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The Licensing Lookout: Sports promos, Trolls on eBay and Direct Line’s heroes

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes takes a look at the tricky area of licensed promotions and timing this week.

Promotions have always been a bit of a tricky area for licensing. They can be enormously rewarding and can deliver great results for all parties, but there are always hurdles to cross. One difficulty is around timings. Making sure a promotion starts at the optimum time – for example in the world of film releases, it is ideal that a promotion launches on or around launch date. There can also be some challenges around targeting and consumer fit.

Often movie promotions are sold in ahead of the completion of the film so there have been some assumptions made on content and reach. Broadly speaking though a family movie will be a family movie. But occasionally mismatches happen. Furthermore, the promotional partner has to do their bit and rights owners are always eager to make sure promotional products arrive in store in good time and that media spend commitments are adhered to.

So at the best of times promotions need a lot of careful thought and management. Under current circumstances it must be tougher than ever to coordinate things. One big issue is that some current promotions were activated before the full impact of the lockdown took hold.

It is encouraging to see a big brand like Nestle supporting Paralympic sport.
It is encouraging to see a big brand like Nestle supporting Paralympic sport.

Nestlé’s cereal brands such as Shreddies are currently partnering with Great Britain’s Paralympic team with an on-pack promotion giving consumers a chance to win Tokyo 2020 prizes. Of course, the Olympics and Paralympics have been postponed but not cancelled. The original campaign ethos was to ‘inspire more families to feel the physical and mental benefits of living a healthier and more active lifestyle’.

This objective is still valid and I am guessing the competition still will be. While it will create some issues for both brand and brand owner it may be that in the current climate the ethos of the promotion still resonates with consumers. It is, of course, encouraging to see a big brand like Nestlé supporting Paralympic sport. I presume this was a long-term move for both parties and as such they may well re-visit things in 2021.

It's likely the Cadbury's Premier League competition will run over due to no games currently being played.
It's likely the Cadbury's Premier League competition will run over due to no games currently being played.

Likewise Cadbury’s which is currently running an on-pack promotion to win VIP tickets to Premier League games. While there is no football being played at the moment I am guessing this promotion will roll over. Football in general and the Premier League specifically still retains a huge consumer appeal.

One measure of this is the interest in re-runs of classic games on TV at the moment. So while it is not ideal, it is a promotion that can be repurposed.

It is interesting to see a major FMCG brand like Batchelors linking with a game brand like Final Fantasy.
It is interesting to see a major FMCG brand like Batchelors linking with a game brand like Final Fantasy.

I also noticed an intriguing on-pack promotion being advertised to the trade in The Grocer this week.

Batchelors ‘The Number 1 Quick Meals Brand’ announced a link with computer game Final Fantasy VII Remake. Apparently according to research products like Super Noodles and Pasta’n’Sauce are one of the most popular food choices for gamers. The core of the promotion is an instant win mechanic with 10 million prizes up for grabs. This may be a promotion that might perform better than expected as all indications are that people are playing more computer games at the moment.

It is also interesting to see a major FMCG brand like Batchelors link with a gaming franchise and specifically one like Final Fantasy. This is a further indication that gaming is becoming mainstream in marketing terms. Will be interesting to see if other snack brands and quick meal brands follow suit.

Mr Happy was used by Glasgow City Council to encourage people to visit.
Mr Happy was used by Glasgow City Council to encourage people to visit.

Promotional activity isn’t confined to on-pack activity. There has been a long tradition of licensed properties being used in advertising campaigns. One of my all time favourites was when Glasgow City Council used Mr Happy from the Mr Men to be the face of its marketing campaign to encourage people to visit Glasgow and to do business there.

Under the banner ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’, Mr Happy’s smiling face helped promote the city on billboards, in magazines and across other communication platforms. It was a great success and a great case study of how licensing can make an impact beyond the shelf.

In recent years there have been some great examples of licensed IP being used in TV campaigns and there are some good examples currently on air at the moment. Earlier this week I spotted a TV campaign for eBay featuring the Trolls.

eBay has made the most of the awareness around the new Trolls film.
eBay has made the most of the awareness around the new Trolls film.

The premise of the commercial was that eBay allows you to sell things you don’t use anymore. The basic concept was that a child had grown into an adult and their collection of Trolls had taken over the house that they still shared with their parents. The parents wanted to downsize the collection.

It is a light hearted advert and has a nice pace to it. I am assuming it has been created officially to tie in with the Trolls World Tour movie release. It is a great shop window for the Trolls and also conveys that they are a fun brand. The Trolls World Tour movie was moved from a box office release to become a Video on Demand release. It has broken records in this sphere. This switch in release may cause issues for product licensees but for a campaign like eBay’s it has probably caused no significant issues.

Ironically there might be people building up their collections rather than disposing of them. I searched Trolls on eBay UK and found 87,100 results – that is a lot of Trolls trading.

Direct Line's new 'superheroes' campaign helps give it a more friendly identity.
Direct Line's new 'superheroes' campaign helps give it a more friendly identity.

I also noticed on TV and bus sides that Direct Line is currently using Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to promote its services. I understand it is also using Bumblebee from Transformers and Robocop in the same campaign. I need to watch more TV to catch the other adverts. Essentially the commercial is conveying the fact that Direct Line is a proactive company and so ‘on it’ that it beats heroes like Donatello to solve emergencies – in this case a plumbing emergency.

I am guessing that Direct Line feels this style of campaign helps cut through the clutter and gives it a more friendly identity. Here again I am guessing that the fact that we are in lockdown is not an impediment to this campaign and, indeed, Direct Line is probably reaching more people than it initially hoped to do. It is able to do business remotely as well.

Promotions can create challenges and clearly at the moment there are big challenges, but there is enough going on in the market promotionally at the moment to suggest that licensed promotions have a bright future.

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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