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The Licensing Lookout: In it for the long-term

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes on investing time in promotions and being in it for the long-term.

Sunday was a ‘I wasn’t there’ moment for me.

I wasn’t at Lords. I wasn’t at Wimbledon nor at Silverstone. If ever a Sunday was rightly billed as a Super Sunday in sporting terms this was it. Like many people I deployed a multi screen strategy, but ultimately the cricket won out.

I hope England’s win is a boost for the game and maybe in licensing terms it might encourage a few more companies to give cricket licensing a go.

A 'supporter's cricket ball' was among the merchandise available during the Cricket World Cup.
A 'supporter's cricket ball' was among the merchandise available during the Cricket World Cup.

In the run up to Sunday I hadn’t seen much Cricket World Cup merchandise in retail. In fact the only item I spotted was a ‘supporter’s cricket ball’ in Sainsbury’s. Of course I may have missed other products.

On a positive note, I received an email on Tuesday from the England & Wales Cricket Board (I believe) promoting a range of World Cup winners t-shirts. Quick work and something that should be applauded. Although it must have been an interesting meeting when the designs were signed off. I am assuming they were signed off in advance of the actual win.

Cricket is a superstitious game – batsmen waiting to come in are told not to move from their chosen spot in case it leads to a wicket and who can forget umpire David Shepherd hopping around standing on one leg when 111 ‘Nelson’ appeared on the scoreboard.

A range of World Cup winners t-shirts have been quick off the mark.
A range of World Cup winners t-shirts have been quick off the mark.

Last week I presented at the Develop Brighton Conference about the potential that licensing offers gaming companies and brands. Of course many are already actively licensing out their brands. I was able to recall working on Sonic the Hedgehog in the early to mid 1990s referencing the likes of Sonic the Comic.

I was joined by Yann Le Bouedec from Paladone Products in Brighton. Paladone is very active in the category with brands like Super Mario, PlayStation and Call of Duty. One point Yann emphasised was the need to try to bring a gaming brand alive for consumers through appropriate and thoughtful NPD. It was a good reminder that licensing should be alive to new opportunities and move quicker at times, but it is also vital to work hard at producing good quality ‘on brand’ product.

Gaming represents a growth opportunity for licensing, but needs to be approached as a long-term one with an emphasis on creating a good product experience for consumers.

Centum is participating in a promotion around Captain Marvel in Sainsbury's currently.
Centum is participating in a promotion around Captain Marvel in Sainsbury's currently.

I was very impressed by Centum‘s participation in a DVD and Blu-Ray promotion around Captain Marvel in Sainsbury’s. The promotion was well signposted in-store with a FSDU and the offer was a free book with purchase.

It is good to see books featuring in promotions like this, not least because it reinforces the value of books as a premium item and also encourages the notion of reading. Centum is a company which is a retail centric licensee, working hard at achieving retail placement and seem to be prepared to invest time in promotions. This should help the licensed publishing sector as a whole.

The FMCG sector spends a lot of time getting its licensed products just right.
The FMCG sector spends a lot of time getting its licensed products just right.

Finally – and returning to last week’s theme of iced refreshments – I noticed Krispy Kreme offering an Oreo flavoured ice cream.

A further reminder that distinctive brands from the FMCG sector can find a myriad of ways to extend their brand experience, but a lesson from the sector is that they spend a lot of time on getting the ‘licensed’ products right.

They are in it for the long-term.

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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