McDeal of a lifetime

Written by John Schofield

McDonald’s might not be moving many Big Macs these days, but its legendary arches are looking as golden as ever to Spin Master Ltd. In January, the Toronto toy producer unveiled its McFlurry Maker, which lets kids churn a home version of McDonald’s popular ice-cream treat. It’s just the first product of Spin Master’s new licensing deal with the fast-food giant, and a launching pad for world food-toy domination. “From a licensing perspective, this is the biggest deal we’ve done,” says Ronnen Harary, CEO and co-founder of the nine-year-old company. “It gives us a lot of credibility.”

Winning McDonald’s attention — then meeting its high standards — was no simple feat. With an ice-cream machine in mind, Spin Master sold McDonald’s licensing agent, New York-based Beanstalk Group, on its impressive growth, strength in marketing and distribution, and product-development prowess. (Spin Master is the firm behind such toy wonders as Air Hogs airplanes and the ICEE Maker, a snow-cone machine that last year ranked second in U.S. food-toy sales to the Easy-Bake Oven.)

Spin Master also targeted an internal “champion”: Amy Moynihan, McDonald’s director of worldwide marketing and the person who had sold McDonald’s on the branding power of toy licensing. Moynihan was instrumental in pushing the McFlurry Maker through McDonald’s huge bureaucracy, building approval upon approval of the machine’s quality and safety. McDonald’s turned thumbs up last November, just in time to unveil the prototype at the massive Hong Kong Toy Fair.

The four-year agreement gives Spin Master the right to design toys around any McDonald’s food product, although final approval for any design rests with Ronald and friends. While Spin Master expects to introduce two new McDonald’s products a year, it’s using the deal to sell other food companies on similar toys and to attract more master toy contracts, which give manufacturers the right to produce entire toy lines for companies, movies or TV shows. “When a company like McDonald’s is willing to be a partner of yours,” says Adam Beder, Spin Master’s VP of global licensing, “it sends a big message to the entire industry.”

© 2003 John Schofield

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