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The Licensing Lookout: The Asterix phenomenon

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes visits Parc Asterix this week and discovers just how significant it is to the brand.

Often people say to me that my job seems to be a lot of fun dealing with characters and personalities peppered with exhibitions, launch parties and free samples. Of course this is not the case. Amid the occasional special moment there are hours of meetings, travel, contracts and invoices.

No need to send a violin though because this week I had one of those ‘you don’t do any work’ moments. I visited Parc Asterix which is located just outside of Paris. We have represented Asterix on behalf of Editions Albert Rene for a number of years. Asterix is a classic character with iconic status in the French market but his appeal stretches beyond France. In publishing terms, Asterix is published in 110 languages. And to reassure Aykroyds that includes Welsh.

Working on the Asterix brand allows me to work on one of my childhood favourites. I was fortunate that my local library in the Lower Marsh in Waterloo had quite a few Asterix albums and I was able to read a lot of them growing up. A small example of how important libraries are in local communities.

We have licensed some interesting products for Asterix such as Funko figurines of Asterix and Obelix, a growing range of Steiff collectable plush, art prints and various apparel collections.

Parc Asterix is located in a woodland setting, with on-site accommodation including hotels and lodges.
Parc Asterix is located in a woodland setting, with on-site accommodation including hotels and lodges.

Asterix is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and Parc Asterix is 30. Parc Asterix is located in a woodland setting and on arrival it doesn’t feel like a ‘normal’ theme park. The setting of course helps conjure up the Asterix magic. There is on site accommodation with hotels and lodges. Demand is so high that a new hotel is being built. This really is a fully thought through themed brand experience. My hotel was called La Cite Suspendue and you could stay in one of three villages Les Potiers, Les Artistes or Les Druides. All echoing storylines from the albums. For the record I stayed in the Potiers village.

All the hotel buildings are timber and set in landscaped woodland creating an authentic Asterix vibe. The rooms themselves continue this theming with fixtures and fittings, bedding and soft furnishing all on theme including more modern items like light switches.

Parc Asterix is a family attraction and the rooms are set up to reflect this with side rooms including bunk beds – I decided not to go completely back to childhood and chose the double bed instead. I can imagine for children who are Asterix fans staying on site adds to a wonderful immersive experience that lasts all day. Indeed I saw quite a few little Asterixs and Obelixs at breakfast. Dining wise in the hotel there are subtle touches on the buffet menu such as wild boar sausages.

The Parc includes an Obelix-themed Magnum promotional sign from Unilever.
The Parc includes an Obelix-themed Magnum promotional sign from Unilever.

The park itself is a fantastic case study of how licensing and a strong IP can work well in this sector. The park is divided into themed areas based on Asterix stories and albums such as Greek and Egyptian. The theming flows through to features such as rides, retail and food. Even suppliers like Unilever get in on the act – there was an Obelix-themed Magnum promotional sign.

There is, as expected, a strong retail offer throughout the park, which successfully mixes some standard lines like plush with special edition items like coins celebrating the 60th anniversary.

A range of initial mugs feature a cleverly designed Asterix alphabet.
A range of initial mugs feature a cleverly designed Asterix alphabet.

Another strong 60th anniversary item was a collector’s edition print. I think a lot of park visitors to Parc Asterix stay overnight and drive to the Park which means there is a bit more flexibility in regards to product formats and higher ticket price items can be sold.

There were some clever designs including a nice range of ‘initial’ mugs and other items featuring a cleverly designed Asterix alphabet – great for gifting while there was also some innovative products in standard product areas like plush headwear based on characters.

Theme parks such as Parc Asterix are great success stories to reference in terms of the pulling power of IP, says Ian.
Theme parks such as Parc Asterix are great success stories to reference in terms of the pulling power of IP, says Ian.

Parc Asterix is also investing in its infrastructure – it has recently launched a 4D Experience with a specially developed ten minute film and it is also extending the season in terms of park openings and will now be open in the run up to Christmas. The visitor numbers now top two million a year I believe – theme parks such as Parc Asterix are great success stories to reference in terms of the pulling power of IP.

Part of the reason for the meeting was so Asterix’s owners could brief their European publishers including Hachette in the UK on the plans for the 60th anniversary and the latest Album release which will be released later this year on a multi territory basis. The print run numbers for Asterix make it a very significant publishing event.

The group meeting was a really good example of how licensing can be integrated into wider brand activity and how a collective approach to brand management can create more opportunities. I was able to talk to licensing and publishing partners from markets such as Italy, Germany and Spain. This helps stimulate new thinking and the sharing of resources.

Parc Asterix is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
Parc Asterix is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

There are some very exciting activations ahead for Asterix this year including a range of promotions which suggest that there is a strong appetite for classic properties that hold family appeal. This is reassuring at a time where it seems there are fewer properties breaking through. Asterix is a great example of a publishing property that has become a multimedia property and is able to compete on the international market. It is also a good example of the benefit of focused and consistency management. The team running Asterix are people who have been with the company for some time and know their property.

All in all it was an eye-opening trip for me and a further reminder that licensing is a business that benefits from networking and sharing learnings.  As work trips go this was a thoroughly enjoyable one and I enjoyed my stay in the Gallic Forest.

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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