Licensing’s Coming Home… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes casts his eye over how Christmas and the World Cup are co-existing at retail, plus how fans of other categories are also being catered for.

As I am sure we all know, the FIFA World Cup has started. Putting aside the ongoing debates about the host country, the timing of the tournament and other issues, I have been looking out for World Cup related merchandise. Admittedly I haven’t carried out a thorough audit, but my overall impression is that there is less licensing and promotional activity linked to the tournament.

In previous years there have been a plethora of promotions across a range of sectors, but there seems significantly less now. Likewise there seems to be fewer licensed products around. Timing is certainly an issue here I guess as a lot of shelf space is taken with Christmas products. I suspect on the promotional side some brands may have chosen to give this tournament a miss or operate at a lower level. Promotionally many companies can, of course, tap into the football theme generically and also dial up England/Wales iconography as well without using a licence.

LL2Stalwart licensees like Panini have been very proactive and the official sticker collection is widely available. It relies on traditional launch techniques such as giving away free sticker albums and tying in promotionally with national newspapers. The Sunday Mirror ran a promotion which offered six free stickers for example. One caveat I would add to my observations this week is to reference Simon Gresswell’s recent article for LicensingSource.net which highlighted some of the new ways the World Cup IP is being used in licensing including online examples. It is worth reading Simon’s article and taking on board his observations.

Of course, another way of riding the World Cup wave is to use other football-related brands or themes. LicensingSource.net reported earlier in the week about Poetic Brands partnering with Sunny Side Up Consulting to develop an apparel range featuring lyrics from the song Sweet Caroline which has become a favourite of football fans. The t-shirts are listed in Tesco.

LL4Another similar example to this is a Christmas jumper in Tesco featuring the line Football’s Coming Home. In this case it has been cleverly adapted to say ‘For Christmas’ to extend the garment’s appeal.

Both of these are good examples of being creative around an event and finding new ways of leveraging it.

From a licensing perspective, the tournament branding and individual teams works well in lots of cases, but doesn’t cover all bases and in some cases consumers are looking for alternatives.

LL3Sticking with football, I noticed that WH Smith is selling an England: European Champions souvenir magazine celebrating the Lionesses’ victory in the European Championships. Good to see this product out there and it is a reminder that there are opportunities for licensing around women’s football. I am expecting to see more licensees working in this space and creating ranges that are specific to it. There is a growing army of Lionesses fans out there – as well as fans of women’s football generally.

Thinking of fans and remembering my recent visit to MCM Comic Con, it was interesting to see WH Smith featuring a FSDU in conjunction with Abysse featuring anime and manga properties such as Dragonball Z and One Piece. This is a real sign that this genre of property is now very much part of the mainstream and retailers recognise there is a following for it. Of course, retailers will monitor sell-through, but retailers like WH Smith have a good knowledge pool around anime and magna through monitoring sales of items like books, albums and magazines.

LL5HMV is another retailer that has fandom very much at the centre of its business and on a personal note it has been very satisfying to see it supporting Aardman’s Wallace & Gromit ranges from Aurora and Half Moon Bay. There are great displays throughout HMV’s growing retail estate. It is good to see HMV embracing IP from different sources and recognising that fandom can flow from a range of different genres and interests.

Fan engagement with the IP is a key consideration and also product that has been developed with fans in mind – attention to detail and products that delve into the brand’s DNA rather than just take a one size fits all approach to NPD. It has also been really interesting being part of pulling this range together and a good reminder that licensing is a collaborative business.

LL1Finally, it is also worth noting an old mantra that one of my old CPL bosses used to quote – you should always fish where the fish swim. This came to mind this week when filling up my car at a local petrol station. Please be reassured I had checked my bank account before doing so!

Anyway I noticed on a header card affixed to the petrol pump a promotion for a range of products available in-store. These included a range of Top Gear – The Stig car air fresheners… definitely this week’s winner of the Licensing Lookout Fish Where The Fish Swim Award for product placement. Top Gear fans cars will never have smelt better…

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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