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Barbie joins Ferrari

FERRARI and the vast American toy company Mattel have signed a multi-year deal for the exclusive worldwide rights to produce Ferrari toys, clothing and accessories, including adult products. Mattel is the world's leading toy-making company with annual revenues of $4.8bn and sales in more than 150 countries. Founded in 1945 by Ruth and Elliot Handler in ElĘSegundo, California, Mattel did not strike it rich until 1959 when it launched the Barbie doll range - which still accounts for 75% of its income. Using profits from the success of Barbie, Mattel bought up other toy brands in the years that followed, including Matchbox and Hot Wheels toy cars, Fisher-Price, Tyco, Cabbage Patch Kids, Polly Pocket and Extreme Dinosaurs.

The company has always been willing to take risks with new technology and so survived while the other big three toymakers of the 1960s - Marx, Ideal and Remco - have all gone under.

In recent years Mattel has specialized in partnerships with strong brands, notably Disney, for which it produces dolls and other film-related merchandise. "Ferrari is one of the world's most prestigious and recognized brands," commented Mattel Worldwide's President Bruce Stein. "Its heritage of exceptional performance and excellence gives the brand enormous global appeal for people of all ages. The incredible success of the Ferrari race teams in worldwide competition further demonstrates their tremendous technical development expertise."

According to Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo the deal marks an important step in the development of the Ferrari trademark. "The marque represents our most important asset," said Montezemolo, "and Mattel is famous as a company which knows how to build and manage successful brands."

We expect to see Mattel branding on the Ferrari F1 cars this year - the new Ferrari is due to be launched at Maranello on January 29 - and, no doubt, Barbie will soon be whizzing around play rooms in Ken's new Ferrari sportscar...

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