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“Rights are arriving from different directions”… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes takes a look at a variety of deals based on very contrasting rights and in different market sectors this week.

Life in the modern world meant I was able to Lookout on Las Vegas from afar; quite often from my sofa. Judging by everyone’s posts, it is no less busy in Vegas but what also struck me was the diverse mix of rights, deals and products in licensing these days.

Rights are arriving from different directions and a broader mix of companies are involved in the business of licensing. This is certainly something my recent Looking Out has confirmed.

Over the last week or so I have seen a real variety of deals in the market based on very contrasting rights and popping up in different market sectors.

LL2Heritage Coins – which is part of direct marketing business Bradford Exchange – used the Metro newspaper to promote its offer of the official D-Day 75th anniversary £5 coin which was launched initially in 2019. The coin was licensed by the Ministry of Defence and is the first £5 coin to feature the emblems of The Royal Navy, the Army and the RAF. The coin was accompanied by a collectors’ presentation pack. The coin was struck by the Royal Mint and is part of a set of six. The advertisement appeared on 6 June to coincide with D-Day.

Companies like Bradford Exchange are able to use different types of brands productively not least because of their accumulated product and consumer insight. They have a very rich bank of experience to access.

LL3A company that seems to be making the most of the diversity found in licensing at the moment is Disney, particularly around its 100th anniversary. It has used this magic moment to marshal a broad range of products and partnerships. I spotted a couple last week which served to illustrate this point. It is working with cereal company Weetabix on a range of products featuring Disney’s IP. The first product out of the gate is a ‘100 Years of Wonder’ Multigrain Hoop pack featuring an assortment of characters. There are apparently a number of other products in the pipeline. All of the products will be HFSS compliant and will adhere to Disney’s own guidelines in regards to nutritional standards. The products will feature a variety of characters emphasising Disney’s rich history and heritage.

Weetabix is no stranger to licensing, but hasn’t been so active in recent times licensing wise; this is seemingly a well considered return to licensing. I am sure being part of Disney’s 100th anniversary helped persuade Weetabix to come on board. It is a campaign with momentum and a phalanx of partners.

LL4Another one I spotted was apparel company RSVLTS. It is a US-based company with a global footprint and specialises in developing trend-led shirts featuring licensed characters. It develops patterns and designs in very original ways and has developed a portfolio of Disney products to tie in with the anniversary. One that caught my eye in particular was the Steamboat Mickey shirt. It makes great use of archive illustrations and captures the spirit of the 1928 film, Steamboat Willie.

This is a great example of how licensees are using IP imaginatively design-wise to reach older consumers and in turn how older consumers are seeking out products that allow them to express their ‘fandom’ in more sophisticated and subtle ways. It is also a good example of another trend in licensing which is seeing licensees take a more proactive approach to distribution and seeking opportunities beyond their own domestic marketplace.

LL1A final example of the changing face of licensing and collaborative partnerships that I would highlight is the launch of Morph’s Epic Art Adventure art trail this week. This trail – developed by Wild in Art – is a collaboration between it, Aardman and charity Whizz-Kidz. The art trail is a fundraiser for Whizz-Kidz, but also a focused way for it to get the message across about wheelchair users having equal access to facilities and opportunities. The trail is a step free one emphasising the point about accessibility in a tangible way. The trail runs around the South Bank, Bankside and the City. It features Morphs that have been designed and decorated by artists. This is another feature of these trails; they represent great opportunities for artists to showcase their talents while giving IP owners access to fresh creative ideas.

Start Licensing has sponsored one of the Morphs – Tiger Morph – he is located on the corner of Milk Street and Cheapside. Tiger Morph was created by artist Sandra Russell and is a great example of how an artist can add a new perspective to a classic character. The trail is also a wonderful example of how licensing and licensed IP can be used in new ways and to bring a range of companies together. If you get chance, go and explore the trail. It is a great way of exploring London and getting some valuable steps in (maybe tie it into the License to Move initiative).

Hopefully those of you who made the trip to Las Vegas will be shortly cashing in all those promissory notes received last week and we will see more examples of licensing being used in fresh ways in new markets. I will certainly be Looking Out for them.

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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