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“We want to inspire our partners with new ways of thinking”

As TfL launches a new updated core style guide and four new trend packs, we chat to Julie Dixon and Jo Edwards about the brand’s licensing programme, inspiring licensees and helping London as it recovers from the pandemic.

Transport for London has launched an updated core style guide and four new trend packs as part of its continued engagement with the licensing industry.

The new creative was launched at TfL’s London Lines event, which showcased the many ways TfL and global licensing agent TSBA have worked with licensing partners to take TfL’s rich archive and use it across product categories, showing how brands and licensees can be part of TfL’s future.

The new trend packs draw on assets taken from TfL’s more than 150-year history. While the Underground roundels and tube map continue to be prominent, moquette seat patterns and station architecture also take centre stage.

LicensingSource spoke to Julie Dixon, head of customer information, design and partnerships at TfL, and Jo Edwards, head of global licensing licensing at TSBA Group, about the burgeoning licensing programme, how they are looking to inspire licensees with the new style guides and how they hope the licensing drive can play a small part in London’s recovery from the pandemic.

The London Lines event showcased the ways TfL and TSBA have worked with licensing partners.
The London Lines event showcased the ways TfL and TSBA have worked with licensing partners.

Firstly, can you provide a brief update on the TfL licensing programme to date?

Julie Dixon, head of customer information, design and partnerships: “TfL has a long history of licensing and we have worked with many different partners over the years, including fashion designers, food and beverage providers and the very successful children’s programme Underground Ernie.

Following the success of our licensing work we have expanded the programme in the past couple of years. We have one of the world’s most recognisable brands, and we have recently expanded our programme overseas. We now have licensing partners in places such as Europe, Australia and the Far East.”

What have been the key highlights over the past 12 months?

Jo Edwards, head of global licensing at TSBA Group: “Lockdown has hit companies hard across all aspects of the industry. It’s testament to the TfL brand that, since the beginning of lockdown, we have been able to welcome 13 new licensees across multiple categories and territories to the TfL licensing programme.

These include Bimber Distillery with single malt whisky, Budgy Smuggler with swimwear, Ebury Press with the TfL puzzle book, and University Games with a murder mystery board game.

We also have three TfL finalists at the B&LLA’s later this year: Gibsons’ puzzles and games range for Best Brand Licensed Gifting Range; Milltag’s cyclewear range for Best Brand Licensed Adult Apparel Range; and TfL for Best Licensed Lifestyle Brand. We have our fingers crossed for some winners!”

Why was it so important to you to hold an event such as London Lines for partners/potential partners? What are you hoping they will gain from it?

Julie: “It has been a difficult year for many of our licensing partners and retailers and we wanted to offer them some new and inspirational ways in which they could use our fantastic range of creative assets. Many people would automatically think of the Tube Roundel or the Tube map when thinking of iconic TfL designs but we have so many other design icons that people see every day when using our services. We wanted to inspire our partners with new ways of thinking about how they could use what we have to offer.

We also wanted to inspire our partners to think about what is important for London as we come out of the pandemic, for example encouraging more people to walk or cycle and how they could use our brand. This is a win-win for us; we promote what TfL wants to deliver for London, and raise important revenue that we reinvest back into the transport network while also supporting our licensing partners, who are often small businesses.”

Gibsons' puzzles and games range has been nominated for Best Brand Licensed Gifting Range at the B&LLAs 2021.
Gibsons' puzzles and games range has been nominated for Best Brand Licensed Gifting Range at the B&LLAs 2021.

What was the thinking behind the new trend packs?

Jo: “TfL has a rich and vast archive that goes back over 150 years. There are obvious assets to use on products – like the Roundels and Tube map – but we also wanted to give prominence to the wider archive, including the moquette seat fabrics, tiles and signage, and the poster archive with over 5,000 images. To aid this, TSBA developed a multi-pillar licensing strategy and the trend packs reflect this:

  • New Iconic: allows licensees to take the iconic Roundels and Tube map and push the boundaries on these assets to create products that work across category
  • Fashion Forward: here, the Roundel features prominently, with prints and patterns that include colour, slogans and icons for trend-led apparel and accessories
  • New Classic: this takes heritage assets such as the moquettes and intricate tile designs to create assets that particularly resonate for homewares and gifting
  • On The Move: which takes TfL’s mission to encourage active travel across London and translates this into assets based on signage and wayfaring found across London with bold, bright graphics perfect for cycling, walking, wellness and travel-related products.”
New Classic is one of the four new trend packs introduced for licensees and partners.
New Classic is one of the four new trend packs introduced for licensees and partners.

Fashion Forward is particularly interesting, and I know that TfL has been involved in a number of high-end clothing collaborations – how much fun has it been working with these kind of partners?

Jo: “TfL is the London brand and fashion is also synonymous with London so it’s not surprising that the brand attracts high-end fashion brands for apparel and footwear collaborations.

The award-winning Adidas x TfL footwear collection was a huge success and the limited-edition products saw people queuing around the block. We always look to work with partners to weave storytelling into the design of the collection so that this can be carried forward into marketing and promotions – creating authenticity, buzz and excitement at launch and beyond. This can involve holding photo or video shoots at Underground stations and it’s always fun to see the results.

We have one such licensee that will be announced imminently, and other significant collaborations that we will be announcing in the next few months.”

Which other categories do you see TfL growing into?

Julie: “We see the opportunities in both categories and overseas growth. You will see that we have introduced the concept of ‘On the Move’ to the style guide, inspiring others to think of how active travel can be incorporated into designs.

We would be really interested in seeing more collaborations in new areas, for example sustainability. Another area we are actively looking at is the children’s market, the appeal of transport is universal and eternally popular with children so we think there could be many exciting opportunities in this area.”

Milltag's cyclewear range is just one example of how the TfL assets can be used creatively.
Milltag's cyclewear range is just one example of how the TfL assets can be used creatively.

What’s the main aim with the TfL licensing programme in 2021? What would you most like to achieve?

Julie: “As well as inspiring existing and new partners to think more broadly about the assets that we have, we continue to work on building our international presence. Working with TfL means you are working on the London brand. All cities are looking to recover from the pandemic and if in any small way our licensing programme helps London in its recovery, we would consider that a significant achievement.”

How important is commercial activity such as this to TfL overall?

Julie: “Everything we make from our licensing programme is reinvested in running and improving London’s transport network. We don’t have shareholders, so everything is reinvested. It is not simply the amount the revenue we raise but also about how Londoners and the millions of people who visit London see transport in London.

We know that for overseas visitors, taking the Tube or getting on a red London bus is part of their experience, it’s on their itinerary list as much as a visit to Buckingham Palace. We also know that the Tube, buses, etc, are just as important to Londoners. If we can create products that resonate with Londoners, such as the wonderful products developed by Done London, they appreciate this and that reflects on how they feel about their transport network.

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