People Awards 2017: Penguin Ventures' Susan Bolsover on the firm's most successful year

Jade Burke

By Jade Burke

July 25th 2017 at 9:37AM
UPDATED July 25th 2017 at 10:45AM
People Awards 2017: Penguin Ventures' Susan Bolsover on the firm's most successful year

2016 proved to be one of the best years for Penguin Ventures, after exceeding growth targets set by Penguin Random, and now that the firm has brought The Snowman brand back in house this month, business really is booming. Susan Bolsover, head of licensing and consumer products at Penguin Ventures reveals all.

Congratulations on receiving the award! What are your thoughts on winning?

Our ethos at Penguin Ventures has always been one of working as a team, both with each other and with our licensees and partners. So to win a team award really demonstrates how success is truly a collective endeavour.

What has 2017 been like for Penguin so far? 

Following a fantastic 2016 that saw us celebrating the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter with a year-long campaign, we were in a really strong position with the Peter Rabbit brand to begin 2017.  We have revisited successful partnerships and collaborations that were formed as a result of that high profile campaign and have looked at how these might apply to the other brands in our portfolio. We are also working on the Peter Rabbit Movie with Sony Pictures, which releases in the UK for spring 2018 and is the first time Penguin Ventures has licensed a film.

We have revisited all of the style guides for our key brands, refreshing artwork and design treatments to ensure the brands remain contemporary to today’s consumer. We are seeking to extend our portfolio with the ambition of managing and representing a wider selection of brands and characters on behalf of brand owners. We’re consulting with both internal stakeholders and new brand partners outside the business.

Are there any achievements for the company in particular you’d like to share?

As well as winning the Licensor of the Year at the Licensing.biz People Awards, we were delighted to win the Classic Preschool Brand with Peter Rabbit at the Licensing Awards and the Progressive Preschool Marketing and Communication Award for the Beatrix Potter 150th anniversary campaign in 2016.

Penguin Ventures exceeded the growth targets set by Penguin Random House last year, making 2016 the best year ever for the Ventures business.

The team itself has evolved this year as Ventures has welcomed Anna Metcalfe on-board as hardlines category manager, increasing our sales team, while Thomas Merrington has been promoted to creative director and Sara Glenn has become commercial curator, ensuring our incredible archive of original artwork and editions continues to provide ongoing inspiration and opportunities.

The Peter Rabbit Movie will be released in cinemas in spring 2018. This is the first time Ventures has acted as licensor for a movie and we’re relishing the opportunity to move into this space.

What are your thoughts on awards such as the Licensing.biz People Awards? Do you feel it is important to shine the light on people in the industry? 

Yes I think it’s incredibly important. While other awards ceremonies celebrate the best licensed products and retail initiatives, it is brilliant to have a ceremony that recognises the great work that happens behind the scenes. There are so many talented and hardworking individuals in the Industry who do such great work at all levels and these awards are an important acknowledgement of them, as well as a chance to shine a light on the unsung heroes, offering them a chance for recognition among their peers.

What has proven to be your most popular brand with fans? 

Peter Rabbit has the biggest fan-base and is perennially popular with his audience. However, we are very lucky in Penguin Ventures to manage a raft of brands that we consider to be cross generational, which speak to different consumers. Although our portfolio currently consists only of heritage brands, they have diverse and different audiences and we are continually aware of our responsibility as custodians of these literary treasures to ensure they evolve and remain relevant to ensure their longevity.

As a licensor, what is it you look for when licensing your brand out to licensees? 

We’re keen to explore new ways of working with licensees and partners and we’re always impressed by creativity and innovation, as well as a strong desire for quality and care. Perhaps more important of all is an understanding and the ability of licensees to connect our brands with our consumer.

What does 2017 hold for Penguin in the licensing space?

The Peter Rabbit Movie will be released in cinemas in spring 2018. This is the first time Ventures has acted as licensor for a movie and we’re relishing the opportunity to move into this space. We’re currently recruiting licensees for this exciting new moment for Peter Rabbit.

We have also recently brought The Snowman brand back in house and will manage all aspects of this brand as we move to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Raymond Briggs’ classic original picture book in 2018.

We are looking to grow our live and experiential events, a crucial part of our consumer-facing strategy going forwards. These are the physical touchpoints for all fans of our brands and we want to ensure we are offering high quality events that appeal to a cross generational audience. Creating immersive and engaging experiences that result in shared family memories is key to securing the future of our brands.