Toy story

Why Indian companies are tying up with Hollywood releases

Want to know what the next big kiddie movie is? Just walk into the nearest golden arches and grab a Happy Meal. Your clue will be the dinky little toy in the box — perhaps an ogre, a hippo or even a mammoth. But while McDonald’s is the undisputed king of co-branded movie merchandise, it’s not the only one. Increasingly, Indian companies are finding films as an effective way of interacting with their consumers.

Consider some of this year’s big releases. For its children’s watch brand Zoop, Titan associated with Madagascar 3 and launched 20 watches with characters from the film on the dials. Its previous collections included watches inspired by characters from Toy Story 3 and Shrek. Through an extension of a global deal, Nokia India launched Nokia Lumia 800 Dark Knight Rises edition engraved with the batman logo. Watches brand Citizen, too, partnered with the film for its Super Titanium collection. 

Others have stuck to advertising and co-branded packaging. Amul and Big Cola, for instance, partnered with The Amazing Spider-Man through advertisements (Amul launched a 3D ad around the film). Now, MTR Foods has associated with Ice Age 4 to launch a special edition of its Badam Drink Mix that includes a sipper. “MTR’s Badam Drink Mix was a small, sleepy category restricted to southern markets,” says Vikran Sabherwal, VP, marketing, MTR Foods. “We found Ice Age 4 to be a great platform to reposition it as a product for kids.”

The licensed merchandise business in India is just $125 million, compared to a whopping $184 billion worldwide. Walt Disney itself clocks close to $30 billion revenue from its merchandise business. The biggest difference between the merchandising deals in the West and India is that in Hollywood the deals are inked right at the script stage, points out Sandeep Dahiya, senior VP, consumer products and communications, Viacom 18. For instance, Nokia’s association with the latest Batman film was decided during scripting and the smartphone is part of the film — the superhero uses an engraved Lumia. “There, studios create a strong franchise, whereas in India most deals are mere marketing promotions,” he adds. 

But anyone who has stood in endless queues at McDonald’s for the latest toy will tell you that even these “mere marketing promotions” are working. And it’s not only children, although they’re the best target. Mustafa Kapasi, COO, My Baby Excels, which has the India distribution rights for the merchandise of Dark Knight Rises, claims to have sold merchandise worth Rs.8 crore within a fortnight of the release and hopes to earn Rs.20 crore before the movie’s out of theatres. “Movie merchandise is a short-window business. No retailer will sell it once the movie is off screens,” he says.