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How M&S is scoring with England’s football teams… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes checks out M&S’ expanded partnership with the England teams this week.

Prompted by a supersized poster at Waterloo (in fact M&S and England had taken over the IMAX Roundabout), I popped into a local branch of M&S to check out its new deal with the England Football teams. Note the ‘s’ on team – this deal covers the Men’s and Women’s football teams. This is further confirmation that both teams are getting equal billing commercially.

M&S was announced as the official ‘formalwear’ partner for the England teams recently. The deal builds on a deal dating back to 2007 when M&S became the official suit supplier to England. This new deal kicks off initially with a menswear collection released in the run up to the World Cup. I saw this collection in my local store and it was really well presented, given a lot of space and well merchandised. Support in-store included photography of star players, signage and good use was made of the Three Lions crest on swingtags. From a retail perspective it was well managed and stylish. I think this reflects M&S’ desire to reach a new and perhaps younger audience. Both England teams are packed with footballing superstars and there is an aspirational aspect to a deal like this.

The range has been developed using contemporary styling, fabrics and colourways. It also links into sustainable sourcing with the cotton used sourced through the Better Cotton programme for example. According to England football’s press release, this partnership is for three years giving both sides team to review performance. Success on the pitch will no doubt help drive retail sales and, of course, the recent success of the England Womens’ team gives M&S a terrific platform to build on. The Womenswear collection is due to launch in 2023.

LL5I think this is a very positive move by M&S but it does bring some challenges – for example I wonder how it manages distribution outside of its stores in England. That said there may be parallel arrangements with other football associations. Of course, there is always the inbuilt risk with working with sports and personalities in regards to ongoing success. In this case the Womens’ team have bagged a trophy so this makes things less risky, but it will help M&S and the range if the Mens team performs well at the World Cup. While this is a collective deal there is also a challenge in making sure all the comms around it feature players who are performing well, remain injury free and in the team.

M&S hasn’t stopped at apparel though in terms of its work with Team England. It is also running a campaign called Eat Well Play Well at the moment. I should say this partnership includes all the football teams of all four home nations. I just saw the English version. The campaign centres on promoting and encouraging healthy eating. One aspect of the campaign is the distribution of a free recipe booklet that features recipes from Ella Toone, Jess Carter, Kyle Walker and Mason Mount. These feature ingredients sold in M&S which in turn are promoted in-store with Eat Well signage. I think this is a good initiative and a proactive way to use the ‘power of football’. It is a good example of an integrated campaign and given the link through apparel there may well be more activations around football in M&S to come. One small observation was I thought it would have been good for one of the recipes in the booklet to be a vegetarian or vegan one. But overall it is a campaign to be applauded, especially if it helps consumers make healthier eating choices.

Interestingly M&S uses personalities elsewhere in-store. Presumably it feels that this kind of partnership works well and is effective. Chef and TV personality Tom Kerridge is presenting Tom Kerridge’s Remarksable Meal Planner. Here Tom has designed five family recipes and also provides ideas for using leftovers. You will be pleased to know that Tuesday’s recipe is a vegetarian one: roasted spiced cauliflower with slow-cooked onions and greens. Also I didn’t get the Remarksable bit at first – I thought it was a typo but am warming to it now!

LL4Rather like the England recipe booklet there is a lot to admire about this partnership, particularly in regards to the guidance and inspiration it is providing. Tom Kerridge is a very credible personality who is passionate about food, recipes and cooking. The promotion is also digitally enhanced with a QR code that allows consumers to access and explore Tom’s meal planner.

M&S is also still working with TV personality Fred Sirieix who curates M&S’ wine collection providing recommendations for wine choices. This has been running for a while and includes in-store FSDUs. This sort of approach seems to work for M&S and it seems to have chosen the personalities well. There is, of course, the ongoing challenge around profile and brand fit, but there is also the challenge of finding personalities who appeal to a range of consumers and not just a narrow band of consumers.

LL2Outside of M&S it was really good to see how Danilo has placed character card FSDUs in the card department in Tesco. The FSDU is packed with a wonderful selection of licensed cards priced from £1. Featured brands include Wallace & Gromit, Mr Men, Only Fools and Horses and Wonder Woman. The collection has been carefully curated to have broad appeal I think and, of course, this is where well known brands work well. They have instant recognition and appeal.

It is good to see a licensee managing an opportunity like this and providing a visible showcase for licensing. Shelf space is competitive these days and programmes like managed FSDUs give an opportunity for increased in-store presence. I think this is also something that should appeal to other retailers and work for them – it is a way of dipping into the sales appeal of licensed brands and creating some retail theatre in a relatively low cost way.


I also managed to achieve a career first this week. This is quite something when you have been in licensing for as long as I have!

Working with our client The Ashmolean Museum, we have licensed the Hook Norton Brewery to develop an Ashmolean Ale. It has brewed an Ashmolean IPA which launched this week. The first bottles of the ale were delivered to the Ashmolean in central Oxford by horse and dray. Clydesdale horse Commander stole the show on his delivery round and became a social media star.

This is the first time I have had a licensed product and samples delivered by a horse, but I think it could become the norm. It was a very eye-catching event and generated a lot of publicity. It also fits in well with one of the Ashmolean’s aims of working with local companies when and where it can. For Hook Norton it has loved exploring the Ashmolean to get inspiration for the Ale and to build a story around it. We hope to do more with them over the coming months, not least so Commander can make another delivery!

LL3Finally, some of you may know that I have a Port of London Authority permit to Mudlark on the Thames foreshore. So from time to time I will pop down onto the Thames foreshore for a mid morning mudlark between meetings. I find items like clay pipes and ceramic shards which give a little insight into London’s history.

Generally it is a licensing free zone, but this week as I mudlarked near Tower Bridge I was also able to do some Licensing Lookout work. On several occasions the Terrible Thames Horrible Histories boat tour passed me by. The sightseeing tour has been going a while and the boat looks splendid in its Horrible Histories branding. It also sounds like a great tour although annoyingly I only heard snatches of the colourful commentary as the boat sailed by.

I thought it was a great use of the brand and a reminder that there is no escaping licensing even on a muddy foreshore!

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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