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Mattel is creating a doll universe for BTS

Jan 10,2019
Members of BTS pose backstage after winning the 33rd Golden Disc Awards’ Album of the Year for the second time on Jan. 6 at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Guro District, western Seoul. [JOONGANG ILBO]
Korea’s hottest cultural export, boy band phenomenon BTS, is getting the Barbie and Ken treatment.

Mattel, the American toy manufacturer famous for its success with Barbie dolls for over six decades, announced on Jan. 7 it will release a line of BTS dolls.

Mattel signed a licensing contract with BTS’s talent agency Big Hit Entertainment.

“Under this multi-category license with BTS and its label Big Hit Entertainment, Mattel will create dolls, collectible figures, games and more,” the company said in a statement.

All seven members will have dolls, of course, and the first costumes will be based on the band’s outfits in the music video “Idol” released last year.

The dolls will be released globally this summer.

Lotte Mart announced on Jan. 7 it has exclusive rights to sell the BTS collection in brick-and-mortar stores in Korea.

Mattel’s posted on Twitter a sales price of $19.99 for each doll.

“BTS is a pop-culture music phenomenon that transcends age, culture and language, and through this partnership, Mattel will offer a new way for millions across the world to engage with the band,” said Sejal Shah Miller, vice president of Mattel.

“Partnering with established franchises that have global appeal is a cornerstone of our strategy.”

ARMY, as the group’s followers are called, were alert to the news and the so-called BTS effect was immediately obvious.

After Mattel announced the BTS dolls, Mattel’s official Twitter account gained 25,000 followers and its stock price rose 7.8 percent on Jan. 7.

BTS-inspired products targeted at fans are already huge successes.

In January 2018, Line Friends, a Japanese subsidiary of Korea’s IT giant Naver which specializes in creating its own cartoon characters, launched cartoon characters designed by the members of BTS. The characters that were created are called BT21.

The Line store in Itaewon-dong, central Seoul, selling T-shirts and hats with BT21 characters sold out within two hours. Online, BT21 products have been purchased by fans from around the world.

According to a recent report by Hyundai Research Institute, BTS has an economic value estimated at over 4 trillion won ($3.5 billion), and the contribution the boy band makes to Korea’s tourism industry, credit card spending and the export of BTS-related goods is enormous.

Shares of Korea’s top toymaker, Sonokong, closed 9.48 percent higher at 2,540 won on Wednesday, and during trading, they reached as high as 2,840 won. Mattel is the biggest stakeholder in Sonokong. The U.S. toy company bought an 11.9 percent stake in 2016.


BY LEE DO-EUN [kim.heyu@joongang.co.kr]


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