The Crocodile Hunter Captures Toy Fair
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Holmes Report

The Crocodile Hunter Captures Toy Fair

LIME was challenged to conceptualize, manage and execute an integrated marketing campaign targeted at toy buyers that would spark sales for 2001 and "steal the show."

Paul Holmes


The consumer products division of Discovery Communications Inc., created its first toy line ever, based on the popular cable network show, The Crocodile Hunter, and planned to debut to toy buyers at New York’s “Toy Fair 2000.”  LIME was challenged to conceptualize, manage and execute an integrated marketing campaign targeted at toy buyers that would spark sales for 2001 and "steal the show," without toy product and without spokespeople as rewards.

With toy buyers, not consumers, as the main audience, LIME realized it was essential to cut through the clutter on-site at Toy Fair, the industry's largest event. Utilizing an extremely narrow two-month time frame, LIME created a campaign that incorporated heavy trade relations, media relations, online promotions, guerrilla marketing and crafted a life-size onsite replica of the Crocodile Hunter's Lair, all of which helped raise awareness of the Crocodile Hunter's large fan base and sales potential.


At the time of Toy Fair 2000, there were no toys available for media to preview except for one prototype set used for a media tour and on-site event.  Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, was unable to attend the event himself and fulfill press obligations, due to a family emergency.  Again, working under a tight two-month deadline and competing against household brand-name toy companies and their large budgets, LIME executed an influencer teaser program and created a dynamic on-site presence. Elements like guerrilla marketing were used to create an impact with Toy Fair attendees while simultaneously drawing attention away from the conspicuous absence of a spokesperson and the lack of samples of the new toy line.  

In addition, LIME faced the challenge of introducing a "real life" action-figure toy line based on a “grown-up’s” television show to the children’s toy market. Reaching the Crocodile Hunter's large online fan base, LIME also infiltrated numerous fan sites and chat rooms informing members of the toy line and its launch date and invited them to Lair event at Toy Fair to show support and demand for the brand.


To effectively communicate the key message that “the Crocodile Hunter Toys are the hottest property at Toy Fair,” LIME targeted trade publications and top-tier consumer press, created on-site promotions and a large-scale on-site event, conducted guerrilla marketing and utilized advertising and direct mail to break through the highly cluttered and competitive Toy Fair marketplace.

The primary objective was to “steal the show” at Toy Fair: LIME created a teaser program to make toy buyers aware of the fanatic Crocodile Hunter following, drive them to licensee showrooms and create a lasting impact.  LIME leveraged key trade publications with press relations and advertising, reached out to the key toy buyer audience via direct mail, targeted top-tier consumer media to create a buzz for toy buyers, provided key licensees with sell-in materials to increase showroom visibility, and conducted viral, guerrilla and event marketing.


LIME produced the following:

  • Teaser direct mail program
  • Trade advertising
  • Guerrilla marketing (Croc Squad)
  • Large-scale event on Monday, February 14th
  • Online program to testify to the shows popularity
  • Sales materials for licensee booths
  • Media relations campaign, including trade consumer and business press outreach and a buy-in to a satellite media tour


(A.) Direct Mail: Prior to Toy Fair, key buyers from major retail outlets were contacted through a two-tiered direct mail campaign. 

–            Recorded voicemail message from Steve Irwin was sent to nearly 400 toy and apparel buyers across the country.  The message teased the toy line’s debut, forecasted its popularity and distinguished its uniqueness from other product lines.

Original video montage followed and was delivered one week prior to Toy Fair with custom-filmed messages from Steve Irwin interspersed with man-on-the-street interviews and daring scenes from the hit show.

(B.) Full-page trade advertisements conveying the “Real Life Action Hero” messaging were placed in Toy Fair edition's of key trade publications.

(C.) Bus shelter ads were strategically placed around the Toy Fair Building and Lair event.

(D.) The “Croc Squad:” 25 actors, costumed as The Crocodile Hunter’s devoted wranglers, complete with outback costuming and authentic Australian accents, stormed high-traffic toy buyer locations in New York during Toy Fair, including NBC's Today Show.

(E.) The Crocodile Hunter Lair: An elaborate life-size wooden replica of The Crocodile Hunter’s real life animal conservation workshop, complete with outback environment, noises, music, props and reptiles, including a live crocodile, was erected in Madison Square Park on February 14th – directly across from the Toy Fair building. The steady stream of pedestrian traffic raised awareness of key buyers who were invited to the Lair, which was filled with members of the media, children from the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club and fans, who were invited to tour the structure where they could view an exotic reptile zoo, visit a digital photo booth and, of course, preview prototypes of the exciting new toy line. 

(F.) LIME activated the Crocodile Hunter’s fervent fan base via the many independent Web sites, inviting them to participate in the Lair event and evangelize the show, exhibiting a strong market for the toys.

(G.) LIME designed and produced a series of highly visible supporting materials for licensee showrooms, including a full-size Steve Irwin action hero standee, full-color brochure and video reel.

(H.) Prior to Toy Fair, key media contacts received a plastic crocodile with a note from Steve Irwin to seed interest.  A follow-up mailer included directions on how to “tame” the crocodile, a branded first aid kit and full media kit to educate the press on the dynamic brand extension of the popular show.


The Crocodile Hunter toy line received more than 10.5 million impressions nationally.  LIME garnered national television coverage from NBC's Today Show and CNN's Showbiz Today, local market placement of the Satellite Media Tour "Hot Toys at Toy Fair 2000," print coverage in E! Online and Reuters as well as extensive trade media coverage. 
Additionally, media outreach also seeded feature story interest in top-tier long-lead publications including Forbes and US Weekly.  A Wireless Flash hit also generated interest from numerous radio stations (14 outlets nationwide and Canada) to interview Steve and Terri Irwin regarding the toy line.

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