Tokens for Tots

Non-fungible tokens are the newest and certainly one of the hottest categories for licensing deals right now, with sports entities, celebrities, corporate trademarks, comic book and video game IP, fashion labels, and more getting into the game. While there are exceptions, the most active properties in the NFT space tend to be those with a large, primarily adult fan base for their physical collectibles.

Lately, however, a number of children’s properties have been entering the NFT arena. Some have followings consisting of both young fans and older fans who are collectors, with the tokens aimed mainly at the latter. But some purely kids’ properties are becoming involved as well.

Some of the child-focused IP with NFT deals to date include:

  • L.O.L. Surprise!. MGA Entertainment partnered with VeVe, a New Zealand company, for digital collectibles. These are animated and interactive 3D models of the dolls, brought to life via mixed reality. VeVe’s collector base includes many adults who are parents, so this venture, the first for young kids on the platform, is a way to get the whole family involved in NFT collecting and engagement, according to the announcement. VeVe works with a number of other IP that have strong adult followings, as well as popularity among young fans.
  • Like Nastya. The young YouTube and social media star, represented by IMG for licensing, signed VaynerNFT for her digital collectibles. Nastya and her family have a wide following among young children. The NFTs will be offered in tiers, with some being unlimited tokens; others offering unique engagement mechanisms such as birthday greetings, shoutouts, and connections via social media; and a few being rare or unique, including tokens that give the owner some sort of personal interaction with Nastya. A portion of the proceeds from the collection, available on the Bitski platform, will go to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation.
  • Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss Enterprises paired with Dapper Labs for digital collectibles. Dapper Labs is the creator of CryptoKitties, one of the first blockchain-enabled hits. When the DSE deal was signed, Dapper Labs executives noted that older fans sometimes bring their children into the world of CryptoKitties as a way to teach them finance principles, and the same was expected with this agreement, although adults were the primary audience. This is a tiered program involving Seuss characters such as the Cat in the Hat, the Lorax, and Thing 1 and Thing 2, with each tier consisting of tokens of various degrees of rarity.
  • Shaun the Sheep. Aardman Animations paired with Animoca Brands’ The Sandbox, a virtual gaming world, for an NFT collection called Shaun the Sheep Heroes. Players within the world could purchase one of a limited edition of 831 different NFTs based on six Super Sheep characters (from season 6 of the TV series) and create stories and games featuring the characters within the world of The Sandbox. The tokens are “utility tokens” that allow for deeper game play but also have different degrees of rarity. One unique token was sold at auction on Open Sea. The Shaun deal represented the first licensed token for use within The Sandbox, but the game’s plans call for more digital collectibles based on licensed IP.
  • Teletubbies. In a promotional stunt for April Fool’s Day, Wildbrain announced a Teletubbies cryptocurrency, which turned out to be a single TubbyCoin NFT that was auctioned off for charity. WildBrain donated $10,000, plus the proceeds from the auction, to the Kids Help Phone crisis line.

Other kids’ properties that have lent their names to NFTs typically have a heavy adult collector base. They include Topps’ Garbage Pail Kids, which offers NFTs, some connected to physical trading cards, on the Wax blockchain; Warner Bros.’ Space Jam, which makes tokens available on the social collectible platform Nifty’s; Mattel’s Hot Wheels, which auctioned three “first editions” of unique Hot Wheels car designs under the Hot Wheels NFT Garage brand on Mattel Creations; and Marvel, which releases Marvel Mightys collectibles in the form of digital comics, statues, and other iterations, on VeVe.

Announcements of licensed NFTs are often greeted with a negative backlash on social media because of concerns about the impact of NFT creation on the environment. VeVe is one company addressing that by working toward being carbon neutral, such as by offering grants to environmental nonprofits to offset its carbon footprint.

Aside from the sustainability question, it is worth watching to see if NFTs are a good fit for true children’s properties. Children love collecting, but their interest is often about amassing lots of physical products rather than a quest for uniqueness or high value, as is the case for adults. Of course, value and rarity play a part in some kids’ collecting passion, especially as they grow older. But it remains to be seen whether NFTs can turn into a long-term opportunity for pure children’s properties that lack a fan base of adult collectors.

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