We chat to the new-look line-up at BBC Worldwide about its ambitious plans for 2017 and beyond.
2016 was certainly a year of change and growth at BBC Worldwide – not just in terms of its brands, but also in the shape and structure of its licensing team.
A host of new faces arrived at Television Centre in West London throughout the year, as Rikesh Desai, licensing director for merchandise and gaming, consumer products, set about the task of growing the breadth of the team across all areas.
“We had two key objectives,” Rikesh explains. “Firstly, it was to really focus. I think historically we’d probably spread ourselves too thinly across all the different franchise brands. And, secondly, it was to grow our retail footprint.
“We set out that strategy from the outset – put the right people in the right place and grow the breadth of the team so we could explore as many product categories as possible, especially for the more established brands that had been in the market for a long time.”
The strategy involved creating what Rikesh calls a “centre of excellence” based in the UK but also able to serve the global market. Existing functions in the US and Australia remain in place, with CPLG bought on board to bolster the EMEA region.
Jason Easy, head of licensing, and Julie Kekwick, senior licensing manager, have also seen their respective teams boosted.
Henry Foulds arrived from Hasbro – where he was brand manager – as licensing manager to look after food and beverages, health and beauty and third party promotions, while Anita Majhu took on the role of licensing manager for softlines boasting retail buyer experience from George, Mothercare and Tesco.
“I love product and apparel is a real passion of mine,” says Anita. “I am fortunate to have worked with some great retailers and also spend time as a licensee. This has given me invaluable 360 degree experience and a real understanding of the market.”
For Henry, too, that licensee experience is proving invaluable: “Working on some of the biggest toy and entertainment properties in the business at Hasbro taught me a lot about what it takes to successfully manage licences and how they resonate with consumers and can successfully be developed.”
Anna McArdle then joined the team in October as licensing executive, bringing with her agency-side experience from her previous role at Fluid World, giving further depth to the team.
Meanwhile, the expansion of the company’s retail footprint is already happening thanks to the arrival of former Nickelodeon executive Katie Ball as retail partnerships manager.
“We wanted someone who had experience of managing franchise brands into retail and actually doing things at retail level,” says Rikesh. “If you assume servicing retail is just going to happen, then it won’t. Katie is making it happen within that space for us.”
And there’s certainly a lot going on brand wise for the team to get their teeth into.
Hey Duggee is already on a roll thanks to its Children’s BAFTA win and product is starting to grow at retail, with a focus on growing the softlines footprint. There are some key marketing initiatives on the cards too, including one which will see the brand look to ‘own the hug’.
The Go Jetters toy line from Fisher-Price has got off to a stellar start at retail, says Rikesh, with the team looking to build on this and expand into other categories, while new partners are being looked at for Sarah & Duck. 2017 will also see the focus on Mr Tumble “dialed up”. New content has been commissioned and there is solid retail support, particularly from Toys R Us.
“We think there is an opportunity to dial it up in 2017,” says Rikesh. “There will be greater focus in terms of marketing and around product categories. We think we can grow Mr Tumble to become a really strong evergreen brand in the portfolio.”
And speaking of evergreens, a new licensing programme has been created around Doctor Who, which is trend-led, character rich and has a level of flexibility to it, entitled Doctor Who Universe. A good example of what to expect has already been teased with the Mr Men mash-up, which was revealed at BLE last year.
“Going forward, the opportunity is how do we find more of those to expand the brand and attract new audiences, but also to serve the existing fans,” Rikesh adds.
Top Gear, too, will have a new programme – World of Top Gear – allowing the brand to have a consistent presence at retail beyond what happens with the TV show.
“This allows us to create a style guide that talks to petrol heads all the way through to your more casual automotive buyer, either for themselves or as a gift. The one thing I want to own are those moments in the year where there’s a go-to male gift, be it Father’s Day or a birthday.”
It seems that BBC Worldwide is at the beginning of a perfect storm, both in terms of the success of its brands and the new team. Mark them both has ones to watch for 2017 and beyond.
“Our marketing strategy in 2017 is around firstly growing brand awareness, supporting retail sell-through and then driving fan engagement,” Nancy Twynam, head of marketing, consumer products and publishing UK, explains.
2016 ended on a high for BBC Worldwide, with the CBeebies Village being the undoubted star of Hamleys Toy Parade in late November. The interactive live entertainment experience formed one of the largest areas on the parade map.
It featured live performances, costume character appearances and interactive entertainment, as well as a special performance from Justin Fletcher, star of Something Special and Justin’s House.
An array of CBeebies costume character favourites were also present. These included Hey Duggee in a live show, Go Jetters’ Ubercorn and Grandmaster Glitch, plus appearances from Bing, Everything’s Rosie, Teletubbies, Q Pootle 5, Twirlywoos, Kate and Mim-Mim, Furchester Hotel, Postman Pat, In the Night Garden and Tree Fu Tom.
“The CBeebies Village worked really really well,” says Nancy. “It was the first time that we’ve bought lots of IPs together under the CBeebies umbrella and we want to build on that further in 2017, with the big win being retail space.”
Attention for 2017 will also be on building campaigns for Go Jetters and Hey Duggee, run by BBC Worldwide but that all licensing partners can then hang activity off.
“We’re here to help licensees and retailers as well; that’s our job, we see ourselves as the coordinator across everything,” Nancy adds.