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The Licensing Lookout

Extending the reach of iconic board games in licensing has caught the eye of Ian Downes this week.

It is always refreshing to see licensing being used in a pinpoint and focused way. Often in these cases it is not about the number of licensed products developed but the appropriateness of the activity.

With this in mind, it is good to see how Hasbro and Mattel extend the reach of some of their iconic board game brands through strategic licensing.


This week I saw board game brands such as Guess Who? and Monopoly being used for Christmas crackers and chocolate gift sets. In both examples the products featured adapted versions of the games and create product platforms to extend the brand experience. The emphasis being on fun, family gameplay.

For the licensee they are able to access well-known and well supported brands in the run up to Christmas. This is a time when consumers are thinking about social occasions and adding fun to the Christmas experience.

Board game brands have generally been well managed in licensing extending into other categories such as promotions, lottery scratchcards and gaming machines. The brand owners have probably covered most of the bases but it is a brand licensing category that is worth looking at – licensees have tapped into the category in areas like housewares and bedding before. Remember the Twister bedding range?

Could be some more opportunities for licensing from the sector – I can see Monopoly Old Kent Road t-shirts selling well in the Millwall Club Shop…


As noted before there is increased pressure on retail space available for licensed products. With this in mind licensors and licensees have had to think about new ways to grab space. This has resulted in a growth of the use of selling tools like clipstrips and FSDUs.

I saw a really good example of the latter this week with bedding licensee Dreamtex developing a branded FSDU for The Gruffalo. This was located in the bedding aisle in Sainsbury’s and was visually very impactful, making good use of the character’s charming artwork. The FSDU was stocked with a range of Dreamtex products including a very cute and innovative storytime pillow which includes text from the book linking bedtime storytelling with the classic book licence well.

I am not privy to the economics of this arrangement, but it is good to see licensee and licensor investing at retail, but investing in an activity that has some modicum of measurability and control associated with it. Hopefully the retailer will keep the FSDU well stocked with the right product. By investing at retail and developing the range, Dreamtex have also made their category more gifting friendly which seems a good additional route to go.

A feature of Christmas retailing is the presence of composite gift products in seasonal space in retailers. A lot of these gifts feature a combination of items such as food product and ceramics. Retailers such as Debenhams, Tesco and Sainsbury’s are very active in this space, blending licensed ranges with own brand developments.


Two great examples of composite gifts using brands from the food and drink category are a range centred on the restaurant brand Nando’s and its signature sauces. The range is in Debenhams with dedicated branded space in a purpose built showcase space. It makes great impact and presents the brand well.

Licensing allows Nando’s to showcase their brand in a non traditional retailer for them (they have some good licences in grocery) and to interact with consumers in a new way. Being active in gifting helps reinforce their credentials as a fun dining location and engenders loyalty. The product will attract a royalty stream, but also allows them to sell their food product such as sauces in bulk.


Another brand that seems to be growing in the composite gift market is Jack Daniel’s. Their gift product includes flavoured fudge in tins, but at its core are composite gifts featuring Jack Daniel’s miniatures coupled with items like wallets and coin trays. This activity plays well to the Jack Daniel’s brand lifestyle and for the retailer provides a relative safe bet in the male gifting category.

The retailer is tapping into the brand awareness and heritage a brand like this brings. It adds brand value to the gifting aisle. Jack Daniel’s are able to reinforce their taste credentials and build on consumer loyalty.


Finally, I was very heartened to see HMV stocking The Beano and The Dandy annuals. A reminder of the strength of the annual category at this time of year – it is a traditional purchase and straddles self and gift purchase. Stocking the annual also leverages other product selling opportunities such as calendars, encouraging up-selling and linked purchases.

It was also refreshing to see a non traditional book seller recognising that annuals can be good products to stock at this time of year – encouragingly many annuals are licensed titles.

It is an ‘annual’ event that can be used to focus retail promotion around.

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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