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The importance of building sustainable licensing partnerships

Products of Change talks to Tracey Richardson, the charity and partnerships lead at Louis Kennedy, about its work in sustainability and its new initiative, Blu Goblin.

Louis Kennedy is 30 years young as a company and partnerships with purpose are at the heart of that, what is your role?

I’ve only been with Louis Kennedy for 20 years! I was at Marks & Spencer project managing Children’s Promise – the company’s Millennium Charity initiative – when I met the Louis Kennedy team. I needed to buy 1m pin badges from an ethical source and Louis Kennedy was recommended by several charities M&S were supporting. The rest as they say is history.

I wanted to continue focusing my commercial experience with the charity sector and Louis Kennedy gave me the opportunity. My role is all about partnership development, bringing charities, licensed properties and a brand or retailer together for all parties benefit. I identify and initiate opportunities, as well as taking briefs from charities, licensors or companies.

I thrive on bringing people together and developing a partnership campaign, for example Kidscape, Elmer and Sock Shop for Friendship Friday, Shaun the Sheep, The Sleep Charity and Signature Gifts. I also undertake research projects, primarily for charities looking into viability of licensing of their own IP like for NSPCC for example and potential for corporate partnership development as for YHA.

Can you tell us more about the work you are doing on the sustainability front?

We’ve been banging the ethical, compliance and sustainability drums long before they were ever on the political agendas. We ran a six year compliance programme in Asia with all of our manufacturing partners in association with Verite, the world’s leading NFP Social Compliance agency. We firmly believe that if a facility that has the skills and quality of product we are looking for but needs help in meeting other standards we demand, we will work with them to ensure this is achieved, it is a win-win all round and delivers benefits to all.

You’ve been pushing the boundaries on making products in a more sustainable way, most recently with Children in Need. Can you tell us more about that?

The initiative was off the back of our work with Matt Lucas and Thank You Baked Potato during lockdown. It was our first limited edition DTC collectable, for Feed NHS. We took the same concept to BBC, collaborated with BBC Studios and created seven limited Studio Show Pudsey Bears, each with the own numbered passport made from 100% recycled and recyclable materials. It raised over £70,000 for BBC CiN and we are doing it again this year on a much bigger scale and with a great twist.

Can you dig a bit deeper into your Living Streets initiative?

Living Streets is an environmental charity, which fundamentally started out to ensure streets were safe – being involved in the development of the zebra crossing for example. It has major programme in schools called WOW encouraging children to walk, cycle or scoot to school rather than travelling by car. We have enjoyed a 10-year partnership, using competition and reward to motivate UK school children to walk to school. Over time we have created over 50 million rewards with all product made here in the UK from recycled yoghurt pot material and sustainable sources.

Your latest initiative is Blu Goblin, are you able to tell us anymore about this?

Blu Goblin is our latest venture, also born from our experience with Thank You Baked Potato and VIP Pudseys. Targeted to launch late summer/early autumn it is a brand new DTC platform, selling, exclusive, limited edition licensed collectables, with each and every one sold supporting a good cause. We undertook extensive research following the success of the Pudsey and Baked Potato campaigns last year and quickly recognised the potential, both in terms of the size of the collectibles market – some $370bn and the breadth of partnerships which could be involved.

My role is to bring partners to Blu Goblin and the response has been tremendous, thanks to our wonderful licensing industry and its ability to seize on new opportunities. Initially speaking to people we know and have worked with previously, even before the platform had a name, we have engaged IP from a wide range of genres including food, sport, heritage, lifestyle, music and publishing as well as characters.

The model provides an exciting opportunity to develop licensed product categories, which could be challenging in a traditional retail environment, largely due to everything being pre-order, and then manufactured once quantity is known, instead of taking a risk.

On the platform you will find an Aladdin’s Cave of licensed collectables including framed works of art, chess sets, figurines, jewellery, replica sporting trophies, model cars, singing plush and more.

We’ve engaged a specialist, social media marketing agency and an in-house community manager, to bring the widest possible audience to Blu Goblin and engage and entertain customers from placing an order to receiving their prized purchase. Developing this relationship with the customer is a key to success, as proven with the Pudsey and Baked Potato campaigns, we sent videos of the product being made, stories about the charity they were supporting and character content, building the anticipation and expectation of the arrival of their exclusive item.

Our aim is to have a constant, rolling stream of new licensed product launching on the platform. I am already working on campaigns for 2022/23 and look forward to talking to many more licensing colleagues to explore opportunities to bring exciting new products to Blu Goblin.

Products of Change members can listen to the full podcast with Tracey on the Products of Change platform. Not yet a member of Products of Change? Find out more about the benefits of joining.

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