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Building blocks of success: Minecraft’s licensing mission

Powerhouse gaming brand Minecraft turns 15 next year. Federico San Martin, Minecraft’s global head of consumer products, sits down with to talk about the brand’s anniversary plans, the rapid growth of its consumer products progamme and its recent high-profile partnership with Crocs.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Minecraft is a global phenomenon. Mojang Studio’s game about breaking and placing blocks – which has evolved into a platform and canvas for creative expression – has sold 238 million copies globally across all platforms since its debut in 2009, and hosts 140 million active players monthly, of all ages and genders.

With such a wide and diverse audience, growing a successful consumer products programme comes with its own set of challenges – but they’re ones that Federico San Martin took on happily when he joined Mojang Studios two and a half years ago.

“I had three things in mind when I joined,” Federico says. “One was category expansion, the other two were international growth and process implementation – and to this day, we continue to go after those.”

Pursuing those goals has seen the consumer products programme double under Federico’s leadership; it currently boasts over 150 licensing partners worldwide across multiple categories. Global partners include LEGO, Mattel, Random House and Hasbro, while big name retailers carrying Minecraft products range from Amazon to Primark, Smyths, Tesco and Asda.

Crocs and Minecraft have a lot of similarities as brands, says Federico.
Crocs and Minecraft have a lot of similarities as brands, says Federico.

When it comes to a brand as huge as Minecraft, Federico’s previous (and varied) roles at Warner Bros., DreamWorks, 20th Century Fox/Disney and other top tier companies have enabled him to see the bigger picture, he believes.

“My first job was at Mattel, and I got to see how the licensing team interacted with all the big studios. Later I was at Equity Marketing, involved in product development and international sales, and we were a licensee of quite a few studios – so I got to see the other side of the equation, as it were.” His role at Minecraft sees all those skills combined. “I love my job, because there is so much opportunity. This is the first time that I’ve managed one brand, and I can put all my energies towards it.”

Federico is due to give a keynote at Licensing Expo in June alongside Crocs’ vp of brand partnerships Matias Infante, which will focus on the two brands’ recent footwear collaboration. “We saw the Crocs partnership as a great opportunity for us,” Federico says. “We’re a video game, and fashion allows us to bring the digital world into the physical space. Crocs and Minecraft are both powerful brands and they have a lot of similarities – our game is all about creativity, and Crocs is known for that too, with its customisation options and wide range of colours. And the collaboration was another way to surprise and please our fan community – it’s something they probably weren’t expecting!”

Minecraft currently boasts over 150 licensing partners worldwide across multiple categories.
Minecraft currently boasts over 150 licensing partners worldwide across multiple categories.

While generating revenue through the CP programme is obviously important, serving fans is paramount, says Federico. “Our vision is simple: to delight our global community with products that extend and engage beyond the game, that create lasting impressions and emotional bonds across generations. We’re no different from any other brand in that we get feedback from retailers and from our  partners. But we also get feedback from our very active social media community, which is great not only in terms of consumer products, but as a game, so we can incorporate new ideas into further executions.”

Relationships with partners are also a priority for Federico and his team. “I always say, ‘Content is king, and retail is king’. How best we can support our licensees and retailers? One way is providing them with key moments for them to rally around, like our 15th anniversary, which is coming up next year. Another thing is that Minecraft is at the stage where it’s expanding – for instance, there are a tremendous amount of growth opportunities for us in certain territories in Europe and LATAM – and that makes conversations with licensees and retailers that much easier. We work with our agents in key regions to support licensees in any way we can; we want to be approachable, and have open and honest relationships, and ask them, ‘What else can we do?’”

MinecraftMattelComing back to that all-important anniversary… What can we expect to see? Details are tightly under wraps, but it’s something the whole team is prepping for and excited about, says Federico. “It’s a milestone for sure, and we want to make sure we celebrate this with our community and thank those partners who’ve been with us all this time for helping us to grow an evergreen global franchise.”

Retail executions and brand collaborations will be part of the picture, of course – and look out for collectables. “That’s a sector we’re just starting to tap into, and we want to make sure we have some of that in the CP programme,” says Federico. “Of course, it’s not just about consumer products, there’ll be a lot of initiatives planned from the studio point of view.”

Federico is proud of everything that he and his team have achieved over the past two and a half years, and his enthusiasm for Minecraft is stronger as ever.

“It is a beautiful brand,” he concludes. “There are lots of video games that focus on very different genres , but Minecraft is about diversity and inclusion, and bringing people together to build a better world through the power of play.”

This feature originally appeared in the summer 2023 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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