At Toy Fair New York in February, one of the trends was the large number of influencers signing toy deals. Most of the celebrities associated with the products on display there were young adults whose content appealed to children or collectors. More recently, a raft of agency representation and toy-centric licensing agreements have been focused on influencers who are kids themselves.
Some of the initiatives outlined below extend back to last year, but more than half have been announced within the last month:
- Vlad and Niki, represented by Haven Global, signed an agreement with Zuru for a line of toys and games to be released in 2021. Around the same time, Haven announced that Retail Monster would be the U.S. licensing agent for the two young Russian-born brothers, who have 15 channels in 12 languages.
- Like Nastya, the brand of Anastasia Radzinskaya, also born in Russia, retained IMG as its licensing agent. Plans include toys, apparel, accessories, housewares, food and beverages, and more. Like Nastya, which has channels in Russian, English, Spanish, and Mandarin, works with IMG sister company WME on talent representation outside of consumer products.
- Diana of the YouTube channel Kids Diana Show launched a new licensed product brand for children aged 2-7 called Love Diana – the Princess of Play, in partnership with Pocket.watch. The channel features Ukrainian-born Diana interacting with friends and family members. The influencer-driven brand launched with nine licensees: Far Out Toys, Franco Manufacturing, HeadStart, HER Accessories, HiJinx, Jerry Leigh, Just Play, KidKraft, and Taste Beauty. Forty episodes of an animated/live-action series, also called Love Diana, is in production.
- CKN Toys, represented by Haven Global for licensing worldwide since March 2019, announced an agreement with Colto to create a mobile app called CKN Toys: Car Hero. The brand’s toy line with Jazwares debuted earlier this year, and it paired with Nickelodeon last October to create content for the network’s traditional and digital channels. The first preschool series, Calvin and Kaison’s Play Power!, began airing in April in Australia, where the channel’s stars, Calvin and his brother Kaison, are based. Haven and Viacom Nickelodeon Consumer Products are working together to develop licensed merchandise.
- Trinity and Beyond retained Semaphore Licensing Solutions as its licensing agent and signed Bonkers Toys as its first licensee; both deals were announced in February. The channel, which features sisters Trinity and Madison in content such as skits, games, and scavenger hunts, is the inspiration for toys including fashion dolls, surprise boxes, and buildable figures. Semaphore also represents Super Hero Kids, a family that makes action and comedy videos.
- Tic Tac Toy stars two sisters, Addy and Maya, along with their family members. The brand partnered with Blip Toys last year for a line of plush, collectibles, and other playthings, many of which feature an unboxing element, under the XOXO Friends banner. Both Walmart and Target supported the line at its debut last August.
- Ana Emilia is now represented by Tycoon, a licensing agency in her home country of Mexico. ATM Packs is one of her licensees, for backpacks and bags. The influencer has three YouTube channels—TV Ana Emilia, Ana Emilia VIDA, and AnaNana Toys—and has followers across Latin America.
These join a handful of previously launched influencer brands featuring children. They have included U.K.-based Tiana, the Latin American star Gibby, and, of course, Ryan Kaji and his Ryan’s World brand, by far the leader in this space when it comes to licensing.
As these examples illustrate, the appeal of “kidfluencers” is global. Most of the brands highlighted here, featuring celebrities ranging in age from 4 to teenaged (with cameos from their parents in many cases), are among the top-ranking YouTube channels in the world when it comes to reach, and they have exposure on other social media platforms as well.
While the bulk of licensing activity has been in the toy world so far, other categories will surely follow. And the fact that these are digital-first brands will likely give them a leg up in the e-commerce landscape. That may be a particular advantage in the current climate, considering the uncertainty surrounding bricks-and-mortar shopping and how fast it can bounce back in the coming months.