American audiences were introduced to the South African rugby team in “Invictus,” Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
The Springboks, as the team is known in South Africa, recently unveiled a new player — Bokkie, a character from Sunrise Prods.’ “Jungle Beat” cartoon TV series, which airs in more than 100 countries.
Team mascot Bokkie, a Springbok gazelle, made his debut in February in Cape Town, the first stop on the South African Rugby Union Champions Tour, which celebrates the team’s 2009 success by putting its trophies on show at various locations around the country.
“Jungle Beat” follows the adventures of a group of African animals, including a bee struggling with an allergy to pollen and a giraffe trying to overcome a fear of heights.
Sunrise’s Phil Cunningham explains, “When Bokkie is in ‘Jungle Beat’ he is like Clarke Kent but when he puts on the Springbok’s green jersey he becomes like Superman.”
The new character will become a familiar face around South African rugby, with a line of Bokkie-branded children’s clothing and marketing and merchandising campaigns planned for the rest of the year.
“Bokkie is a character who communicates to all South African communities and to all ages, as well as to rugby audiences in other nations,” says South African Rugby Union brand manager Sarah Williams. “He is a Springbok character who is appealing, but has ‘attitude’ to fit the rough and tumble world of rugby. He will assist in developing a broader awareness of rugby among the youth.”
Sunrise is pioneering TV-related merchandising in South Africa, having already extended the “Jungle Beat” brand into local licensing deals with theatrical distributor Nu Metro, South African Airways and British Airways among many others.
The series has won 10 international awards including first place at the Sprockets Toronto Film Festival in 2006 and the National Film Board of Canada’s award for best animated short in 2007.