Rob Corney talks ten years of Bulldog and what the future holds for the agency and the industry.
Bulldog Licensing entered the New Year in buoyant mood having spent 2017 marking its ten-year anniversary.
The original aim, md Rob Corney explains, was to provide agency services to an industry which was rapidly changing from a linear business model to a more ‘triangular’ relationship between retailer, licensee and agent.
“At the time, the agencies were largely focused on managing licensees, but it was clear that the retailers were taking a more active approach to developing their plans for character and entertainment,” Rob says. “A retail first approach seemed the natural evolution of the industry, so Bulldog became the first agency to actively pursue this.”
In addition, major licensors were no longer simply placing their properties with large agencies, believing this would give them the best route to market. Agencies with nimble reactions, a smaller brand count and highly engaged team were starting to make waves.
Rob continues: “Some of the world’s biggest brands now find their home with Bulldog as they recognise the structure and approach is a far more effective way of delivering to the market.”
Bulldog’s first licensor was World of Wishes, and Rob recalls that Danilo was the first licensee to get on board with the cute sentiment brand, Little Ewe. From there, playground craze GoGo’s Crazy Bones helped to really put Bulldog on the map, with the worldwide licensing programme reaching 57 licensees between 2008 and 2010. The company now has 16 brands in its portfolio, including the likes of DreamWorks Animation, Angry Birds, Shopkins and Match Attax.
Rob’s ability to spot a craze has continued with Shopkins – the Moose brand topped the sales charts in the girls’ sector across multiple product categories in 2017, building on 2016 success which saw it win Best Children’s or Tween Licensing Property at The Licensing Awards.
On top of this, Miraculous made an impressive licensing debut, as well as new product ranges for Mass Effect Andromeda, a strong TV debut for Zak Storm and Enid Blyton licensed lines hitting retail. A Crystal Maze licensing programme also got underway, while Brand Licensing Europe acted as a platform to launch Match Attax into the licensing space.
Rob continues: “Without a doubt, our track record of delivering strong commercial returns for all stakeholders is by far the most important factor driving Bulldog. Having had prime mover advantage in the changing landscape of the industry, we have been recognised as having the ability to maximise a brand’s potential, whether the brand comes with an audience of millions or has yet to launch.”
Rob believes that Bulldog is currently in a great place as an agency: “To be recognised by our peers as the go-to place for developing established and new brands in our home territory is something we’re very proud of… and over the next ten years, we plan to consolidate on that, while continuing to build opportunities both at home and abroad.”
Additional growth for the business will come from related areas, Rob hints, building opportunities to further support the industry including a venture into the logistics world with Licensing Logistics.
So, what’s the biggest thing that Rob has learnt over the course of the past ten years? “The licensing industry is a small community, every part of which is reliant on the success of the other parts,” he says. “If we support the industry, the industry will look after us but if you start to view it as a one-way opportunity, it will be to the detriment of all players.”
It’s clear that Rob’s advice of treating people right and they will return the compliment many times over has been something he has followed over the past ten years. And the future is certainly looking bright.
Rob concludes: “There have been some amazing highlights over the last ten years… let’s face it, if you can’t have fun in entertainment brand licensing, you’re doing something wrong! But to build one of the most dynamic and highly regarded agencies in the industry while having fun has been an enormous privilege.”
2018 is looking set to be another strong year for Bulldog, says Rob, outlining plans for a number of brands.
“Building on the foundation of the strong sell-through we’re seeing for Miraculous, we will see the brand capitalise on its domination of the girls’ ratings on both Pop and Disney, while the strong start to the Match Attax licensing programme is a huge opportunity for licensees to benefit from the UK’s biggest kids’ football brand,” he says.
“Shopkins continues to deliver strong numbers across several categories and has excellent retail support moving into the New Year, and new content launches from Angry Birds and Zak Storm look hugely exciting and are generating massive interest amongst both licensees and retailers. Garfield’s 40th anniversary will see new ranges launching to celebrate the fat cat’s big year, with soft lines and pet products being particular focuses.”