This article was written by Ian Downes, Director at Start Licensing Limited, for The Bugg Report.
During recent times I think we have all been looking for feelgood moments and signs that things are getting back to normal. The UK licensing industry had a collective feelgood moment recently with the successful hosting of the 2021 version of the Licensing Awards by Max Events. There seemed to be a collective sigh of relief that Max Events had got the event back on the road.
Not only was it a great evening, it was also a signal to many in the industry that they could start meeting people and get back to networking. Licensing is a business that depends on networking — most deals involve two or three companies and often these opportunities emerge from face-to-face meetings.
It has been difficult to replicate this networking via video calls!
There were some noteworthy winners in the Awards. Peppa Pig picked up the Best Pre-school Licensed Property Award again along with a number of other awards cementing its position as a dominant force in pre-school licensing. Interestingly a number of properties that started life in the publishing world performed well at the awards with Harry Potter/Wizarding World, Peter Rabbit and The Gruffalo all picking up awards.
Without being too sentimental, the biggest winner on the night was the industry itself though. It certainly feels that the UK industry has changed gear in recent weeks (September/October) and there is a sense of optimism as we approach Brand Licensing Europe (November). This is in spite of the wider challenges businesses are facing. Indeed there is an argument to say that licensing should be pushing itself forward more than ever at the moment. A license could be a very useful tool for businesses to use in the current market.
It certainly feels that brand owners are more open to licensing opportunities and working within the licensing space. This ranges from toy companies like Tomy using licensing as part of their 100th Anniversary campaign for their Britain’s Farm Toys brand, through to the Rolling Stones stepping into retail.
In the case of Tomy, they have worked with licensee Tomato Source to create a collectible medallion housed in a commemorative folder featuring a classic Fordson tractor. This has been marketed using a mix of PR, social media and direct selling.
The Rolling Stones have also recently brought their brand alive with a pop-up shop in London’s Carnaby Street. Carnaby Street was part of the fabric of Swinging Sixties London and has strong connections to the music industry, so it seems to be a great location for this activation.
It has also been encouraging to see retailers like Sainsbury’s use licensed promotions to create loyalty schemes — they are currently running a Disney themed promotion with ‘free’ trading cards linked to in store spend.
Whilst in the world of FMCG there are more examples of brands collaborating to create special edition products, for example Krispy Kreme doughnuts have recently launched a Toffee Crisp doughnut (a brand which is a strong performer in the confectionery sector). There are lots of good news stories to point to in licensing at the moment which should encourage others to start licensing.
Despite the challenges ahead of us there is reason to be optimistic not least as more brands, manufacturers and retailers seem to be prepared to engage with licensing.
I am already looking forward to the 2022 Licensing Awards!