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A return to live… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes spots some green shoots for the live licensing category this week.

It is encouraging to see more live events coming on stream and venues opening up. Even more so during a half-term week.

Licensing has an increasingly important role to play in the sector as a provider of content, but also in some cases merchandise. For many rights holders and licensees having over a year of no activity was of course a serious issue. This is a financial concern, but also a marketing and communication one. Live events and appearances provide valuable platforms for rights holders to reach consumers and to build equity in their IP.

I was reminded of one aspect of the link between live events and licensing this week when I saw a couple of products in-store.

Euro 2020 is starting its takeover of Sainsbury's as the tournament nears.
Euro 2020 is starting its takeover of Sainsbury's as the tournament nears.

The first were some official Euro 2020 footballs in a dump bin in Sainsbury’s. Encouragingly it seemed that half the stock had been sold already even before the tournament had started.

I also spotted a promotion and product linked to the Tour de France. This was in WH Smiths. The promotion was a free sports bottle and drink mix with every purchase of the Official Tour de France 2021 Guide. The Guide itself was displayed prominently in-store while the promotion was featured on a display outside the store.

In both these cases the events that the products are connected with are a catalyst for sales and they are good examples of how product licensing can leverage off live events.

Rainbow Productions has been managing costume character appearances at London Zoo and Kidzania among others.
Rainbow Productions has been managing costume character appearances at London Zoo and Kidzania among others.

It is also encouraging to see costume company Rainbow Productions is back on the road and managing appearances from its portfolio of costumes. It is a bellwether for the live sector. Rainbow Productions manages live appearances for a range of popular characters and in turn these are booked by a plethora of venues. The fact that these sort of events are going ahead is good news and a positive sign for the licensing eco system.

Over the last few days it has managed appearances for The Very Hungry Caterpillar at London Zoo and Pikachu at Kidzania among others. The appearances are either standalone events or, as in the case of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, part of a wider programme of activities. Venues like London Zoo have recognised how a well-known character can add extra appeal to their offer and in the context of half-term and other holidays give them access to instant content.

The Brainiac live show has opened at Butlin's, showing its durability and staying power.
The Brainiac live show has opened at Butlin's, showing its durability and staying power.

Many years ago I acted as a licensing consultant for Sky Television and one of the brands I worked on at the time was the live action TV show Brainiac.

Brainiac is a fast paced live action TV show that looks at science in a fun and original way with an emphasis on eye-catching and in some cases eye watering experiments. Dan Colman, a live events producer, felt Brainiac had great potential as a stage show. Over ten years ago he acquired the live rights in Brainiac and developed a stage format. Initially this ran in the West End as a theatre show and then went out on tour. It has been refreshed several times over the years and Dan has found new venues for the show including Butlin’s.

Last week the show opened again at Butlin’s. This is a great tribute to Dan and to Brainiac in terms of its durability and staying power. Butlin’s has been a long-term supporter of licensed content, recognising the value that it brings and how well curated content is a great fit with its customers.

The ongoing success of Brainiac Live is a great example of how a well produced and managed live show can have staying power and become a lynchpin for a property. IP owners have recognised the potential that theatrical shows offer them and it is more common to see live shows planned into licensing programmes these days.

V for Vendetta: Behind the Mask is running at the Cartoon Museum in London.
V for Vendetta: Behind the Mask is running at the Cartoon Museum in London.

Another event that caught my eye this week and is a good example of how live events come in all shapes and sizes was the opening of a V for Vendetta: Behind the Mask exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in London.

The exhibition features 36 original comic artworks, storyboards and costume designs from the V for Vendetta movie. Specialist exhibitions in venues like the Cartoon Museum create new opportunities for IP owners and fresh ways to stay in touch with fans. Managing a fan community requires skill and sensitivity.

With an IP like V for Vendetta an exhibition creates a great forum for fans and builds a platform to communicate from for the IP owner. It is likely that an exhibition like this will travel around to other venues creating ongoing opportunities. Of course, it is also a good boost for merchandise sales and in this case for the graphic novel in particular.

All in all some good signs for live licensing. Let’s hope this trend continues and that the live sector is able to keep building momentum. It is certainly an increasingly important part of the licensing mix.

Ian Downes runs Start Licensing, an independent brand licensing agency. His Twitter handle is @startlicensing – he would welcome your suggestions for what to look out for.

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