Party Animal Inc. has become the talk of the sports toy industry this year, thanks to a new line called Lil' Teammates. The product even has its own dedicated website, www.lilteammates.com. Lil' Teammates are three-inch-tall vinyl collectible toys that are officially licensed with the NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA, NHL and more than 65 colleges. They're team-specific rather than player-specific, and come in various positions and uniforms.
"Party Animal traditionally has been a flag company," says National Sales Manager Jeremy Edwards. "We've been around 20 years, and we're licensed to do high-quality flags and banners. So this is totally different from what we normally do."
Party Animal is approaching the marketing of Lil' Teammates in two ways. They're being positioned as toys, thus appealing to the kids' market, ages 4-12. They're also being sold as collectibles, starting with Series 1. It's hoped that this approach will create an after-market for them once future series are produced.
"We looked at it as a way to not just limit our market for ages 4-12, but to open it up to other ages," said Edwards. "They're nice little things you can sit on your desk, you can use them as pencil toppers, as cake toppers, as Christmas ornaments. The options for growth with these really are unlimited. We created the website the way we did so users who buy figures can go online, register their figures and they will show up in a virtual trophy case so you can see all the figures you own and try to collect them all. When people do go online, they'll be able to see all the figures we have currently available, all the figures that we have retired, all the figures that we have coming soon."
The idea for Lil' Teammates originally came from the NFL challenging its licensees, of which Party Animal has been a long-time licensee-to come up with innovative ideas to appeal to the children's market. The result was Lil' Teammates, which Edwards points out are different from bobbleheads not just in size, but also by the virtue of the fact that they are playable, and not just meant for display purposes.
"The kids market is one of the best ones to tap," said Edwards, "because we've seen that if you can hook a kid into sports early, you're setting him or her up for life to be a fan. It really is a great market for us. We're new to the whole toy business, so it's something that we're learning as we go, but so far the response to these has been unbelievable. I've been with the company seven years, and I've seen probably 15 to 20 new products we've introduced over the course of the years. Some we still have, some have gone by the wayside already, and I've never seen a response to a product quite like this."
Party Animal is the exclusive manufacturer of Lil' Teammates, having just trademarked and patented the product. The factory that produces them in China works almost exclusively with Party Animal. Since the products were introduced in January, several online merchants have started carrying Party Animal's product. The company offers drop-shipping direct to the end user.
This year has mainly been about trying to get the word out there about Lil' Teammates, and the website has been part of that. Customers are driven there via the back of the packaging, where a screen cap of the website is featured. The literature also has information about the site. Edwards feels it's a tool that will evolve, and will definitely be used as a selling tool.
"Right now, most of the people logging on are going on there to find out more information about what this product is," he said. "We have found over the last month and a half that the traffic has more than tripled. We're definitely finding more people going to the site, and registering on the site. We're viewing the website in phases. We've just completed phase one, which is our informational phase. We've set up the site to where we like the look of it, we like the way people can navigate. There isn't a ton of information so users don't feel like they are overloaded and we hope to add more games and fun activities very soon."
The Lil' Teammates site set up as a tool that educates users on the rules of the different sports along with a little history on each team. Users can select their favorite teams and will even choose a Lil' Teammate to be used as their personal avatar. Users can earn points in a number of ways, including sports challenges, games, contests and by simply registering the figure they have purchased. These points can then be exchanged for other Lil' Teammates, special online only figures which will be coming soon and a variety of other Party Animal products.
"We want this site to evolve into a meeting place for all the fans of Lil' Teammates to go onto and add buzz to the product including talking about the new figures and trying to create an aftermarket for our 'retired' figures. After going to Toy Fair and talking to a lot of the companies and customers there, we realized that your product is only half of the battle. You have to have a site for the users to follow the phenomenon."
So far, this phenomenon looks like it is taking off just fine.
For more information:
The Party Animal, Inc.
1350 Chester Industrial Parkway
Avon, OH 44011
Toll Free.: 800-456-0145
Product Website: http://www.lilteammates.com
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