Talking Turkey

The U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving is one of the few celebration days throughout the year with relatively little licensing activity tied to it. It is a holiday centered on gratitude, food, and family, and not on extensive gift giving, costumes, decorating, or other more commercial endeavors. That said, there are a few opportunities tied to Thanksgiving that have emerged over the years:

  • Tableware and décor. While the level of decorating is nowhere near what happens at Christmas or Halloween, some families display a few items here and there to get into the spirit, as well as setting a Thanksgiving-themed table. Several Peanuts licensees, for example, build on the popularity of the long-running holiday special, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, by integrating a few Thanksgiving items into their lines. Hammacher Schlemmer and Bradford Exchange offer sculptures and centerpieces, Berkshire includes some Thanksgiving throws and blankets in its broader assortment, and Oriental Trading offers Peanuts Thanksgiving paper plates and plastic tablecloths, to name a few. Pottery Barn Kids has a collection based on the property that includes towels, turkey platters, tumblers, tablecloths, and runners, all positioned as being for the kids’ table at Thanksgiving dinner. In addition to Peanuts and occasionally other characters, artists frequently create autumn-themed collections that include Thanksgiving images, used by their licensees for holiday décor, tableware, and the like.
  • Children’s books. The marriage of favorite characters and holidays throughout the year has become an important part of any children’s licensed publishing program, and that includes Thanksgiving. Some titles are specifically tied to the holiday, such as Studio Fun’s Mickey’s Thanksgiving, a touch-and-feel and scratch-and-sniff board book featuring the scents of the holiday, released this year. Others are more generally about giving thanks—featuring autumnal imagery and providing a Thanksgiving hook, but also extending their life beyond the day itself—such as Random House’s Paw Patrol: Let’s Be Thankful, a 2021 board book billed as “perfect for Thanksgiving—or anytime!” Among the many other Thanksgiving-related children’s books on the market are Scholastic’s Peppa Gives Thanks, Simon & Schuster’s A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and Random House’s Dr. Seuss’s Thankful Things.
  • Meal kits. Most marketers of meal kits in the U.S. offer options for Thanksgiving feasts (sometimes including one-offs for non-subscribers) to help purchasers enjoy a home-cooking experience without the planning, shopping, or skills needed to do so from scratch. These occasionally have been associated with licensed properties over the years. Martha Stewart’s long-running partnership with Marley Spoon has included Thanksgiving dinners several times. Last year, Blue Apron paired with chef Edouardo Jordan for meal kits built around his holiday recipes; the first release was tied to Thanksgiving. Years ago NYT Cooking kits from now-defunct Chef’d and The New York Times offered Thanksgiving options.
  • Macy’s parade balloons. Licensed characters and other properties play an important role in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, of course, especially in the form of the famed balloons. This year, the parade features six new balloons, and four of them have been created through partnerships with outside brands. (Two are proprietary Macy’s characters.) Debuting this year are Netflix’ Ada Twist, Scientist (based on the Abrams book series), Funko and Disney/Lucasfilm’s Grogu (the Pop! version of “Baby Yoda” from The Mandalorian), The Pokémon Company’s Pikachu and Eevee, and McDonald’s Ronald McDonald. Some of these licensors extend the promotional value of this partnership by creating products based on the experience; Funko released a limited-edition Pop! figure of its Macy’s balloon, for example. Macy’s also has a shop for limited-edition products based on its proprietary balloons and other parade imagery.

Thanksgiving-themed products and promotions outside of these major categories have popped up from time to time. Butterball once licensed Masterbuilt for an indoor turkey fryer that was meant for year-round use but was introduced prior to Thanksgiving, its top usage occasion. Seven years ago, Garfield was at the center of the Facebook game Gourmet Ranch for limited-time Thanksgiving-themed play.

And last year Concepts, a shop in Boston known for its offbeat collaborations, introduced its latest pairing with Nike for the TurDUNKen, a Turducken-themed Nike SB Dunk shoe. (A turducken is a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck stuffed into a deboned turkey. Chef Paul Prudomme is credited with making it popular in the New Orleans area before it gained fame nationwide when John Madden featured one on air during the NFL’s annual Thanksgiving Day football games. Some other countries have similar dishes under different names.) The total offering from Concepts included Nike Dri-FIT chicken-foot socks stuffed into a pair of duck-themed Nike SB DUNKs, wrapped in turkey-themed paper. It came in an oven-inspired box with additional goodies inspired by family-dinner leftovers, including a turkey leg Nerf Vortex football.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate. We will not be posting on Thursday, November 25, but will be back with more licensing-related observations on Monday, November 29.

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