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How Pokémon forges successful licensing partnerships

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Image: Longchamp x Pokémon

From trading cards and video games to fashion collaborations, the Pokémon universe is continually evolving, and instantly recognisable characters such as Pikachu and Jigglypuff have made it one of the most powerful brands in the world of licensing.

As a leading global entertainment brand, Pokémon has a remarkably diverse fan base, spanning several generations, from kids to adults of all ages. To expand its reach and engage with all its fans, the franchise has grown its licensing and collaborations to create new encounters with Pokémon.

In 2021, Pokémon celebrated its 25th anniversary and marked one of its most successful years to date, ranking 5th in the top 150 Global Licensors Report, showcasing the most powerful brand licensing programs at retail from 2021 (License Global’s The Top Global Licensors Report 2022), with sales of 8.5 billion US dollars, up from 5.1 billion US dollars in 2020.Co

This success is not only due to the colourful and playful Pokémon characters that continue to offer inspiration, but also the diversity of collaborations, from entering the metaverse with Charli Cohen to designer collections with Jeremy Scott and GCDS, as well as affordable lines with online retailers such as ASOS and well-known brands Levi’s, Converse and Adidas.  

To find out more about who Pokémon partners with and what makes a great collaboration, FashionUnited spoke to the brand’s licensing director for EMEA, Mathieu Galante.

Image: ASOS x Pokémon

The great thing about Pokémon is that we have broad global appeal, so we can partner with a wide range of brands, from high street to designer fashion, mixing affordable products alongside aspirational lines with cutting-edge collaborators.

We are constantly looking for brands that can connect with our fans of all ages. Pokémon is not just for kids. There is much more to our licensing business, and over the year’s we’ve produced fashion collaborations spanning apparel, footwear and accessories for both adults and kids.

Each of our collaborations is considered for creative and design capabilities and their distribution reach. We’ve had many successful collaborations including with Adidas, Axel Arigato, Bobby Abley, Charli Cohen, Converse, Criminal Damage, Jeremy Scott, Iceberg, Irregular Choice, Longchamp and Clarks.

Image: Pokémon x Converse

What makes a good Pokémon collaboration?

We strive to create exceptional and covetable collaborations with must-have appeal. A truly impactful collaboration stands out for being innovative, original and creative, while also sticking in the minds of our fans.

A good collaboration also needs to be authentic to Pokémon’s values and truly understand our amazing audience. We are very protective of our brand, and we do everything possible to ensure that our products connect and resonate with our fans. This can be seen through our consistent and strong retail sales across our various partnerships.

Our brand ethos is also to surprise and delight our fans with our collaborations – just look at Longchamp and Clarks for example, these are brands you wouldn’t immediately associate with Pokémon.  

Can you take us through a recent success story?

Our Longchamp x Pokémon collection was a huge success in 2020 as it playfully brought together two iconic brands, blending French elegance with Japanese kawaii. The fashion accessories collection saw Pikachu adorning 27 products from luggage to tote bags, phone cases, scarves and keyrings. We also dressed up Pikachu in a jockey’s helmet to pay homage to the Longchamp logo.

It was also fun to promote this collection, as 250 Longchamp stores worldwide had Pokémon branding and held pop-ups and events. The highlight was our special in-game Pokémon GO event during Paris Fashion Week. The activity achieved global press and social media coverage and was hugely successful in terms of turnover and media value.

Image: Pokémon

Pokémon is always evolving – can you share any upcoming collaborations?

We’ve just launched an exciting collaboration with Clarks, which brings to life our much-loved Pokémon characters Pikachu, Squirtle, Mewtwo and the famous Poké Ball symbol on some super- cool footwear designs.

The 10-piece collection features classic Clarks Kids and legendary Clarks Originals sneakers and shoes and includes a cute mini-me moment. The kids’ black suede 'Wallabee Mist' shoes adorned with an understated Pikachu outline have a coordinated adult style - the 'Wallabee Boot' embossed with a Pikachu print and finished with an embroidered Poké Ball and colourful contrast fobs.

Image: Pokémon x Clarks

What do you look for in your collections? 

We know many of our fans use fashion and wear Pokémon clothes to express their love for our intellectual property. This makes fashion a shared language, and we choose to work with brands who speak our language!

For us, that means brands that offer quality, creativity, fun, wearability, sustainability, innovation, and boundary-pushing ideas. Having a great collection is not enough. We also want to find new ways to shout about it, meaning that standout marketing support at retail and beyond is important too. We love creating hype, and we need all our collaborations to tell a story that will speak to our fans and keep them engaged and enthused.

How do you measure the success of your licensing partnerships? 

Many factors go into measuring the success of our collaborations - from the impact they made to fan reaction, sales figures, media coverage and if they won any awards.

Take the Converse x Pokémon collaboration for our 25th anniversary - the footwear, apparel, and accessories collection sold out online within 48 hours and due to huge demand for the customised print-on-demand shoes, we had to turn off this activity two weeks early as demand exceeded supply. While our Longchamp X Pokémon collection was nominated for best collaboration at the Licensing International Awards.

Image: Longchamp x Pokémon