When Saban Brands reacquired the Power Rangers brand from Disney in 2010, the company had one goal in mind: to once again establish it as a blockbuster kids’ entertainment property.
From a broadcasting standpoint, this meant creating a new television series that captures the excitement the Rangers generated after the show’s debut in 1993, when it went on to become the No. 1 boys’ brand in the world. With the February 2011 debut of “Power Rangers Samurai” on Nickelodeon, the production/ brand management company did just that by reconnecting with the origins of the series while acknowledging and embracing new technology. The show’s second season, “Power Rangers Super Samurai,” debuted in February and features new twists.
“Power Rangers Super Samurai has the same DNA as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” says Elie Dekel, Saban’s president. “With each new version, we’re able to make the Rangers more compelling, the action more exciting, and the show more entertaining.”
Before the new series’ debut, Saban Brands looked to the elements that made it popular the first time including monsters, humor, characters and colorful and fast-paced action. Its team even reviewed old episodes and brought back its original executive producer and several original writers. The new series is filmed in high definition and features advanced special effects. “We wanted to produce a show that would engage kids in a similar way that it did in its first decade, when it was a phenomenon,” he adds.
Saban’s re-establishment of the brand on television is proving successful. The show draws an average of 2 million weekly viewers and is the No. 1 boys-oriented property on Nickelodeon as well as the top-rated kids action series on television.
Nickelodeon this year affirmed its commitment to the franchise by renewing it through 2014. “A three-year broadcasting commitment from a network is not something that happens very often,” Dekel says. “This gives us a tremendous platform on which to build a strategy and to plan.”
Saban Brands reaches more than 160 markets globally with the Power Rangers brand, as well as with its second major property, Paul Frank, and its line of apparel and products.
Saban Brand’s licensing and promotional plan for the Power Rangers brand involves renewing agreements with partners including Bandai Toys and forming new relationships with toy makers Mega Brands, Pressman and Blip. More than 150 licensees have come on board in the last year, along with major retail partners that include Toys R Us and Walmart.
Two recently announced deals will allow Saban Brands to leverage the show’s 19-year history. The 750-plus total episodes in the Power Rangers series are streaming on Netflix internationally, and Shout! Factory recently announced plans to release the series on DVD and Blu-Ray in North America.
While Power Rangers’ main medium remains broadcast television, Saban Brands is looking to increase its delivery of content across multiple platforms including mobile devices, games and online. “Rangers Together, Samurai Forever,” an online game on Nick.com, had more than 35 million game sessions and was voted “Game of the Year” by users in 2011.
Traditional promotional methods and grassroots marketing similar to that employed by the company in the pre-Internet age remain important. The company’s Power Rangers emPOWER program infuses the brand with positive messaging for kids including fitness guides distributed to more than 4,700 schools and bulletin board messaging. Through a partnership through Scholastic., the program reached 5 million teachers, students and parents this year.
Next year will mark the landmark 20th Anniversary of the Power Rangers brand, an occasion for which Saban Brands is already deep in preparation. Plans for the anniversary include a new series, “Power Rangers MEGAFORCE.”
Saban Brands plans to embrace the series’ cross-generational appeal during the anniversary by celebrating its past as well as its present and future.
Older fans will be able to participate in special events and online activities, while new products and the new show will attract younger fans.
“We’re in an exciting place as a brand. We look at the 20th anniversary not just as a celebration of the past, but as our entry into a third decade,” Dekel says.
With new series launching every two years that reinvent the brand and change its theme, Power Rangers looks to remain a force in children’s entertainment. “Just like our audience, we’re constantly reinventing ourselves,” Dekel adds. “We can honestly say that after 20 years, this isn’t a fluke – kids really do identify with and engage with this show.”
A cross-generational appeal also drives the success of the Paul Frank brand, known for its iconic character, Julius the Monkey. The brand, which includes fashion and home décor with an emphasis on design, continues to grow to serve multiple demographics. Paul Frank products can be found in specialty stores as well as major retailers.
Recent Paul Frank initiatives include a collection at Babies R Us featuring in-store boutiques targeted for mothers and their young children; a collegiate apparel collection to be sold in college bookstores nationwide; a line of youth furniture for toddlers through teens produced by Najarian Furniture Company; and Paul Frank golf, a line of putters, drivers, accessories and apparel launching outside the U.S.
“This brand has grown on a global basis far beyond our expectations,” Dekel says, noting that Paul Frank boutiques are operating in China, Korea, Thailand and parts of Europe.
Managing two successful brands requires the efforts of a fully integrated organization built around intellectual property rights and incorporating television production, distribution, art, product development, retail, finance and marketing. Saban Brands’ intellectual property team was recently recognized as the top team in the country among entertainment and consumer brands at the International Trademark Conference in Washington, D.C.
“When you integrate all these pieces together into one strategy and one focus, you can do great things and compete against properties that have deeper resources,” Dekel says.