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The Licensing Lookout: Click and collect

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes is reminded of old hobbies by a number of new licensing deals.

Growing up I had a number of hobbies that centred on collecting. The oddest one was collecting leather bookmarks. To put this in context, leather bookmarks where a souvenir shop staple in the 70s. I built up an eclectic collection.

I also collected football programmes. A collection bolstered by a bulk donation of Dulwich Hamlet FC programmes from the 1950s. Generally these were one page teamsheets printed on Dulwich pink paper. I also collected 70s selfies, aka autographs. One highlight of this hobby was getting celebrated actor Peter O’Toole’s autograph. He was sitting on the doorstep of my flat in Waterloo in full costume ‘chilling out’ before going on stage at the nearby Old Vic. We also served him tea and biscuits. Quite a moment.

My other hobby was coin collecting. I used to save up new money to buy old money. I also used to find old coins and foreign coins in change. I was an enthusiastic numismatist.

The Royal Mint launched a Wallace & Gromit 50 pence piece this week.
The Royal Mint launched a Wallace & Gromit 50 pence piece this week.

Thinking of my coin collecting past, it has been very exciting to be involved in a product that launched this week.

The Royal Mint launched a Wallace & Gromit 50 pence piece. It has been issued to mark Wallace & Gromit’s 30th anniversary. It joins a number of other anniversary events. It has taken around two years for this deal and product range to come to fruition. A good example that licensing opportunities, particularly those surrounding anniversaries, are now ones that need to be planned in advance and managed over the long-term. It has been a fascinating project to be involved in, seeing it from start to finish.

The launch went well and this was a good window on how organisations like The Royal Mint is increasingly using social media to promote products and launches. It has also been very proactive in managing social media with good communication to customers. This sort of thing is going to be more important for rights holders going forward and the approval process needs to go beyond product and cover all aspects of campaigns.

I have managed to secure myself a few of the brilliant uncirculated 50 pence coins and look forward to adding one to my collection. It should bring back some good memories.

Asterix and the Chieftain's Daughter was launched at The Cartoon Museum.
Asterix and the Chieftain's Daughter was launched at The Cartoon Museum.

I also attended the launch of the latest Asterix comic album this week. I represent Asterix in the UK and for me it is again a nod to my childhood. I used to borrow Asterix albums from my local library. This gave me a life long love of the character. Thanks Lower Marsh Library and Lambeth Council.

Asterix celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and is a really good example of a classic publishing brand that has been well managed over an extended period. I was part of a panel at BLE recently that reflected on the growing importance of publishing properties in licensing. Publishing provides IP with a solid foundation to build from and with properties like Asterix there is a regular programme of product development – in this case new graphic albums published regularly.

Successful publishing properties also tend to have international reach – in Asterix’s case the albums have been translated into 111 languages. This sort of reach and publishing programme allows licensees to plan ahead and look to the long-term.

The latest Asterix album – Asterix and the Chieftain’s Daughter – was launched at The Cartoon Museum, which celebrates cartooning and comic art. Featured properties include Roy of the Rovers, Judge Dredd, The Beano and The Wombles. The Cartoon Museum is a great celebration of one part of the publishing mix and is a reminder of how publishing characters have an emotional connection with consumers. This latter point was mentioned at the BLE panel discussion. Publishing properties open up lots of opportunities for products including higher end products and are also ones that can drive new types of licensing such as exhibitions.

Wembley is being readied for the NFL game this weekend.
Wembley is being readied for the NFL game this weekend.

I mentioned I collected football programmes and am still a football fan. So against this backdrop it is always exciting to visit Wembley Stadium. I visited the stadium a few days ago for a meeting and walked the Wembley Way. What was interesting was that Wembley was being readied for a NFL game.

It was interesting to see how the NFL was taking over the stadium and its attention to detail in terms of branding. It really underlined the growing popularity of NFL and how well the sport is run from a commercial point of view.

Later in the week I got in a London cab and the driver was listening to an American Football podcast – a real sign of the times: he wanted to chat about quarterbacks rather than wingbacks. London cabbies are a kind of barometer of pop culture and when they are chatting NFL it is a sign that there is momentum there. I imagine my cabbie will be painting his cab yellow soon to go Full American.

The Wembley Stadium Store includes a diverse range of merchandise.
The Wembley Stadium Store includes a diverse range of merchandise.

That said Wembley and football are intrinsically linked and I took the opportunity to visit the Wembley Shop.

It was good to see how The FA has developed a diverse range of merchandise including some retro England football kits which is a clever way of tapping into football nostalgia and fan culture. It also has a good selection of England Women’s replica kits and it was also interesting to see the personalisation options available for kits that could be carried out as you wait.

There were also some seasonal products such as the England Annual which were well presented in a FSDU.

The Official England Annual was among the seasonal products on offer in the store.
The Official England Annual was among the seasonal products on offer in the store.

Wembley Way itself has changed with additions such as a Boxpark food court. This is part of a wider move that is making Wembley more of a destination and sports hub.

I can imagine NFL fans enjoying spending time pre-game at Wembley. It seems NFL is as much a lifestyle brand as it is a sports brand.

Select licensed products sit well within Ryman.
Select licensed products sit well within Ryman.

I also popped into a branch of Ryman this week for some envelopes. It was a real eye opener as Ryman had just launched its Christmas gift ranges. To me, Ryman is an example of a retailer that has managed to transform itself into a multi product retailer beyond its established core but without losing it.

I found my envelopes – there was a good selection but I could also buy a whole range of gifts, games and gadgets which had been well selected and displayed. Licensed products were a central plank of the product offer with suppliers like Paladone and Hornby featuring. Products included lighting such as an eye catching London Underground roundel, push along and ride-on cars such as a Range Rover Evoque. Other licensing highlights included traditional toys such as RAF Red Arrows Airfix kits through to more modern tech toys such as a Ferrari remote control car. There were plenty of boardgames and jigsaw puzzles including a variety of Monopoly specials, while properties like Harry Potter loomed large.

I went into Ryman to buy an envelope and succeeded which is a small confirmation that it is getting the basics right while embracing change. It has recognised that licensing can help it broaden its reach. I also think Ryman uses its floorspace well and displays product efficently. It also invests in a paper-based Christmas Gift catalogue. This encourages gift selection and certainly helps showcase product well.

My visit to Ryman also reminded me I had another hobby… making Airfix models. I seemed to make a hobby of having hobbies!

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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