Start Licensing's Ian Downes on Asterix's rich heritage within popular culture

Jade Burke

By Jade Burke

October 19th 2016 at 10:37AM
UPDATED October 19th 2016 at 6:26PM
Start Licensing's Ian Downes on Asterix's rich heritage within popular culture

With plans to look at more Pan European partnerships for the Asterix brand, the property looks set to reach more markets in the future. Here, Ian Downes, MD of Start Licensing, talks working with Underground Toys and expanding into apparel with retailer Primark.

What has this year been like so far for the Asterix brand? 

This year has been a positive year for Asterix. On the licensing front Underground Toys has developed Asterix and Obelix Pop! Vinyl figures, which are going to be released on a Pan European basis. This is a great addition to the programme and ticks a very big box in terms of products that can be sold in specialist, comic, mail order and toy channels that will appeal to fans and collectors. We see this as a really positive development.

There has also been a film release this year with Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods in 3D. This animated film had some tremendous voice talent attached including Jack Whitehall, Nick Frost and Catherine Tate. The film was released over the summer and will be followed up by a DVD release later this year. The film sits alongside the ongoing publishing programme in the UK, which are centered on distribution of the iconic Asterix albums. Hachette the publisher has worked hard on distribution this year and you can see their efforts have paid off with bookstores such as Waterstones and Foyles having dedicated Asterix space in their stores. The books are also widely available in specialist comic stores as well. Asterix also has a strong presence in the interactive sector with a regular programme of game releases in concert with Bandai Namco.

What plans do you have for Asterix in the licensing space? 

We are working closely with Underground Toys to make their product launch as effective as possible. In turn they will be working with Kaleidoscope Entertainment on the DVD release to develop a joint promotion.

We have other licensees in categories such as apparel and wall art. Primark has just listed an Asterix T-shirt and we are aiming to build on this with new design work. Given Asterix's Pan European appeal there is scope to work internationally with the brand and to develop deals with companies who have Pan European reach. This is a real plus point in licensing terms opening up a lot of possibilities. Asterix's owners Edition Albert Rene are very proactive in trade promotion terms and presentations.

What makes Asterix a ‘classic brand’? 

I think the fact that the character has such a rich and long-term publishing heritage coupled with many years of success in other areas such as film, computer games and the wider licensing market has meant it has a firm position in popular culture.

With success internationally it has wide appeal and recognition. It is also a brand that has cross-generational appeal, which helps develop a classic status. It has been carefully managed with care taken on the core publishing programme, marketing and creative development. Another plus point for Asterix is the fact that whilst it is a comic based character it is also a literary property with top class artwork and illustrations – this has given it a timeless quality.

Which licensing partners are already on board for Asterix? 

We have a number of partners in the UK including Underground Toys, Comic Art for screenprints, Park Agencies for T-shirts and Plastichead for apparel, bags, mugs and accessories. Steiff are on board for Limited Edition Plush, while across Europe there are around 40 licensees in a range of categories including promotions, computer games, giftware, luggage, wall art and apparel.

It is worth thinking of Asterix as a Pan European opportunity rather than just UK; the property's appeal is wide reaching with particular strongpoints in France, Germany, Spain and Poland.

Will you be entering any new licensing areas in the future? 

To develop the Pan European point further we are working with Editions Albert Rene to look at more Pan European partnerships to access a wider base of licensees and products. Coupled with this we are looking to develop the apparel market further – Asterix has strong potential in this category with a wealth of artwork based on classic comic art – a trend that seems a perennial one.

We are also keen to look at products that would suit book store distribution such as paper products, key rings, book accessories and wall art. We are also talking to collectables companies to build on this sector as fans collect Asterix albums. We also think there is scope for gifting around occasions such as Father's Day and Christmas – we could look at gift packs that combine books with other items.

Anything else you’d like to add? 

Asterix is a genuine classic property that offers licensees a real opportunity to develop products for a Pan European market. Companies like Underground Toys have recognised the reach of Asterix and the consumer appeal it has. With contemporary 'on trend' product being released it is a perfect moment to get involved with Asterix the Classic.