For the first time, Bleacher Creatures is putting the fate of an athlete’s plush doll in the hands of fans, who must band together and finance the product in limited time, or risk its entire existence. With licenses for the big four professional sports leagues, Bleacher Creatures could experiment with just about any athlete. A Tim Tebow doll? Too obvious. Albert Haynesworth? Come on, now. No, in all of sports, the toy company is testing the fan-demand plush doll on....
With Alex Ovechkin dolls already lining the shelves at retailers, Caps fan Brad Mattingly, 22, of Southern Maryland, approached Bleacher Creatures about making more Capitals. Mattingly suggested Laich, the team’s human Swiss Army knife and designated tire changer.
“He’s just as much a pillar to this team as Ovechkin and his skills on and off the ice speak so much about his character,” Mattingly said. “I hope through this we here in Washington can show our appreciation of Brooks and all the moments he’s given us.”
Starting Monday, fans have 30 days to commit to buying 900 of these at $22 each (with free shipping); otherwise, the product may not get made, refunds will be issued, and Laich fans will have a gaping hole in the spot between their Laich bobbleheads, “I Heart Laich” pins, and “Laich Kiss Me” tees.
“This test is to empower fans and allow them to drive product decisions that don’t always get addressed,” Bleacher Creature president Matthew Hoffman said. “It will be a challenge to hit our factory minimum to get this to go, but we felt that because of Brooks and the Capitals fans, we have a good shot.”
If the endeavor is a success, Bleacher Creatures will likely try this with other athletes, including more Capitals. That puts all the pressure on Laich, the lab rat of the fan-demand plush doll experiment. And why not? Laich signed a six-year, $27 million contract extension in the offseason, and the Caps report his t-shirt sales are up ten percent since last season.
“What do you do with it?” Laich pondered when told about the doll after the Caps’ 4-2 victory Friday. “I can give one to my niece.”
Other than Ovechkin, Bleacher Creatures hasn’t yet made Washington-area sports plush dolls, though a Nicklas Backstrom prototype has been spotted, and Redskins’ linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is planned for next season.
Follow Ben Sumner on Twitter: @benjaminsumner