Merchandise To Support Mental Health

The consumer products community’s embrace of mental health as a theme for licensed products and promotions, which we last covered in February, continues through the pandemic. This is not surprising given COVID-fueled stresses such as working and learning at home, experiencing financial suffering, and dealing with a lack of in-person connection, along with the feeling that there is no end in sight. Political divisions and social unrest also contribute to anxiety levels for many.

A few licensing initiatives that have taken place over the last few months illustrate how IP owners and their partners are raising awareness and funding for mental health, and/or offering tools for addressing mental health issues:

  • Mr. Porter, the online retailer, and Rapha, a cycling brand, announced last week that they were joining for a product collaboration, along with content and influencer marketing, to raise awareness and funding for mental health. Central to the effort is an exclusive sports capsule encompassing three Mr. Porter Health in Mind x Rapha cycling jerseys, with net profits going to Mr. Porter’s Health in Mind initiative. Health in Mind is a partnership with Movember, a group supporting men’s physical and mental health.
  • Smiley partnered with Desert Dreamer in May (Mental Health Awareness Month) for a Peace of Mind capsule. One of the goals of the effort was to normalize mental health as a topic of conversation. The collection was comprised of four vintage-style items (sweatpants and oversized t-shirts), featuring phrases such as “Mental Health Matters” and “Happy Mind, Happy Life—Take It One Step at a Time.” Ten percent of proceeds went to a nonprofit focused on depression, addiction, suicide, and self-harm called To Write Love On Her Arms.
  • Corey Paige Designs, led by collage artist and influencer Corey Paige, paired with YourMomCares, a nonprofit that consists of celebrity and influencer moms who work on behalf of kids’ mental health, for a collection of leggings and bandanas. The items feature Paige’s colorful patterned artwork and phrases such as “It’s OK to Not Be OK” and “Burn the Stigma.” Of each purchase, 25% of proceeds go to YourMomCares. The partnership also includes kids’ coloring sheets and a billboard in New York City.
  • Popsugar, the media brand, launched Mental Health Matters in May as a destination for articles on personal mental health and broader mental health topics, as well as essays written by celebrities. The destination itself has not been the focus of any licensing deals to date, but Popsugar has been extensively licensed; a tween apparel deal with Old Navy is one recent example. The brand launched an experiential fitness and wellness event in February called Grounded, which is a spin-off of its Play/Ground lifestyle event, produced with Reedpop.
  • Disney got into the mental health game by bringing some of its characters into a 10-episode new series on Disney-Plus called Zenimation. The series, billed as a “soundscape experience,” features clips from Disney films, both classic and new, that incorporate calming sounds such as wind or water. Disney is one of several children’s licensors and producers that have been working on soothing content to help kids manage stress, especially during the pandemic.

These are just a few recent examples of initiatives pairing licensed properties with mental health messaging. The landscape of such efforts is varied, ranging from content and products that specifically address serious subjects, such as depression and suicide, to those promoting general mental wellness topics, such as ASMR, meditation, or self-care.

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