'POWER RANGERS,' NOW MATURE, DECIDE TO DRIVE: TOY VEHICLE LINE IS LATEST MOVE TO MAKE HEROES INTO 'EVERGREENS'

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As "The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" property phases out of its phenomenon years, Saban Entertainment this week launches a campaign that's a gear lower than the usual high-octane push for the kids brand.

The latest incarnation is built around licensing-friendly toy cars and vehicles for its characters, starting with a grass-roots promotional campaign built around an event on Feb. 4 at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

'TURBO' FILM

Also, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.'s "Turbo: A Power Rangers Adventure," opening in March, lays the groundwork for a new TV show that will begin airing on Fox Children's Network in April.

"Turbo," however, won't be supported with the kind of $100 million-plus promotion blitz that drove the first "Mighty Morphin" movie. Although that program was headlined by a McDonald's Corp. Happy Meal effort, the fast-feeder's new exclusive alliance with Walt Disney Co. undermined any plans Saban might have had in mind for "Turbo."

"The timing of [the Disney-McDonald's deal] had an impact, and we had to adjust our strategy," said Elie Dekel, Saban's exec VP-marketing, advertising and promotions. "We're nurturing this property for the long run, working to make it an evergreen.

"From a promotional point of view, there are times when you adjust your approach to avoid the risks of overexposure and burnout."

Saban's strategic, grass-roots approach taps the national media resources and local affiliate strength of Fox Children's Network to reach the target audience of 2-to-11-year-olds. National on-air promotions will evangelize "Turbo," and local affiliates and chapters of Fox Kids Clubs will promote Power Ranger appearances in 120 markets.

PROMOTION PARTNERS

The campaign also will include a few key promotion partners to help orchestrate a public relations push inspired by "Turbo's" creative elements.

Bandai America, whose "Turbo" toys hit this month, is leveraging its associate sponsorship of the Kmart/Kranefuss-Haas Winston Cup Nascar Team, with Turbo Rangers characters to be featured on the car throughout the Nascar season.

The driver also will occasionally wear Turbo Rangers headgear.

Cross-promotions between Saban and Bandai and Kmart Corp., the car's other sponsors, are in the works.

Bandai's multimillion-dollar ad push for the toys, from J. Walter Thompson USA, Los Angeles, will be launched this month.

Additionally, JWT brought together clients Bandai, Saban, Twentieth Century Fox and Ford Motor Co.'s Ford Division for a program in which Turbo Rangers will make appearances at auto shows, beginning with the Chicago Auto Show next week.

$1.5 BIL IN RETAIL SALES

Industry analysts say the Power Rangers licensing machine has generated $1.5 billion in retail sales over the last five years. But while the show on Fox remains tops among kids and the toy line remains a best-seller, the property has undoubtedly cooled off.

"Most people are amazed it's lasted even this long," said one industry observer.

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