For the first time in its 30-plus-year history, the Reading Rainbow brand is strategically entering the licensing arena, with assistance from its new licensing agent, Brand Central.
The agency’s v-p of licensing, Rebekah Belzer, noticed an article last fall in Southwest magazine about the digital rebirth of Reading Rainbow through a Kickstarter campaign that asked for $1 million and generated $6.5 million for the cause. “I was a child of the ‘80s and grew up with Reading Rainbow, both in the classroom and at home,” she said. “I also have two young boys. So it really hit a chord with me. I thought it would be compelling from a retro perspective and from a new consumer-engagement perspective.”
“[Licensing] was something we had been thinking about, very cautiously,” says Linda Benjamin, president, global strategy at RR Kidz, the company behind the relaunch. “The greatest asset our brand has, and [Reading Rainbow host and founder] LeVar Burton has, is trust. Millennial parents trust the brand.” That said, licensing can help bring Reading Rainbow to more children, she explains. “Our mission is to ignite a passion for reading in every child, everywhere. We can’t reach kids just through digital or TV, we need to go wherever they are. Toys and other types of products can keep them engaged in reading and help them ultimately become lifelong readers.”
The brand’s new platform is a “digital library” that is available online and in mobile versions for various tablets. Called the Reading Rainbow Skybrary, it allows children 2-9 to visit seven themed islands and experience more than 500 enhanced interactive storybooks and 150 video field trips. More than seven million students in 50,000 schools and one million families are using the subscription platform to read more than 200,000 books per week. “It’s a very cool tool,” Belzer says.
The partners are taking a two-pronged approach to licensing, planning products such as retro-styled graphic t-shirts, coffee mugs, and novelty items for millennials, as well as workbooks, concept books, learning aids, writing tools, back-to-school items, games, and arts and crafts for the children who are being introduced to the brand for the first time through the digital platform. Products could be on the market as soon as 2016.