Nickelodeon, NBA Star Carmelo Anthony Team on Ninja Turtles-Inspired Consumer Products

THE SURE SHOT: Carmelo 'Melo' Anthony
Wesley Mann

When a reporter asked Anthony, 28, if he was nervous before the big interview, Costas, standing next to the New York Knicks star, scoffed, "He just won the national title!" Says Anthony now: "Nah, I wasn't nervous. Bob's always been cool."

The New York Knicks player will serve as creative director for ‘Turtles by Melo' as the franchise, which the Viacom unit acquired in 2009, continues to do strong business.

Viacom's Nickelodeon is partnering with NBA star Carmelo Anthony on a line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles inspired consumer products.

The deal was announced Tuesday at Licensing Expo in Las Vegas as the Turtles continue to do well across TV, film and merchandising.

The New York Knicks star and self-professed Turtles super-fan will serve as creative director of Turtles by Melo, a consumer products line inspired by the Nickelodeon franchise. It is expected to span lifestyle products, home furnishings, publishing, video games and more. Turtles by Melo is set to debut in the spring 2016, ahead of the summer theatrical release of Viacom-owned Paramount Pictures’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, in which Anthony has a cameo.

“I am so excited about the opportunity to work with the Nickelodeon team on this new Turtles ‎venture,” said Anthony.

“The Turtles were a big part of my childhood. I have been connecting with the brand for a long time,” Anthony, 31, tells The Hollywood Reporter. Nowadays, “I watch with my son,” who is 8, he adds.

The NBA star said he and Nickelodeon started having conversations and building a relationship a while back, well before striking the merchandising deal. “It just happened really naturally. We didn’t force it,” the star athlete tells THR.

Asked what would come next after the news of the collaboration that will bring the Anthony and the Turtles brands together, he says fans should stay tuned for more details. “It’s just the first step,” he says. “There is more to come.”

While not yet detailing full product ideas, he says the project was exciting to take on not only because he is a fan, but also because it adds another experience beyond his basketball career, charity work and business ventures. “For me it’s about stepping outside the box,” he explains. “It is something I never could have imagined.”

For Viacom’s Nickelodeon the partnership is another way to keep the franchise growing. “A product line created and curated by a superstar — and super-fan — like Carmelo is testament to the Turtles’ ever-growing appeal, and it’s a huge part of the drumbeat beginning for new seasons of the TV show and the theatrical sequel from Paramount Pictures next summer,” said Pam Kaufman, chief marketing officer and president, consumer products, Nickelodeon.

She says: “Turtles is a franchise that continues to be relevant to the people who grew up with it in the ‘80s and also to kids today through our TV series on Nick. Carmelo watches the show with his son, which is right in step with how people watch and share their love for these characters. He really embodies the Turtles’ multi-generational appeal.”

What does a sports star bring to the table for the new product line? “Carmelo is ideal for this new consumer products line because he is genuinely a super-fan, and of course he’s an iconic celebrity with global appeal,” Kaufman said. “He speaks with authenticity and love for the Turtles, and his presence will get the accompanying products into different aisles at retail.”

Concludes the executive: “His association can further elevate awareness of the franchise and turn up the cool factor even more.”

The news of the partnership comes as Nickelodeon has reinvigorated the 30-year-old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, which it acquired in 2009 for about $60 million.

The company first used its TV platform to re-ignite interest in the franchise with a new CG series launched in 2011 with stories and art styles that made it more contemporary and launching consumer products lines before planning a movie. The company has focused on the property’s cross-generational appeal, looking to reach parents and their children.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series has seen four seasons ordered, making it one of Nick’s longest-running series. It has been the top-rated TV show with boys 2-11 and has ranked second only to ESPN with adults 18-49 in its time period.

Paramount's Turtles film last year brought in about $485 million in global office, according to Box Office Mojo, and the sequel has been greenlit for 2016.

In consumer products, the Turtles generated $1.5 billion at retail in 2014‎, of which Nickelodeon gets a percentage, up from $475 million in the first year after the brand's relaunch. To date, the franchise has reached more than $3 billion in global retail sales. Turtles figures were the number one toy in the U.S. in 2014, not just with boys, but all kids, even beating out Frozen and others, according to research firm NPD Group.

Anthony and his now-wife La La Vazquez have been featured in a couple of docu-soap series on Viacom's VH1. He will also be a part of the second annual Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports awards in L.A. on July 16.

Beyond his basketball career, Anthony has been involved in various philanthropic efforts. Last year, he also created Melo7 Tech Partners to help invest in and develop tech start-ups, such as smart kitchen company The Orange Chef. He has also helped develop Be Everyware, a provider of mobile technology for small businesses. In another business venture, Melo in 2013 partnered with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson to create headphone and accessories brand SMS Audio.

Twitter: @georgszalai