Rockin' with Rebelde

RBD has gone from a Mexican soap opera to international pop fame, attracting licensees along the way.

Fame, fortune, and success are the trappings of any good soap opera—as well as part of the real-life story of six actors who stepped out of their roles on "Rebelde," a Mexican telenovela, and into the spotlight as part of a Mexican pop-rock music group, RBD.

Over the past two years, six of the show's most popular characters have been gaining popularity not only in Hispanic circles but among a growing number of mainstream tweens and teens who attend its sold-out performances in cities ranging from New York (a free concert is planned for Central Park in September) to Miami and Los Angeles to Chicago and Texas, with some donning prep school uniforms inspired by the ones worn by the characters in the show. A fan club launched in April gives fans the opportunity to get inside info on upcoming tour dates, personality profiles, and other tidbits for an annual fee of $29.99.

Big news for the group is an as yet untitled new reality series due in September that is currently being shopped around by show producer Televista, who joined with record label EMI in 2005 on the original "Rebelde" show, which ended its run in December. Unlike the original telenovela, which featured the three men and three women as teenagers who dreamt about making it big in the music world in a band called RBD, the new show will follow the real lives of the band.

Retail Strategy

As word of the group's popularity has spread, so has retailers' desire to embrace the property, hoping to capture some of the spending dollars of the important Hispanic consumer and attracting a wider and more diverse audience as well.

"We are very pleased with our success so far and have the distinction of being the only Latin property that has been accepted by so many retailers," says Maca Rotter, head of licensing for Televisa.

An extensive licensing program already exists in Mexico with 60 licensees creating a wide range of products from apparel and accessories to publishing and home decor. The group has already released seven albums, six in Spanish and one in English; a new Spanish language album is due by year-end.

The U.S. is RBD's next target, with Exim Licensing Group USA Inc. aligning with BrandsPlanet LLC to coordinate and develop all the licensing and promotional opportunities for the group in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

"We see the enormous potential of the Hispanic marketplace, but our challenge has been to convince retailers of the viability of the marketplace. We are definitely making strides, as there are very few companies that have coordinated as large a licensing program as we have for RBD," says Judith Hofman, senior vice president of Exim Licensing Group and co-owner of BrandsPlanet.

The agency has already been wheeling and dealing on the group's behalf, signing deals with 25 licensees including Mattel, which created a co-branded Barbie doll for each of the three female characters (each in their prep school uniform) that recently ended a six-week exclusive run at Wal-Mart. Other licensees include C-Life with a line of sportswear; Accessory Network with backpacks and stationery for back-to-school; Topps with its first-ever line of trading cards supporting a Hispanic property in June; Panini with sticker albums; Chupa Chups with lollipops; SGI for footwear and pajamas; and Trends International with posters and calendars. All licensees have access to both the RBD and Rebelde brands.

"We've been very successful with music properties over the past few years and thought RBD would give us an opportunity to reach the Latin-based consumer that has been underappreciated. The brand is very aspirational for young girls and we plan to create fashions that will appeal to their desire to look like the RBD girls," said Hymie Shamah, president of C-Life.

Wal-Mart has been an early supporter with C-Life's T-shirts sharing shelf space with DVDs, perfume, and stationery since late last year, and bicycles from Kent International on tap for back-to-school at 600 to 800 stores with a high Hispanic demographic. Kmart and JCPenney have also added T-shirts with the hope of attracting tweens and teens. Claire's Stores will support the property for back-to-school as well with backpacks and stationery. Fragrances can also be found at CVS and Walgreens with jewelry, hair accessories, and makeup added in May at 900 to 1,000 locations in Hispanic markets.

Procter & Gamble is running a promotion at mass-market retailers featuring on-pack artwork on its Herbal Essence products directing RBD fans to its myspace site on the Internet (www.myspace.com/HerbalRBD) where they can access ringtones and find out inside information about the group. Fans can also enter a sweepstakes to win tickets to a concert, including backstage access and a makeover by the RBD stylists.

"We decided to build upon the already successful relationship our Latin American counterparts in Mexico had with Rebelde and bring it to the U.S.," says Chris Keith, associate marketing director at Procter & Gamble. "Rebelde has a proven ability to attract the same consumer as we are and we hoped our affinity with Rebelde would make Herbal Essence a more relevant brand to this important Hispanic consumer."

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