The Party Animal Inc. is 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, MLB, 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 in the past," says manager, Jeremy Edwards. "We've been around 20 years, and we're licensed to do high quality flags and banners. This is totally different from what we normally do."
The 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, once future series are produced. "We looked at it as a way of not limiting our market to ages 4-12, by opening it up to other ages," says Edwards. "They're nice little things you can set on your desk, or use as pencil toppers, cake toppers, or Christmas ornaments. The options really are unlimited, and we feel that by creating the website that we did, the people who buy figures will go on and register their figures. As the consumer buys figures and registers them, their online trophy case will fill in. It gives them something to shoot for. When people go online, they'll be able to see all the figures currently available, all the retired figures, and all the figures that are coming soon."
The idea for Lil' Teammates originally came from the NFL challenging its licensees (The Party Animal had already been one, thanks to the flag market) 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 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," says Edwards, "because we've seen that if you can hook kids into sports early, you're setting them up to be fans for life. It really is a great market for us. We're new to the wholesale toy business, but so far the response has been unbelievable. In my seven years here, we've launched probably 15 to 20 new products, and I've never seen a response to a product quite like this."
The wholesale price for Lil' Teammates is $4.99 per piece, with a suggested retail minimum of $9.99 per piece. There is a minimum order requirement of $100. With any order of 45 or more pieces, retailers receive a free display capable of holding 45 to 60 Lil' Teammates.
The Party Animal is the exclusive manufacturer of Lil' Teammates, having just secured trademarks and patents on the product. The factory that produces them in China works exclusively with The Party Animal. Since the products were introduced in January, several online retailers have started carrying Lil' Teammates, and the company also offers dropshipping. This year has mainly been about trying to get the word out there about Lil' Teammates, and the website has been a key part of that. The packaging and literature feature information about the site.
"Right now, most of the visitors to our website are going there to find out more or less what this product is," Edwards says. "Traffic over the last month and a half has essentially tripled. We're building the website in phases. We've just completed phase one, which is our information phase. We set up the site to where we like the look of it and the way buyers can navigate. There aren't a lot of activities yet, but that's something we hope will evolve over time." The NFL has a website which they gear towards children with which The Party Animal has been working hand-in-hand, called NFL Rush Zone. That site is more about playing games, whereas the Lil' Teammates site is more about teaching kids about the actual sports.
"We want the site to turn into something where collectors can go to post, with a messageboard," says Edwards. They could even trade figures. We'll eventually do limited edition figures, and the website would be a tool for people to find them. The goal of the site right now is to get users to go on once a week. We have a Question of the Week, and a Pick-the-Winners section. After going to Toy Fair and talking to a lot of the companies there, it's clear that you really need to have the website be almost half of what the product is. A product like Webkinz, for example. "So this site will eventually be a major part of the product," Edwards concludes.
For more information:
The Party Animal, Inc.
871 Canterbury Road, Unit J
Westlake, OH 44145
Product website: www.lilteammates.com
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