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Wheels of fortune: How Mattel is revving up the Hot Wheels franchise

For a franchise which is fast approaching its 60th anniversary, Hot Wheels certainly has plenty left in the tank. A successful collaboration with British YouTube group, the Sidemen, last year underlined the brand’s popularity with the adult audience and has set Mattel up for some significant growth in 2024. finds out more.

Since its inception in May 1968, Hot Wheels has sold over eight billion vehicles. On top of very well being the number one selling toy in the world, the franchise also has a full lifestyle eco system.

“The brand engages fans of every generation through immersive live events, global competitions, theme park attractions, world-class digital gaming, consumer products, plus film and television content,” Ruth Henriquez, head of consumer products, publishing and live events at Mattel EMEA, tells “2023 was a strong year for unleashing the Hot Wheels franchise and we have had some unparalleled collaborations with global leaders in streetwear, fashion, luxury, entertainment, action sports and motorsports.”

The brand is being driven – if you pardon the pun – by a number of strong partnerships across categories including play (puzzles, arts and crafts, consumer electronics, outdoor sports, RC, novelty), FMCG, home, apparel and accessories, publishing and even beauty.

HW3Growth is set to continue in 2024, too, as Ruth explains: “We have a lot to look forward to in 2024 – we have an unmatched portfolio of brands, a thriving content pipeline and a focus on franchise activation to ensure demand creation excellence.
“Hot Wheels continues to go from strength to strength with great new content this year that will really drive kid engagement, a new brand campaign that will engage with parents and boys – Challenge Accepted – plus new category launches and the continuation of Hot Wheels Legends as the ultimate car competition as we continue to excite our adult collectors.

“In 2024, we will be launching a significant programme across the UK including activations across many important retailers and categories.”

In addition, following on from the success of the collaboration with the UK’s biggest YouTube group, the Sidemen (see below), there is further appetite in the adult fashion space.

HW1“There is a significant adult audience who love Hot Wheels and want to own products,” says Ruth. “The Sidemen success has proven we have a significant and untapped opportunity in this space. We know that fashion is key category for any franchise development; it’s often the first entry point after toys that fans can express their love for the brand and it can be expressed in so many cool ways across multiple age groups and retailers.”

For Mattel, it’s vital that any potential partners understand the essence of the Hot Wheels brand. “It’s important that we tap into the brand DNA to create meaningful partnerships that add authenticity and credibility to building into categories that complement and enhance the brand,” explains Ruth. “We work very closely with our partners through the design and marketing process to make sure we are all aligned. Our style guides and creative team really help to allow partners to really bring great relevant product to market that add a point of difference, as well as capturing the essence of the brand.”

HW5There is certainly a growing buzz around the Hot Wheels franchise and Mattel is looking forward to building on this. With a wide ranging portfolio across kids, teens, adults, new areas such as ‘Skate’ and ‘Sports’, plus the Let’s Race animated series, Ruth is keen to convey the team is always exploring new areas to develop.

“The adult fan base is an opportunity we are looking at as it is diverse, encompassing dedicated car enthusiasts and franchise lovers, as well as everyday players who may be influenced by trends or viral impact,” she offers, before concluding with: “We are only just getting started, so there are so many untapped opportunities for us to explore. Watch this space!”

HW2On Side

“To partner with the UK’s biggest YouTube group to launch an exclusive capsule collection of co-branded apparel and accessories was a perfect partnership for our first UK fashion collaboration for Hot Wheels,” says Ruth on the tie-up with the Sidemen. “We wanted to find a partner that really encapsulated the spirit of the brand and we had been aware of what a great brand and strong influence the Sidemen team are and luckily, they loved the brand and immediately saw the opportunity as well.”

The co-branded collection included 10 different styles such as hoodies, bomber jackets, t-shirts and caps, all infused with Hot Wheels designs throughout – checkerboard prints and flames, combined with the SDMN lettering.

The group – which owns apparel brand Sidemen Clothing – has amassed over 35 million followers across multiple YouTube channels. The entire collection was available at the official Sidemen shop in Bluewater shopping centre and at a pop-up store in the Hoxton, as well an online on the official Sidemen Clothing website.

Ruth continues: “The collection really captured Sidemen’s creativity and enthusiasm for Hot Wheels and meant we were able to create a co-branded capsule collection that brought both brands to life. The collection was cool and relevant to Sidemen and Hot Wheels fans and consumers, so it was the perfect fit for both brands.”

This feature originally appeared in the spring 2024 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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