person something to focus and concentrate on, both of which can improve wellbeing.

“Jigsaws provoke memories in different ways – the sound of pieces rattling in a box, the smell of a newly opened puzzle, and remembering the act of doing jigsaws with friends or family when younger. The pictures can spark conversations, reminding people of topics that may be long forgotten.”

The mental benefits of jigsaw puzzling is no new revelation, of course. Not really. There’s a reason that puzzling features so heavily among the play diet of children, for its encouragement and development of motor skills and co-ordination. But it is perhaps because of the surge in popularity of puzzling among adult audiences that it has been thrown back into the light today.

Research from 2017, carried out by the health and wellbeing platform Dr Newton, has detailed much of the science behind it, suggesting that ‘successfully placing a puzzle piece to create the wider picture encourages the production of dopamine – the neurotransmitter that regulates mood and affects concentration, motivation, memory, and motor control.’

Meanwhile, it’s an inescapable truth that approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, and in England, one in six people report experiencing a common mental health problem in any given week.

It’s a subject that Gibsons has been active in addressing, not only through a partnership with the charity MIND that saw the firm donate a portion of £10,000 to the organisation last year, but in the development and marketing of a new range of puzzles in its portfolio.

Kim Garrod, product development manager at Gibsons, tells ToyNews: “Our classic jigsaws are some of the best on the market and are loved by all traditional puzzlers. However, we’re well aware of the importance of mindfulness among a younger age group and wanted to launch a range of striking, design-led puzzles that don’t conform to jigsaw puzzle traditions.

“So, we’ve also focused on creating innovative puzzle boxes that stand out on shelf and jigsaw designs created by up-and- coming artists.”

The range is Gibsons’ White Logo Collection, a wave of 13 puzzles each featuring alternative imagery for the modern day puzzler, with seven new designs launched this year, including Punimals, a new launch illustrated by the celebrated artist, Katie Abey.

But Gibsons’ movement in the field of mental wellness doesn’t end there. In fact its new The Piecing Together Collection was created to provide those living with dementia, limited fine motor skills, or visual impairments with “a fun activity that can be enjoyed with a loved one,” tapping into the research that puzzling can aid cognitive dexterity in those suffering memory loss.

The launch was orchestrated following the recent statistic that some 850,000 people are estimated to be living with dementia in the UK.

Gibsons’ Garrod, adds: “The large, easy to handle pieces and beautiful images have been carefully designed to be age- appropriate for adults, yet accessible for all. There are ten designs available ranging from 12-24 pieces, and the puzzles can be completed inside the box, which provides a frame to work within.

“Gibsons’ goal was to create a puzzle that brings people together during these difficult times. We undertook the research to design this collection. This included care home visits, liaising with Age UK Centres and teaming up with Dr Zoe Wyrko.”

If Gibsons is now operating on two ends of the same scale – providing the youth of today with the mindfulness of puzzling with alternative launches by way of digital detox, as well as those living with dementia with specially curated images and puzzle pieces to evoke memories, then it is the entire spectrum that jigsaw puzzling as a hobby now spans.

From heavyweight licenses – such as the vibrant new DC Comics lines from Kidicraft, or the staggering design of the Harry Potter Wrebbit 3D puzzle range from Coiledspring – to launches from the elite
of rock music’s Hall of Fame, the puzzles sector is certainly in a state of evolution, and it looks like 2020 will be delivering some big innovation for its future, too.