Start Licensing's Ian Downes talks Tango success - with stationery, popcorn and ice cream on the way

Billy Langsworthy

By Billy Langsworthy

August 3rd 2016 at 3:49PM
UPDATED August 3rd 2016 at 5:16PM
Start Licensing's Ian Downes talks Tango success - with stationery, popcorn and ice cream on the way

Billy Langsworthy talks to Start Licensing MD Ian Downes about the roaring success of Tango, a brand whose licensing programme is worth around £4m at retail.

How has 2016 been for the Tango brand?

In licensing terms things are going from strength to strength.

Existing licensees such as Rose Confectionery have seen increased interest in their product lines and continue to innovate within their category. They are developing ideas for confectionery gifting as well as their core offering of novelty and everyday confectionery. They are also investigating categories such as chocolate.

The success of their range has meant they have a good dialogue with retailers and are well immersed in the brand. A good seller for them at the moment is the Tango Ice Pops range - this is a product that has an uplift in the summer months but is a good example of a brand like Tango adding value to a category and helping a product stand out from the crowd.

Toiletries and car air freshener licensee 151 Products has undertaken a programme of NPD and design refresh - they have recognised the staying power of Tango in their market and have re-invested in design and innovation.

Crackerjack - the lip balms licensee - has widened its distribution to include retailers such as Claire's Accessories and Huntley & Palmers is renewing its license for Tango flavoured Jaffa Cake biscuits - building on their ongoing success in the market. We are also talking to them about new product lines.


The core brand remains a strong player in the market with wide ranging distribution across all core retail sectors. It is a highly visible brand and benefits from being a core part of the Britvic brands portfolio. It is part of a regular programme of retail promotions and also enjoys distribution in categories such as leisure and the pub trade.

Britvic has added new flavours to the Tango family including Blood Orange. There is also a strong Tango presence in cinemas with a Tango Ice Blast product. This gives the brand increased exposure in this sector. Britvic also undertakes specific campaigns in areas such as student unions and this helps keep the brand front of mind for consumers and interesting. There is also a strong presence in wholesalers which makes the brand accessible to smaller retailers such as convenience stores.

The core brand is worth £31.3 million at retail, placing it in the top ten for carbonates in the UK. The licensing programme is worth around £4 million at retail sales value. Its 2015 campaign also won a Grocer Award for the Top Campaign in the Soft Drinks: Carbonates category with its 'Five Stages of Tang' campaign. The Grocer commented that "The Five Stages of Tang campaign holds its own in the impressive Tango ad canon".  

Tango / 5 Stages of Tang from 101 London on Vimeo.

 What new deals have been signed for the brand and which areas are these taking Tango in?

We have just had a great new launch, Tango Popcorn from Yumsh Snacks. This taps into the trend for flavoured popcorn and Yumsh have developed Orange and Apple flavours based on the Tango flavours. This product has just launched and has attracted good interest. It sits well alongside Rose Confectionery's products.

We are also delighted that EastWest, a new licensee, has launched a full range of Tango stationery items. They showcased their range at Spring Fair and also at the London Stationery Show. This is a great range and fits well into the programme.

In the works is a Tango ice cream. This will be a fantastic addition to the programme and has had a very good response from retailers who have seen the NPD behind it.

We are pleased with these new developments and we feel these are building well on the existing programme, which is now entering it's seventh year and is well established.

Licensees like 151 Products and Rose have been on board since day one - a great endorsement for the brand. Other licensees have had products in the market for three or four years and we then move on into new categories - this is part of the evolution of a brand licensing programme but also fits well with the Tango brand's approach to marketing and innovation.

The programme has won and been nominated for a range of Licensing Awards which is a great qualitative measure of its credibility in the licensing market and, of course, its suitability for licensing.

How many licensees are now on board, and across which categories?

There are seven licensees across food, confectionery, stationery, gifting, toiletries and personal care. We are looking to expand in a controlled way into one or two other areas such as food gifting and maybe some other food categories such as barbecue sauces and celebration cakes. We also think it would be a great brand for bedding: an orange duvet with You've Been Tango'd would hold great appeal.

What is it about the brand that licensees and retailers alike are responding well to?

I think the brand has a very distinct and original personality. It is cheeky, fun and innovative, and this helps licensed products stand out in the market and helps develop a distinct identity.

The brand identity of Tango is very strong and has high recognition levels and the Five Stages campaign has helped consolidate that position. This is important at a consumer level but also at retail level. Retail buyers know that the brand performs well in its core area and that it is a well established brand that consumers have an affinity for. They can understand that licensed products are building on a proven brand's heritage and there is now a story of success from licensees as well.

Tango has a very distinctive flavour and taste profile which is particularly helpful in the food category - the distinctiveness makes for good product development. Of course, Tango's very successful and much loved advertising history helps as well - campaigns like You've Been Tango'd and the Tango Man are part of British pop culture. It is a brand that continues to surprise people and its advertising is often referenced as a benchmark for disruptive advertising. It is in the top 10 in a very competitive category and has been a consistent performer.


We have also established a good rapport with licensees and I think they like the fact there are clear communications lines from licensor and agent. NPD and approvals are relatively straight forward which makes life easier. We have also tried to take a very focused approach to licensing the brand and have not 'over licensed' it.

We have allowed licensees to develop ranges and have clear space in their categories. This has helped and I believe the licensees feel invested in the brand and the programme. They know they can look to the long term and there is a real partnership in play.

What do you look for in a Tango partner?

We are looking for companies who are proactive and show a long term commitment to the licence and the brand. We have found that this longer term approach is rewarding and has helped build a successful programme. We are looking for companies that are committed to NPD and innovation but are also capable of delivering retail distribution independently of our own efforts.

I guess the licensees we work with tend to be new to licensing or companies that carry a small portfolio of licences as this allows them to dedicate time to Tango and take a real brand management approach. I think we look for companies who can act independently but are also happy to be part of a team and understand that there is a brand owner who has a vested interest in things as well.

My feeling is that the success of the programme has been in large part to all parties committing to a genuine partnership approach and being committed to an open approach to business built on a shared objective of growing an opportunity in a progressive way.


Looking ahead, what activity do you expect the brand to be involved with at BLE?

Tango will be part of our BLE stand alongside other Britvic brands such as R Whites , Robinson's, J20 and Fruit Shoot. We are looking forward to meeting our existing partners, retailers and any new licensees who might be interested.

Who knows we might have some popcorn samples for visitors to try - I think that should help people get through a long BLE day!

Where would you like Tango to be come the end of the year?

Our aim is to have a programme that performs well, is showing growth and is consolidating its presence at retail.

Given it's success to date, Tango is a brand that is well established in licensing and we are looking forward to more success in 2017, but are already thinking ahead to 2018. It is important to think long term and have a commitment to innovation.