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The Licensing Lookout: Breaking through

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes spots some examples of brands breaking through by clever and apt placement at retail.

As recent events show, a week really is a long time in politics and increasingly I think this mantra applies to licensing. I can’t believe that it was the Licensing Question Time panel a week ago at Spring Fling.

I was part of a panel including representatives from companies such as BBC Studios, Warner Bros. Consumer Products and Penguin Ventures. The panel was expertly chaired by Licensing International’s UK md Kelvyn Gardener. Discussions were wide-ranging including a welcome opportunity for me to reminisce about the Scavengers TV show. Maybe it is time to go looking for those old tapes and give them a new airing!

One of the themes explored in the discussion was around smaller or different brands breaking through and getting their share of retail space. My position was that if content is strong and brings an audience there is always an opportunity to activate things through well executed licensing campaigns. Albeit you may need to find new partners and distribution channels.

Niketown on Oxford Street has a dedicated space for the upcoming FIFA Women's World Cup.
Niketown on Oxford Street has a dedicated space for the upcoming FIFA Women's World Cup.

With this thought in my mind, I think I was on the lookout more keenly than ever for examples to back up my theory this week.

One such example was found in Niketown at Oxford Circus. Certainly not a retail backwater. Nike has activated a fantastic in-store display and area around the forthcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup. It has dedicated window displays featuring players and kits from Holland, France and England. Very bold and visible support for women’s football. The England Lionesses‘ kit range had a lot of space in-store and was well presented. The range includes home and second kits, with the latter featuring a specially commissioned rose pattern.

Nike has really embraced the opportunity and this is a great example of the potential that ‘alternate’ licences offer. Women’s football is growing in popularity, with a well defined audience and is being well supported by The FA. Licensees such as FOCO and Panini have recognised the potential, while new retail strategies including e-commerce have helped the brand break through at retail.

A challenge for some licensees I think is to change their thinking and to be prepared to open up new conversations. New types of rights may force them to do this anyway.

BBC Springwatch was used by WWT for a half term activation at The Wetlands Trust in Barnes.
BBC Springwatch was used by WWT for a half term activation at The Wetlands Trust in Barnes.

Another example of a licence being used in a targeted way and breaking through the clutter was BBC Springwatch. I noticed it being used by WWT for a half term activation at The Wetlands Trust in Barnes. Another good example of live licensing and matching a brand to an audience. I would imagine there will be products for sale in the Wetlands Gift Shop.

This may not drive huge sales but it creates momentum, builds a case for future deals and extends the brand’s off-screen life.

Urban Outfitters was carrying a Mr Wimpy t-shirt as part of its licensed offer.
Urban Outfitters was carrying a Mr Wimpy t-shirt as part of its licensed offer.

A final example of brands breaking through by clever and apt placement I spotted this week was in Urban Outfitters. With a new Quentin Tarantino movie on the horizon, it was selling a Pulp Fiction sweatshirt. Good timing and good placement. This is also an example of licensing becoming part of the wider marketing mix and being linked into the communications programme for things like film launches.

Urban Outfitters was also carrying a Mr Wimpy t-shirt – he is the brand character for Wimpy Restaurants. I tweeted about this and Wimpy replied rapidly provoking a bit of a chat with a few others. A great example of licensing helping a brand communicate.

Finally it is always good when people do a bit of looking out for me. So thanks to the original 3 for 1 man of licensing, John McInnerny sending me a photo of a Coca-Cola promotion with the new Avengers movie he spotted while holidaying in Greece. A reminder of how far licensing reaches. It is also noteworthy that one of the biggest global brands places a value on using IP. Licensing still has a lot to offer.

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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