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Here comes the sun… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes takes a look at some of the summer-themed licensing promotions which are beginning to appear at retail.

As the great Bob Marley put it “sun is shining, the weather is sweet, yeah” – well at least it has been for a couple of days.

Generally this has got to be good for everyone and probably a welcome relief to retailers (maybe not the umbrella buyers though). It certainly seems that brands are getting ready for the summer and that summer-themed promotions have started to kick in.

LL2It is always good to see a brand sticking with licensing and taking a long-term approach to their use of licensing. Boots’ suncare brand Soltan has used licensed promotions a number of times over the years including a number of campaigns featuring Disney brands. Seemingly these promotions have worked as I noticed that there is another one in-store at the moment, this time featuring Despicable Me 4. The product and promotion were dual sited in the Boots store I visited including a branded FSDU and a branded section within the suncare aisle. The promotional mechanic centres on a Free Water Bottle when buying two Soltan products. Quite straightforward and clearly communicated, making this an easy offer for consumers to understand and act upon. I have definitely seen an upturn in retailers using shelf strips, shelf barkers and FSDUs in-store to grab the shopper’s attention and to influence in-store purchase. Given Soltan is Boots’ own brand, it has naturally supported the promotion well in-store, but this is a very good example of a brand and retailer who have confidence in licensing. I am sure it would make a good case study to point other retailers towards.

Another summer-themed partnership I noticed this week is one between ice cream brand Jude’s and fashion retailer FatFace. I saw the range showcased in my local FatFace’s windows and it seems to be quite a broad range. Designs dial up Jude’s signature design attributes, most notably its Cornish blue and white colourways along with design devices and slogans leaning in on Jude’s products. It is a clever way for FatFace to deliver a seasonal design theme and to frame the theme around a brand that has a resonance with consumers.

LL4Jude’s has worked hard at building its distribution and has built a clear brand identity as well. I am sure there is a good crossover between Jude’s consumers and FatFace’s, but it is also an innovative way for Jude’s to get more eyeballs on the brand and to reinforce its brand credentials. FatFace is a high street retailer with a distinct look and style which I’m sure suits Jude’s.

It is never clear on what basis deals like this are structured – not all ‘collabs’ follow a conventional licensing path deal wise – but what is certain is that a well matched collaboration can give both parties momentum in the market and help them stand out. For FatFace in particular it creates a retail moment – to coin a phrase it create a ‘stop me and buy one’ moment for consumers. FatFace has curated things well and dialled up the theme well in its windows. As noted earlier, for Jude’s it is a neat way of it reaching new consumers and piquing the interest about the Jude’s brand as it heads into a key selling season. I am sure it helps Jude’s in conversations with its retail network and reinforces its position as a brand doing things differently in a competitive category. I’m sure both parties will have a way of measuring the ROI around this partnership, but it is the sort of activation that should give other brands food for thought. I also think this shows how licensing deals can help cut through and help brands achieve visibility in a flat market.

I have also noticed a lot more promotions and partnerships involving charities recently. A wide spectrum of brands seem to be more willing to use cause-related marketing to help them achieve their goals.

LL1In the licensing world there are more charities using licensing as a fundraising and awareness building tool – brands like the RSPB, the RHS and Battersea Dogs Home are active in the licensing sector. A good example of FMCG brands embracing cause-related marketing is bottled water brand Buxton. I saw in a WHSmith Travel retail branch that it has partnered with the charity MIND, pledging to donate £150,000 in 2024. The partnership carried the strapline ‘Hydrate Your Body and Mind’. It was signposted boldly in the chiller cabinets near the front of store. Again, a good example of point of sale and point of purchase materials being used to lead consumers towards a specific brand. Bottled water is another crowded category and Buxton’s partnership with MIND helps it stand out. It positions Buxton as a brand that cares and one that is supporting a charity that resonates with lots of people. I am sure the campaign has been dialled up in the run up to summer, helping Buxton in a peak sales period. I also thought it was good to see the MIND logo being used on the bottles and signage – this should encourage other charities that there is equity in their brand.

LL3Sticking with the drinks category I read this week that the PerfectTed brand has linked up with Russ Cook, who rose to fame recently as the ‘first man to have run the full length of Africa’. His story was featured widely in the media. Cook is nicknamed ‘the hardest geezer’ and the product developed is an energy drink – Hardest Energy – a strawberry daiquiri flavoured drink. Initially it will be sold by PerfectTed as a direct to consumer product. Reinforcing the point about FMCG brands being prepared to work in the cause-related category more these days, all profits from the sale of this product will go to Cook’s fundraising campaign which is benefitting The Running Charity and Sandblast.

I am sure this idea was in discussion before Cook’s run was underway, but it is a great example of a brand moving quickly to capitalise on a media moment. Challenger brands in particular have to be nimble and agile. I think this sort of partnership and quick to market NPD is a good learning for licensing. I think we need to be open to being quicker in the NPD phase of licensing and be aware that there are opportunities for ‘quick wins’ if we can shorten the start up phase of licensing. Of course, in this example the fact this is a direct to consumer product speeds things up, but there are many examples of direct to consumer platforms that operate in licensing which could be platforms for ‘quick licensing’.

LL6It is seems to be a good week for athletes – I noticed Usain Bolt has linked up with Persil Wonder Wash. Usain is billed as the ‘World’s Fastest Man’ and is being used to help promote the ‘fast’ wash benefits of the Persil Wonder Wash product. It is, of course, a well timed run as we approach the Olympics. This will help shine a light on sports like athletics and it is highly likely Usain Bolt will get a lot of media coverage because of his past accomplishments. Bolt is of course a sporting legend, but he is also a very media friendly personality who is well liked by the public. Persil has chosen well.

As we approach a ‘summer of sport’ which includes the Olympics and the EURO football championships, more brands are unveiling their promotions and products themed around these events (and other sports such as cricket). Sport has the ability to engage consumers creating ‘water cooler’ moments galore. Brands want to be part of this – I expect to see more sporting partnerships and products coming to the fore in the next few weeks. There will undoubtedly be a mix of official promotions and others which are tapping into the uplift in interest in sports.

Let’s hope Bob Marley’s song gets a lot of airtime as we bask in the glory of a promotion filled summer.

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

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