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The value of being part of a network and business community… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes has his sporting interest piqued this week by a number of initiatives, as well as taking part in his own sporting challenge.

Sometimes we all need help in life even for Looking Out. So I was very grateful to Tim Collins, aka The Brand Director, for drawing my attention to a display he saw in IKEA’s Wembley branch.

IKEA has a range of furniture including desks and chairs that have been developed with the gaming community and gamers in mind. Tim noted this range, but also the fact that IKEA had accessorised the display with gaming merchandise to give the product range context.

This is a really good example of the growing reach of gaming and how companies like IKEA are seeking to tap into the market. It also points to the potential for licensing to be used by a retailer like IKEA – in this case the merchandise and games are part of a visual display, but it also shows how there might be scope for IKEA to integrate licensing further into its activities and product ranges.

LL1I have definitely seen traditional retail lines blurring in recent times with retailers stocking products that perhaps they wouldn’t have done a few years ago as they seek ways of connecting with consumers and also recognising that there are new product opportunities emerging for them.

Being weighed down by traditional buying models and strategies has maybe restricted some retailers. Licensing is a way of shifting things dynamically and making a statement.

Thanks for the tip Tim and it will be interesting to see if IKEA plunges deeper into the gaming waters and maybe looks to licensing to help with this dive.

LL3As noted in previous Lookouts, licensing is getting better at capitalising on time sensitive opportunities and bringing products to market on time. A great example of this is the Official Tour de France 2023 Race Guide. This souvenir edition is from Our Media and is available in outlets like WH Smith. It includes an official Tour guide, a Legends magazine, a wallchart and beer mats. Given the wider media coverage the Tour de France receives this seems like a very sensible product to develop and is a very comprehensive one which will appeal to Tour fans not least because of the depth and detail within it.

It is also interesting product development wise as it shows how traditional publishing formats like magazines can be enhanced and things can evolve with ‘added value’ content. This product format may well be one other sporting bodies look at and think about. Maybe the time is right to launch an Official Guide to the Rules of Cricket!

Sticking with sport, a couple of Fridays ago I popped into Trafalgar Square to experience first hand the Major League Baseball Fan Zone which was created to coincide with a couple of MLB matches that were played in London. Overall it was a very impressive undertaking blending ‘have a go’ activities such as pitching and batting cages with licensee lead activations. There were also catering outlets all contributing to create a match day experience. When I was there perhaps not unexpectedly, there was a high concentration of US visitors present and I understand a number of fans travelled over for the games specifically.

LL5Licensees like Topps were using the platform of the event very proactively. Topps was offering visitors the chance to create and own a personalised baseball trading card – an offer that seemed very popular judging by the queue for the card. The event was well presented and marshalled efficiently. Interestingly you scanned a QR code on entry – it was a free to attend event – so the organisers were alive to data capture and I am sure they have built up a great database from the event.

As I was walking around it did make me think how sport is becoming more of a global enterprise and that governing bodies like MLB are looking to expand their footfall. This will certainly create licensing opportunities, but equally it will create licensing challenges. It will also create some concerns for domestic sports, clubs and governing bodies. When a powerhouse brand like the MLB delivers an activation like the Trafalgar Square one I experienced it must give them food for thought.

LL2I also had my sporting interest piqued by an advertisement I saw in the Sunday Times for Oris watches and Lord’s. The advert featured Kermit the Frog. It inspired me to do some further research and I discovered that Oris has become the official timekeeper to the MCC and Lord’s. Oris has entered into a three-year partnership with the MCC. It has become the first official timekeeper in the history of the MCC. It picked an interesting week to come on board!

Oris branding will feature around the ground and judging by the advertisement I saw, I am sure there will be a number of other interesting activations in the future. I thought a nice aspect of the partnership was the plan to award any international player who qualifies for a place on the Lord’s Honours Boards an Oris watch. Players get their names on the boards if they score a century, take 5 wickets in an innings or 10 wickets in a match. This is a great example of how brands are finding innovative ways of leveraging the power of sport to market their brands and it is also a great example of how brands can build on a sponsorship deal with additional activities.

Daniel Prince (left), md of Danilo, and Ian on last week's Cardgains 25-mile walk in aid of MNDA.
Daniel Prince (left), md of Danilo, and Ian on last week's Cardgains 25-mile walk in aid of MNDA.

Finally I took part in my own sporting challenge of sorts last week. Given the challenge was called Look Out London it was kind of inevitable that I joined it. It was a 25-mile walk organised by Cardgains with funds being raised for the charity MNDA in memory of David Hicks. David was a much loved member of the greeting cards industry and the walk was a great way of remembering him.

I walked with Daniel Prince from Danilo and the team from Emotional Rescue. I saw parts of London that I wasn’t familiar with which was a real bonus but we also passed by my ‘home turf’ which was reassuring after venturing near West Ham’s stadium! We also met a lot of Morphs on the way.

A key point about the walk beyond the fundraising and remembering David was that it reminded me about the value of being part of a network and business community. We all need help sometimes and the walk was a great way of chatting through things with people. It was good to talk and walk.  With this in mind, look out for updates about the License to Move initiative soon. This should create some great opportunities for on the go networking.

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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