Crawford Steps In the Sports Zone

Independent publisher In the Sports Zone, a licensee of major universities and three of the U.S. pro sports leagues, has acquired the rights to Crawford the Cat. Crawford is a video-, online gaming-, and app-based educational property that teaches kids core values such as manners, cleaning their rooms, and brushing their teeth. Alita’s Brand Bar, licensing agent for Crawford rights owner Crawford’s Corner, brokered the deal. The agreement marks In the Sports Zone’s first partnership outside of the world of sports, and Crawford’s first license for publishing.

The paperback activity book, which just hit Amazon, is for children ages four to seven. “I love the people behind the Crawford the Cat brand,” said Darla Hall, founder of ITSZ. “They care about kids and teaching kids valuable life lessons, and that’s my mission too. It’s colorful, it has the lessons, and it’s a fun way for kids to learn.” The fact that Crawford could appeal to children nationally, rather than needing to be regionalized—as is the case with sports licensing—was also attractive.

Hall, who formerly owned a marketing company, founded ITSZ in September 2011 after a client’s child was in an accident and she could not find an activity book as a gift for the young University of Alabama sports fan. To fill the gap, she created the first Roll Tide Activity Book, securing a license from the Collegiate Licensing Company (now IMG College) in 2012. (Visits and donations to children’s hospitals remain core to ITSZ’s business model.)

Since then, ITSZ has expanded its business to include more than 200 licensed titles in a variety of formats: 48-page kids’ activity books, adult coloring books, some apps, and recently the first concept storybooks for younger kids. There are titles for all of the teams in the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Basketball Association, along with 38 universities. In addition to signing Crawford, Hall has recently expanded into corporate titles with the likes of Ace Hardware and Jockey.

ITSZ’s books are sold online, including at B&N and Amazon, in Learning Express stores and mom-and-pop book and toy stores, and in about a third of the teams’ shops. Although Hall is currently a one-person operation, she is developing partnerships to assume marketing and other duties. “I’ll have the capacity to do more things in the licensing industry,” she said.

In Brief