Being a B&LLA: “Being awarded a B&LLA was a real vote of confidence”

With tomorrow (Wednesday 8 March) marking the closing date for entries for the B&LLAs 2023, has been catching up with previous recipients to find out what winning a B&LLA meant to them.

Here, Ian Downes, director of Start Licensing, and Nadiya Hussain reflect on Nadiya’s 2019 Best Brand Licensed Homewares Product or Range win for the Nadiya Hussain Make Life Colourful collection by State of Bliss.

How did it feel to win a B&LLA in 2019, and what did it mean for the licensing programme overall?

Ian: All of us involved in Nadiya’s licensing programme and products were delighted to see State of Bliss win an award for their Nadiya product range. As the first licensee in Nadiya’s programme it was a real vote of confidence for everyone and provided reassurance that we were heading in the right direction. Nadiya was fully involved in developing the range and continues to be an integral part of her licensing programme, contributing product ideas, developing design and supporting the programme.

Can you outline what’s happened to Nadiya’s licensing programme in the intervening years?

Nadiya: I am delighted to see how well my licensing programme has developed and evolved since it started. State of Bliss was the first licensee I worked with, and it was lovely to see them win a B&LLA for their range. I am now working with Prestige, Woodmansterne and Wilton Bradley as well, with a few new announcements to come soon. I’ve really enjoyed partnering with these companies, not least as I have been hands-on with them and feel the products represent me very well. I like the sense of collaboration that licensing brings and have found it a great way to extend my creative thinking. Long may it continue!

Ian: Nadiya takes a proactive approach to licensing and is involved in all the decision-making associated with it. We have tried to focus on deals and developments that make sense rather than say yes to everything that we have been offered. Having a focused approach has meant that we have built the licensing programme steadily and on firm foundations. Licensees on board include Woodmansterne for greeting cards, including birthday cards and cards for occasions such as Mother’s Day. Nadiya worked with Woodmansterne’s creative team to develop the range and the cards really represent her outlook well. They are in the market and doing well. In fact, independent retailer Between The Lines has created a Mother’s Day window display featuring Nadiya’s cards.

Wilton Bradley are marketing children’s baking kits with Nadiya and the range was a key feature of their recent tradeshow stands. Nadiya worked with them to develop a range that reflects her outlook on cooking and baking but delivered in a ‘child friendly’ way – these kits are linked to Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story book range.

Prestige has also launched a range of Nadiya cookware, including features such as stackable saucepans and a universal lid to make it more practical for people to store the products. These sorts of ideas have emerged through the product development process which saw Nadiya and Prestige’s design team work very collaboratively.

Nadiya has also worked with the retailer Next on a number of fashion edits, a partnership that recently resulted in Next launching Nadiya’s headwear collection. Beyond this, Nadiya’s TV and media career continues to flourish whilst her publishing programme regularly sees new book releases. She is also a key feature at events like BBC Good Food Live.

Nadiya500x500Do you think the licensing industry has changed since 2019? Have you spotted any trends, or any sectors ripe for growth?

Ian: Overall we have found that licensees and retailers seem eager to work in a more considered and focused way. A word that is often used is ‘authenticity’. We feel that licensees are looking for the story behind the brand and are building a more long-term approach to their licensing. This suits us as the approach fits in with Nadiya’s outlook and desire to build longer-term partnerships in an authentic way. Nadiya’s knowledge and insight into cooking, baking, food and ingredients opens up potential in these areas and she is very aware of the latest trends in these categories.

From a licensing perspective we are thinking about people’s lifestyles and life stages, and also how consumers are working to tighter budgets these days. Beyond this, consumers seem to warm to Nadiya’s approach to life and how she talks about her experiences. This certainly translated well to greeting cards and we are looking at other product categories that make sense in this context – for example, notebooks that have additional content in them.

What do you think are the major challenges/opportunities in licensing associated with brand personalities?

In general terms, I think it is important to be consistent and for the licensing programme to really reflect the personality’s work, outlook and expertise; I would reference the word authenticity again. I also think it is important to be focused and know when to say no. You don’t have to do everything on offer and you don’t have to be involved in every category. Sometimes it’s worth asking the question: why?

Are you able to share details of your plans for 2023?

We are building on the existing licensing programme and it is good to see momentum there. Nadiya will be on TV again this year with a new BBC series and associated publishing programme. She has a busy calendar of events such as BBC Good Food Live. We are also close to announcing a major new licensing deal which is shaping up really well and will take Nadiya into a new category, but in a really meaningful way.

What qualities do you look for in a licensing partner?

It’s important to work with licensing partners who have a shared vision and a progressive plan; they need to be able to contribute to the process and add value to the partnership. It can’t be a one-way process. We look for a good brand and personality fit with licensees coupled with companies who have proven expertise in their category. Of course, a route to market is important as well. Specifically, it is good to partner with companies who are looking to involve Nadiya in product development and welcome her contribution to this part of the process. It is also nice to be valued by companies and not just seen as a short-term fix.

The B&LLAs 2023 are now open for entry. The awards are FREE to enter and all entries are made digitally. The closing date for entry submission is Wednesday 8th March, 2023. CLICK HERE TO ENTER.

The winners of the awards will be revealed at a lavish afternoon event held at The Royal Lancaster Hotel, Lancaster Terrace, London on Thursday 27 April 2023, that will be attended by over 500 retailers, licensees, brand owners and representatives.

For ticket and table information for The B&LLAs awards event, please click here.

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