EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Kelly is vice president of U.S. sales and Walmart team lead at Spin Master in Bentonville. Three years ago, Spin Master developed the phenomenon “The Paw Patrol” in which six rescue dogs work together to protect their community.
8th & Walton: “Tom, it’s been said that you are all about partnerships.”
Tom Kelly: “True, as accused.”
8W: “Starting with your relationship with the inventors of the toys?”
TK: “Yes, we see inventors as partners, and they typically work with us as we develop a product. Spin Master has a close relationship with the entire inventor community.
“It’s a partnership. An ongoing partnership, definitely.
“We stay in contact with inventors, keeping them involved in the project throughout development.
“A while back, an inventor came to us with a very cool technology breakthrough in the form of a dump truck. Amazing concept and really fun play.
“We liked it but felt there was something more there. In partnership with those inventors, that dump truck became a dog, then a dinosaur, then a cat, now a chimp.
“Together — in partnership with our marketing team, the inventor, our development team, sales — all ultimately developed the idea to make it a dog, ‘your new best friend.’
“It ended up defining a breakout category for the industry: intelligent pets.”
8W: “But you take the partnership concept beyond the creative realm.”
TK: “Yes, because partnerships work well in every circumstance.
“A good example of this is Nickelodeon and Paw Patrol. They’re engaged in multiple elements of the “Paw Patrol” show and its toys, too.
“That partnership has helped make Paw Patrol the No. 1 preschool property in the toy business.
“Walmart, too. Absolutely, they are our partner. It’s a commitment. We don’t succeed unless they succeed. It takes total engagement from all partners to make a concept successful in the marketplace.”
8W: “Is the commitment of partnership also part of your personal life?”
TK: “Yes, I brought my family here from Toronto. We’ve been here just a couple of weeks, and we’ve really spent time exploring the area — Beaver Lake, Hobbs Park, Bentonville [farmers] market, a Naturals game.
“As a true partner, I want to be part of this community and build authentic relationships with the people here.”
8W: “Now you’re partnering Paw Patrol with Mercy Hospital?”
TK: “Right. What’s nice about our commitment to Mercy is we are combining all aspects of giving: time, product, creativity and financial support.
“Specifically, we are re-doing the Mercy pediatric procedures room in a Paw Patrol theme.
“Instead of being a frightening and intimidating place for kids and parents to wait, that room will be dressed up like Paw Patrol’s Adventure Bay and will include the characters from the animated TV series to take their minds off their medical procedures.
“There will be plenty of toy pups to play with, too.
“Spin Master has a great history of contributing to causes that directly affect kids, both locally and on a global scale.
“This is something that makes me proud to work at Spin Master. Inventors, licensing, retail, community — when you’ve established true partnerships, you’re working together to make life better for all sides.
“It’s what drives me.”