Acamar Films, producers of the multi-award-winning TV show Bing along with Brown Bag Films, has renewed its licensing deal with master toy licensee Golden Bear. The EMEA agreement, which extends the partnership for a further four years, will run until 2025.
Golden Bear has seen huge success with its Bing toys since launching into the UK market in the autumn of 2019. The initial range, featuring core character plush toys – including the award-winning Light Up Bing With Hoppity and figurines – was a sell-out sensation for Christmas 2019.
A pan-European partnership, Golden Bear’s toy sales for Bing have increased not just in the UK but across multiple markets including Italy, where Bing continues to be the top pre-school property, the Netherlands and Central Eastern Europe. Further expansion is planned for 2022 and beyond, in line with Bing’s growing licensing programme.
Over the three years since the range launched, Bing has become Golden Bear’s number one global license and seen an impressive 110 per cent sales uplift between 2019 and 2021. This growth continues into Christmas 2021, with a 52 per cent increase in retailer stocking points compared to AW20.
Delivering a multi-year product strategy to steadily expand the toy lines, the range has expanded further across feature plush, playsets and most recently bath toys. The development of additional characters and locations are serving to grow Bing’s world and ensure the longevity of the range.
Set to delight Bingsters this Christmas are the hero lines for AW21: Bing’s House Playset, with nine accessories, and the fun and interactive Musical Statues Dancing Bing, both of which will be fully supported across TV, digital and social platforms. The toys aim to inspire creativity, build imagination and encourage role-play in little ones as they bring the TV show to life.
“I am very proud of what our team and distribution partners have achieved with Bing over the last three years,” says Barry Hughes, Managing Director at Golden Bear. “We are delighted to have signed a further long-term agreement with Acamar Films on the property and look forward to introducing Bing toys into new markets. The highly experienced Acamar Films team have proven themselves to be experts in getting all the building blocks in place to ensure success in every market in which we have launched. We are so excited about what the next few years hold for Bing in both current and new territories.”
Natalie Harvey, Executive Director of Sales at Acamar Films adds: “Golden Bear have delivered a wonderful range of Bing toys which continue to delight our Bingsters across the world – with so much more to come. In the last three years, the Golden Bear team has shown true innovation, care and talent as they have built out the world of Bing, whilst successfully negotiating the industry’s many challenges.”
Bing is an International Emmy award-winning show with broadcast deals in over 130 territories worldwide including the USA, where it launched on Cartoonito with WarnerMedia in September 2021.
The popular kids’ property and pre-school series, Bing is continuing to expand its UK licensing programme, building on the success the IP has seen across the toys and wider consumer product space to date.
Last year, demand for Bing products enjoyed an 11 per cent year on year increase, while this year, Acamar Films – the London-based studio behind the IP – has welcomed strategic new categories to the portfolio, dialing the UK licensing programme up to 25 licensees in total.
Not only will 2021 Bing move into bathtime and dental products with Solent, but also launch onto the children’s audio system, Tonies, as the platform prepares to deliver an audio storytelling experience for all Bingsters, slated for a 2022 release.
It follows a string year of sales growth across Bing’s master toy range with Golden Bear, a line that saw sales increase 115 per cent year on year in 2020. Golden Bear will be expanding the collection with the introduction of Nicky, a new character from the latest series, as well as siblings Coco and Charlie.
New lines for Autumn/Winter include a musical dancing Bing and a large play-set of Bing’s House. For the very first time, bath toys will be available for Bingsters with the new wind up Bathtime Boat set to make a splash at retail.
Meanwhile, 8th Wonder boasts a raft of new wooden toys and games to add to their Bing range, marking the Bing Skittles and Carry Along House as high performers, while MV Sports will be widening its retail footprint with additional listings of its wheeled and outdoor toys.
In publishing terms, Bing continues to perform well for HarperCollins, who witnessed a 62 per cent year on year net sales growth in 2020 and has nine new titles scheduled for release this year.
Juliet Matthews, publisher, media and brands, HarperCollins Children’s Books, said: “Thanks to strong support across retail and increased range space, Bing’s backlist continues to perform well alongside exciting new titles such as Bing and the Fire Engine and the timely vaccination picture book with stickers, Doctor Bing. Our single sound novelty title The Rainybow Song is a stand out title, selling 1k copies consistently every week.”
Softlines have also expanded across daywear and outerwear from licensees Fashion UK and William Lamb. There will be a specific growth in girlswear to match the boyswear offering and new lines include dresses, sweatshirts, joggers, trainers and rucksacks.
“We are excited to see the growth of Bing across our girlswear, boys and unisex lines,” said Hannah Miles, joint managing director at Fashion UK. “The trend guide collections bring fresh opportunities to tailor creative to each retailer and offer gorgeous designs to our consumers and their Bingsters.”
Aykroyds and TDP continue to build their business year-on-year and Smiffys has introduced an additional girls’ dress up line to their range with Sula, which launched exclusively with Tu at Argos/Sainsburys ahead of World Book Day 2021.
Continuing the focus on Acamar Films’ direct-to-consumer relationships, e-commerce hub The Bing Store will be expanding its product offering further in 2021.
Louise Simmonds, head of UK licensing and merchandising at Acamar Films, said: “It is wonderful to see steady growth across our consumer product programme for 2021 and the support from our partners during such tough times.
“Bing’s timeless and relatable core values, alongside the growing audience engagement we are seeing across our content, digital and social platforms, provides a reliable and trusted foundation for the year ahead.”
Golden Bear has been named the plush partner for the popular CBeebies and iPlayer pre-school series, The Baby Club, presented by Giovanna Fletcher and Nigel Clarke.
In a deal brokered by Rockpool Licensing, Golden Bear will be developing plush based on the growing family of characters featured in the show, beginning with Baby Bear, who appears with Giovanna and Nigel and stars in all activities, play, songs, and stories.
The third season of the hit BBC commission launched last month and is broadcast twice a day on CBeebies. 60 episodes and a library of songs are now available on BBC iPlayer, while The Baby Club has been a major success since its launch in 2019.
Tracy Griffiths, head of brand and licensing at Golden Bear, commented: “We’re delighted to be on board and can’t wait to launch a range of fun, innovative plush which reflect the TV programme’s ethos of baby development, exploration and parental empowerment.
“Golden Bear is looking forward to Baby Bear joining our strong portfolio and encouraging real-world play and interaction, inspired by The Baby Club’s on-screen activities.”
Vickie O’Malley, MD Rockpool Licensing, added: “Fans of The Baby Club have been clamouring for Baby Bear plush since the show launched and it’s a privilege to be working with such an esteemed partner as Golden Bear to make this happen. We’re thrilled to be able to say, “They’re on their way!”
The Baby Club is a ground-breaking TV series made for CBeebies by Three Arrows Media, Tiny House Productions and CMP Productions. Aimed at babies up to 18 months and their grown-ups, it’s the channel’s first overtly dual-facing brand with interactivity at its heart.
Each episode explores ‘What’s in the Bag?’ which can be anything from a household item like a wooden spoon or a pan, to a bath time toy or an item of clothing, all discovered together through play, story and song.
The Baby Club is firmly rooted in the latest research with input from leading experts and has been designed to help baby development, empower parents, aid bonding and attachment.
The park is pretty empty when Barry Hughes, managing director of Golden Bear, logs on to catch up with Australian colleague at 7am. An early start to marry-up the time zones means that they have the place to themselves, before the next slew of visitors start populating their allocated slots.
With just a few clicks, Hughes can navigate the park’s greenery, cross the river, and showcase an entire portfolio of Hey Duggee toys in a room buried in a bristling bush. It all sounds a bit Mary Poppins, doesn’t it? It’s not; it’s simply what Toy Fair season looks like in the midst of the 2021 pandemic.
This is Golden Bear’s virtual toy fair platform, a digitally constructed journey through a colourful park area, populated with break-out rooms featuring the firm’s latest toy products. It’s from here the company can showcase its wares to a global network of customers, any time of the day, every day of the year. This isn’t just toy fair season, this is Golden Bear’s latest phase of international expansion.
By 8pm that same day, Hughes is guiding customers from California around the same platform. While the pandemic has wrapped its fingers around the usual annual travel to Spielwarenmesse, New York, and London’s Olympia this year, Golden Bear’s ability to network with its international customer base is by no means diminished.
But then, ask Hughes how Golden Bear has managed to find such success over the course of 2020 and he’ll tell you that this is a company that has managed to stay ahead of the curve for some time now. The team was among the first to spot the en masse shift to online retail and click and collect before the pandemic rendered it a necessity, and as such was a team well positioned to adapt to the changes that have swept the landscape in the past year.
Meanwhile, it’s not enough that Golden Bear already held the toy rights for some of the country’s best-loved pre-school IP, including Bing and Hey Duggee, but combine this with a diversification of product that has successfully taken the company into the outdoor sector, as well as the Escape Room trend of the gaming space, and the winning formula that Golden Bear possesses begins to shift into view.
“Obviously the bedrock of what we do is pre-school licenses, and our pre-school licenses on the whole did well,” Hughes tells ToyNews. “They benefited from kids being locked down at home; programmes like Hey Duggee were suddenly being watched by parents who might not have seen it otherwise, so that IP did particularly well.
“But where I like to think we have been ahead of the game compared to a lot of competitors is with regards to our online insights and supporting our retailers with their online sales assets. In the shift to online, we were ahead of the curve.”
Over the past year, Golden Bear has strengthened its team in the online operations space, built its own in-house photo studio in order to create image and video assets quickly, and has by and large, been ‘geared up for the digital switch’ long in advance, a presiding factor that has in recent years, won the company its expanding trophy cabinet of industry awards.
Not only that, but it is Golden Bear’s portfolio – a carefully curated clustering of high calibre properties and products – that has played directly into the strengths of the toy industry this past 12 months. This is a company that found its niche in both the outdoor market and gaming market right at the right time; just before the pandemic’s social restrictions thrust the sectors directly into the consumer’s consciousness.
“The Smart Ball Football and the Speed Ball Football came about through insights. Our USP is that we put a lot of stock into our insights,” says Hughes. “We are investing more into that area now, and with being a smaller company we can be more agile, which is a good combination for the toy industry.
“We had identified a gap in football gifts. My son, who was eight at the time and mad on football, got a load of football Guess Who? Games for his birthday. We quickly realised that the footballers were out of date, retired, or at the wrong clubs.
“But at the same time, we’d spotted a surge in searches for football gifts across various age profiles. We felt the need to fill the gap in the market, and now we have a host of new things coming in development for that range, too.”
Golden Bear’s new digital touring platform doesn’t just go the lengths to showcase what this product looks like this year, while doing its best to ‘put the product in the hands of customers,’ without them being in the same country, let alone room, but also to showcase who Golden Bear is; a digital home of the company’s recent re-invention.
The firm kicked off the year with the unveiling of a new logo, coupled with a new messaging that would go on to amplify Golden Bear’s image as a firm at the cutting edge of today’s trends in toys. With the launch of the company re-branding, the message was clear – this wasn’t only a company built on reliability and quality in the pre-school space, but pioneers of innovation across its key sectors – and seriously, take a look at its upcoming Hey Duggee and Bing portfolio if you want to see innovation in the pre-school sector this year – powered by its insight led business.
“The majority of our sales are in non-plush items, which tends to surprise people,” says Hughes. “We wanted to make the best of the past and combine it with the best of our future, and give it all a more modern feel.”
This even extends to the consumer message that Golden Bear promotes, and the changing sensibilities of the modern day shopper. And that includes in its approach to being a sustainably responsible toy company.
“We are a company that quietly goes about doing things and doesn’t shout about it much,” explains Hughes. “Sustainability is a good example of that. For instance, the stuffing in our plush has been made out of recycled bottles for years. We have actually now been moving our product lines to make the skins from recycled polyester, too.”
That move will be kicking off with Golden Bear’s Hey Duggee range this year. As well as that, this is a company that now confidently boasts its zero to landfill policy (one that has been in place for a number of years), as well as the installation of solar panels this year, and the switch of all company cars to hybrid and electric.
“We are liaising with licensors and retailers, and we like to think that we are right on the forefront of this movement,” continues Hughes. “We have set out our values and pillars and where we want to be as a company in three years’ time. Everything is underpinned by insights and sustainability, and we are making sure that everything we do has got sustainability and insights as its centre.”
It’s with that messaging now front and centre that Golden Bear will continue to exact its plans for global expansion. A digital platform open to customers 24 hours a day, every day of the year has helped tighten the screws on the firm’s international network, while advanced discussions are ongoing with partners in the US for some of the company’s own IP.
“It was always our plan, pre-pandemic, to grow internationally,” says Hughes. “We are just maximising that opportunity, instead of travelling to overseas fairs, to tap into our contacts via the virtual toy fair platform, and spend more quality time with people, albeit virtually.”
Via the medium, the response from global customers has been consistent; Golden Bear in on to a strong 2021. Tapping into emerging trends in the Escape Room gaming space, pushing the envelope in pre-school innovation, and making a success of the Outdoor sector in a year that will likely be recognised as the summer of the staycation once again, there’s little that Golden Bear offers that doesn’t just seem to fit.
“One of the most pleasing things that I have heard from buyers through this toy fair season is that there is a reason for every product to exist,” states Hughes. “That for me is a real testament to the team; that there has been a thought process and reason behind everything we have done.
“The end of the year was a real time to reflect for everyone. Our warehouses have remained open through the year, and the vast majority of our staff have been working from home. I am so proud of the whole team, given everything that has gone on,” he concludes.
The Telford-based toy maker, Golden Bear has bolstered its brand and licensing division with the appointment of Tracy Griffiths who takes on the role of division head. In her new position, Griffiths will lead a team of four as the British company continues on its growth strategy in the licensing space.
Griffiths’ appointment is one of a swathe of new recruits to the Golden Bear team as it sets out its plans to drive further growth over the coming years, and expanding on its already 50-strong team.
Becs Henchey joins the company as senior creative development manager, heading up a team of seven, with responsibility for overseeing the creative process across both licensed and non-licensed ranges. Meanwhile, Saskia Hamilton becomes the new international sales coordinator.
“It’s a real coup for Golden Bear to attract talent of the likes of Becs, Tracy and Saskia,” said Managing Director Barry Hughes. “Becs is re-joining the company after a period of 12 years and we look forward to her utilising the skills and experience she has developed to really drive the creative team to new heights.
“Tracy, who is hugely well known and respected within the licensing community, has been working for us as a consultant for three years and it is a pleasure to welcome her on board as a permanent member of the Golden Bear team to head up both brand and licensing within the business.
“Our continued growth in international markets means we are delighted to see Saskia join the team to help drive global sales to the next level. It’s an exciting time for Golden Bear and our recruits are going to help us immensely with the next stage of our expansion plans.
“We have shown how strong and robust the business is despite all the challenges that Covid has brought about this year and we have been thrilled with the way that our staff have responded and how our products continue to resonate with customers. 2021 is already shaping up to be another successful year for the company.”
Bing is becoming rather big in the Benelux region thanks to a raft of new licensing partnerships that follow the news that Acamar Films has landed a live stage production of the popular pre-school IP in the Netherlands and Belgium for the first time.
Detailed just this week, the hit pre-school series will now air on the region’s major broadcaster Ketnet, where the newest series of Bing – series four – will premiere in the coming months. The 26 episode will be in Flemish for local audiences. In the Netherlands, all 104 episodes of Bing series one to four are already available on NPO Zappelin.
Meanwhile, thanks to Acamar Films and its Benelux agent, License Connections, Bing is currently enjoying rapid growth and momentum in the region. Following the success of the core toy launch in AW 2019, Bing’s homeware, publishing, and toy and games ancillary categories have expanded with new and extended licensing deals.
New partners for the property include, John, Big Balloon and Mepal, with John’s toy range including Bing playing balls due to launch SS 2021 and Big Balloon launching Bing magazines in Q4 2020. Mepal is the number one brand and market leader in Benelux for melamine lunchboxes and drinking cups and will launch the Bing collection in AW 2020.
Meanwhile, existing partner TM Essentials, with its number one brand Totum, has extended its current Bing range with new wooden toys, puzzles and car accessories launching AW 2020.
These deals are in addition to current partners Vadobag for bags and Aymax for bedding who have been on board since the beginning of the Bing licensing programme in the Benelux region.
Spectron, the local distributor for Golden Bear, has increased its listings to include Belgium following the success of the AW 2019 and SS 2020 launches in the Netherlands, where all toy products sold out within a few weeks. Spectron will be TV advertising to support the AW 2020 range.
John Boeyen, owner and managing director, Spectron, said: “For us, Bing is the fastest growing pre-school brand in the Benelux region. Our toy range was a huge hit in the Netherlands and we are excited to be bringing them to Bingsters in Belgium this autumn, where we are sure they will prove just as popular.”
Daphne Kellerman, founder of License Connection, added: “We are thrilled with the growing success of Bing in Benelux. Bing has really established itself in our local market and has been embraced by both retailers and consumers. We look forward to working very closely with the Acamar team and our local licensees over the coming months, with a particular interest to develop Health & Beauty, Electronic Learning and Wheeled products.”
Acamar Films will be exhibiting, with a virtual Bing booth, at the Festival of Licensing during the European-focused week, 6-8 October 2020. Search for “Acamar Films” or “Bing” in the exhibitor directory.
Acamar Films’ hit pre-school series Bing has seen toy sales achieve huge growth at UK retail over the past year, with the NPD Group listing it within the top ten fastest growing toy licenses for the period of January to June 2020. The surge follows the launch the Golden Bear master toy line in 2019.
Acamar Films is confident that the trend for toys will continue to prove the property as popular at retail as it is on the screen, as two new toy licensees in 8th WOnder and MV Sports launch their ranges this year.
Golden Bear’s initial toy line for Autumn/Winter 2019 was an instant success with pre-schoolers with the award-winning soft toys, figurines and wooden puzzle proving to be the company’s fastest-selling range in years. Last year’s success has resulted in Golden Bear doubling their number of lines, while key retailers have doubled their listings going into Autumn/Winter 2020.
With innovative new lines including a Bing Lights and Sounds Train, new mini play-sets, new plush, figurines and role play items, Golden Bear and Bing look well set for further growth in the second half of 2020.
Acamar Films continues to build out its toy programme with the addition of two new licensees: 8th Wonder for wooden toys and MV Sports for wheeled toys. These new categories further strengthen Bing’s offering at retail.
8th Wonder’s first range launched in Spring/Summer 2020 with 11 lines including games, puzzles, shape sorters and pull-along stacking toys. A soft launch with Very and Next proved very positive, while all three lines included in Aldi’s special buy toy event in March sold out. Expanding again for Autumn/Winter, lines will be available from Amazon, Asda, Argos, Very, Aldi and B&M.
MV Sports, the UK’s leading designer and supplier of wheeled and outdoor toys, are set to launch with three lines in Autumn/Winter 2020. Their colourful Bing Balance Bike, Tri Scooter and 12’ Bike will be available from B&M, Very and Aldi.
Louise Simmonds, head of UK licensing and merchandising at Acamar Films, said: “We are thrilled with the success of Golden Bear’s fabulous toy range, which reflects the ever-growing demand for all things Bing, and are very excited about their new range which we are sure will be another huge hit.
“We are also delighted to welcome our new partners 8th Wonder and MV Sports, allowing us to offer an ever-expanding variety of toys which capture the essence and values of Bing and give Bingsters fun new ways to engage.”
Louise Tyrer, sales director at 8th Wonder, added: “We are greatly encouraged by the initial success of our new range of innovative wooden Bing toys and the overwhelming response from retailers and customers alike. We are set to welcome additional key retailers on board throughout Autumn/Winter 2020 and early indications for next year are showing even further growth.”
Phil Ratcliffe, sales and marketing director at MV Sports, said: “Were excited to include Bing in our preschool portfolio. As the UK’s leading supplier of wheeled and outdoor toys we recognise that Bing’s affinity with play, the outdoors and nature is a great fit for our product.
“MV Sports see Bing going from strength to strength in the UK and are delighted to be on this journey with Acamar Films.”