SBJ/April 30 - May 6, 2007/This Weeks News

Beanie Babies among 8 new licensees for MLS

Major League Soccer is finalizing a licensing agreement with Ty Inc., giving the Illinois company the right to develop and sell official MLS Beanie Babies at retail.

Though Beanie Babies have long been a staple in professional sports for game-day promotions, the deal will be Ty’s first leaguewide licensing agreement. A company spokeswoman said league agreements may be an area of interest for Ty in the future.

The MLS licensing deal grew out of a meeting six months ago with Chicago Fire executives who were interested in offering Beanie Babies for a game-day promotion. The discussions progressed from there to the league level.

Because the deal has not been finalized, Ty declined to comment on the number and types of MLS Beanie Babies it would develop. A spokeswoman said that aligning with MLS was logical because it is a family-friendly league.

The only other beaned animal producer active in sports is Team Beans, a product of Michael Lewis’ Forever Collectibles. The company offers beaned bears and has licensing relationships with the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball.

Beanie Babies exploded in popularity during the 1990s, reaching $1.2 billion in sales by 1999. Since then, their popularity has cooled, and sales have dropped to $372 million in 2005, according to Hoovers.

Beanie Babies is one of eight new licensees for MLS this year. Others include: Fathead (large remountable wall graphics); Hasbro (small, remountable wall graphics); Pottery Barn (bedroom accessories); Match Master Game (handheld digital game); Net Camera (player figurines); and Humongous (children’s video game).

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