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The Hundred, inspiring product development and BLE prep… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes highlights some well curated and well matched products that use a brand’s values effectively this week.

I really enjoyed a return visit to one of my favourite places this week, The Oval.

I joined sports licensing consultant Simon Gresswell and the ECB at a fixture in The Hundred tournament. We saw the Oval Invincibles playing the Manchester Originals – the team names giving a clue to how fresh a format The Hundred is. My time at the game gave me the sense that The Hundred is working in regards to attracting a family audience to cricket and specifically finding a way of engaging children with cricket. Of course, it helps that The Ashes series this summer has been so captivating, but it was great to see people at The Hundred in good numbers and to observe how the children in the crowd were thoroughly entertained. The games really piqued their interest.

One thing I noticed was how the players were signing autographs for children adding to their match day experience. As a youngster I used to collect autographs at The Oval and it was quite reassuring to see that in the modern world autographs still have an appeal. It is also an example of how players have realised that they are ambassadors for the game and have a role to play in helping The Hundred to succeed. Of course, their on field performances are certainly helping with some spectacular cricket and athleticism.

LL3Seemingly things are building licensing and merchandising wise for The Hundred, with the on site sales concession doing brisk business with people snapping up items like replica shirts and hats. I am sure licensees New Balance and New Era will be pleased with the uptake. The England team and specifically the captain Ben Stokes have helped revive the fortunes of bucket hats with these proving to be very popular items at the moment. It was also good to see a significant amount of people in the crowd wearing replica shirts another measure of the breakthrough The Hundred format is achieving.

The Hundred has also attracted high profile sponsors such as KP Snacks and Robinson’s which has helped raise the event’s profile. It is also broadcast on Sky and BBC which helps it reach a wider audience. It was certainly a different style of game from the ones I used to watch in the 70s at The Oval, but I was really pleased to see the reaction of the crowd to the game. As an older fan I understand that the ECB had to be proactive in the way it is presenting the game these days to help the game thrive in a more competitive sporting environment. Giving the timing I can see The Hundred representing a good opportunity for licensing categories like back to school, not least as the colourways and idents used by the teams are very fresh, contemporary and on trend.

On site sales were, as I noted, good at The Oval, underpinning the point that event merchandising and location-based selling represents a good opportunity for licensing. This principle can also work well at an individual retail level.

LL2The WH Smith travel branch at Paddington Station has a well presented dedicated area for Paddington merchandise. A simple but very effective way of selling merchandise that is tied into the store location. This focused style of retailing is a good example for others to consider. It was also good to see this branch of WH Smith fully embracing the opportunity that the Barbie movie has presented to sell merchandise. It had a well curated Barbie display populated with a range of products including impulse purchase items that were well suited to a travel retail outlet.

Connected to this I saw that Ryman’s was using licensed products in its window poster promotion for back to school this week. Featured brands were Minecraft and Pokémon underlining the pulling power of licensed properties and how well chosen licences can help drive consumer engagement at retail. It was also a reminder that there is still a place for ‘old school’ retail marketing – window posters with a strong offer and a call to action still work.

As the industry starts preparing for Brand Licensing Europe, I am always pleased to spot some different types and styles of licensing in the market reflecting the fact that licensing is a business with real variety and choice to it. This is an aspect of the industry that BLE captures well and it also a reflection of a more mature marketplace.

LL1The two examples I saw this week which reflect this point were a range of t-shirts in fashion retailer Superdry developed in partnership with rock band Mötley Crüe. A further example of the rising popularity of band brands and music licensing generally. I also saw a window poster (yes another one) for a Red Arrows watch from watch company Citizen. This focused on the watch’s performance and precision picking up on brand values from the iconic Red Arrows. Again, a good example of a product reflecting a brand’s value and inspiring product development.

This is something worth bearing in mind in regards to BLE – the BLE matchmaking service recently opened and this is a really efficient way of researching the show particularly in regards to setting up focused meetings with attendees. It works for licensees, agents and licensors.

Licensing needs to keep supporting the notion of well curated and well matched products that use a brand’s values effectively. This is how all parts of the licensing market can achieve the best results.

Brand Licensing Europe takes place from 4-6 October 2023 at London’s ExCeL. Visitor registration is now open. Simply click here for further details.

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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