The evolution of Charles Schulz's artwork will be the design directive for Peanuts' 60th anniversary celebration throughout 2010. The push will involve new licensing partners, sweepstakes, cross-promotions and a revised retail strategy that includes exclusive deals with CVS and Hallmark. Peanuts has more than 150 licensees.
Creative elements of the "Peanuts Then & Now" program stress how differently Linus, Lucy, Snoopy, Charlie Brown and pals were drawn over different decades since their Oct. 2, 1950 launch in seven U.S. newspapers. United Media is the property's licensing and syndication arm. Until now, vintage Peanuts artwork has been limited to department and specialty stores. But this promotion will make the classic cartoons -- Snoopy with a smaller snout and bigger ears, Linus with bushy bangs and a protruding forehead -- available in other channels of distribution for a limited time.
CVS will get a jump In fall 2009 and become the exclusive retail partner for the 60th-anniversary celebration through the holiday season. From October to December, store displays will be reserved for a plush continuity program featuring five decades of Snoopy designs and a commemorative holiday plush pup, along with other Peanuts products. The promo will be marketed for six weeks via circulars and signage.
When 2010 hits, Hallmark and Peanuts will unite for a yearlong push touting exclusive anniversary products: Hallmark will give plush toys, gift-ware, keepsakes, ornaments and other Peanuts merchandise front-of-store placement throughout the year.
Other programs in the works include a Web-based sweepstakes to locate the perfect Peanuts character lookalikes, promos at Major League Baseball parks, a tie-in with the Boys and Girls Clubs and a partnership with West Coast restaurant chains Cocos and Carrows.
The classic property trend could be seen up and down aisles at this month's International Licensing Expo in Las Vegas. The splashy studio booths promoting scads of exotic new properties were swapped for modest-sized displays in order to manage expectations and remind potential partners of consistent performers like Peanuts, the comfort food of the licensing realm.
"The story is less about what's new this year," said United Media's svp, domestic licensing Joshua Kislevitz about the air of risk aversion that the iffy economy has created. "Partners are looking for a security blanket -- no pun intended."
United also brokered a deal with New Balance for a co-branded kids footwear collection featuring the strip's characters on the sneaker brand's heritage running shoe, the 574. Set to launch in October, the line will be available in infant through grade-school sizes and retail for $38-60. The shoes and packaging will feature stories such as It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. It's the first of three New Balance/Peanuts deals that United will launch over the next year.