Tokens of Gratitude

In the last few weeks, a handful of licensors and licensees have launched marketing campaigns and/or product lines built around thanking the medical professionals and other essential workers who have been risking their health to care for the sick or fill the population’s basic needs during the COVID-19 crisis. While a number of companies involved in licensing have previously touted their efforts to get supplies such as protective equipment or ventilators into the hands of first responders, these newer campaigns are built around a simple message of thanks, although there is often a charitable component as well.

Some examples:

• Mattel’s Fisher-Price brand launched a special-edition line of 16 collectible action figures—ranging from doctors, nurses, and EMTs to delivery drivers—under the #ThankYouHeroes banner. The figures, available on a dedicated page of the Mattel Playroom website, cost $20 each, with $15 of that going to #FirstRespondersFirst, which supports frontline COVID-19 healthcare workers. Preorders begin May 31, with delivery expected by the end of the year. The company is also introducing a five-character Little People Community Champions set consisting of a doctor, nurse, EMT, delivery driver, and grocery store worker. Other charitable initiatives honoring first responders are planned for the future.

• Random House Books for Young Readers is publishing a picture book called Thank You, Helpers: Doctors, Teachers, Grocery Workers, and More Who Care for Us, written by Patricia Hegarty and illustrated by Michael Emmerson. The title helps families discuss the importance of these workers, as well as the need to express appreciation. An e-book edition will go on sale in early June, followed by a paperback edition later in the month. Each purchase will prompt a donation to Americares, a global organization currently offering protective supplies, emotional support, and training to health workers in the U.S. and abroad.

• Fourteen pro sports and e-sports leagues—Association of Tennis Professionals, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, NASCAR, National Basketball Association, National Football League, National Hockey League, National Women’s Soccer League, U.S. Golf Association, WNBA, Women’s Tennis Association, WWE, Activision Blizzard Esports, and Electronic Arts—came together for a PSA campaign that honored more than 30 U.S. healthcare workers fighting COVID-19, by name. The Real Heroes Project was put together in conjunction with marketing agency 72 and Sunny, Hecho Studios, and Adweek. In the videos, athletes offer personal tributes and cover their own names on their jerseys with the name of the healthcare worker. Fans are encouraged to do the same with their own jerseys and share on social media using #TheRealHeroes.

• Organizations ranging from Hallmark to Aardman Animations to the Washington Capitals NHL team have created free e-cards specifically designed to send a thank-you message to a front-line essential worker. In Aardman’s effort, Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park designed new artwork for the cards featuring the characters; a minimum donation of £1.00 to the W&G-themed charity, The Grand Appeal (which benefits Bristol Children’s Hospital and is currently funding coronavirus research) gives the consumer the ability to send five e-cards. The Capitals’ designs involve its hockey players offering messages of thanks.

Note that not all of these efforts are focused on licensed properties per se, but all involve companies active in licensing.

Thank-you campaigns such as these have been popping up since the beginning of the lockdown. Initially, examples skewed toward national and regional advertisers such as United Health, Pizza Hut, and Rogue Fitness, who sent their messages of gratitude—sometimes to their own employees, sometimes to essential workers in general—through television ad campaigns. Over time, a growing number of companies of all sizes, including those involved in the licensing business, have been adding their voices.

We will not publish on Monday, May 25, 2020, in observance of Memorial Day in the U.S. Watch for our next post on Thursday, May 28. In the meantime, visit our Coronavirus Resource Page for all of our recent writings on how the pandemic is affecting the licensing business, including a May status report just published exclusively for the page.

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