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How are the Peaky Blinders building a global empire through licensing?

By order of Endemol Shine, a swathe of new licensees have just signed up to the award-winning, British gangster drama, Peaky Blinders as it looks to grow its enterprise across the consumer products space.

This October will see the first official Peaky Blinders book via Michael O’ Mara Books. The title will invite fans to step into the set and discover the real life inspiration for the series in what has been dubbed ‘the ultimate call-out to fans.’

It’s just part of a sweep of licensing partners that have joined the Peaky Blinders in its plans for the licensing industry, a programme that was kicked off in style when the British menswear label Kent & Curwen – working in collaboration with its business partner David Beckham – revealed an AW19 Garrison Tailors by Order of the Peaky Blinders wardrobe.

Bravado, Corsair, GB Eye, Danilo and BB Designs have now signed with the IP to build the brand across the lifestyle, men’s grooming, giftware and publishing categories.

It’s a big move for the Peaky Blinders brand as it ramps its efforts up in the licensing space this year, yet only the first step in what Jane Smith, group director, brand licensing and gaming at Endemol Shine Group, has called "exciting and ambitious plans for the Peaky Blinders brand.”

Already, Endemol Shine is in the process of closing out deals in the live and experiential space, where demand for Peaky Blinders escape rooms and immersive theatre has surged, while Smith has highlighted that plans are afoot to tap into the show’s ‘very strong female character presence,’ to curate a ladies’ fashion line.

Licensing.biz sits with the licensing specialist to learn more:

What we have seen so far is that Peaky Blinders is a very visceral property, and it is very much about the ‘look’ . – both production and style – how has this informed and influenced your approach to licensing the brand?

Peaky Blinders is a very visceral property, front and centre – there’s no hiding from that. Coupled with the human-led storylines which allow people to invest in the characters, means that Peaky Blinders has a very passionate and dedicated fanbase.

The sleek production, look and style, the cinematography and the music give us something very unique to offer when licensing the brand. In terms of how this influences our approach to licensing, we try to stay as true as possible to the series itself, for example, by selecting certain photography from the show which captures the on-screen feel and atmosphere. This is what the fans expect. 

The first official Peaky Blinders book will launch in Q4 this year which will give fans the opportunity to experience the show from a different angle, with interviews from key cast and the production team, supported by never before seen photography.

When we developed the Kent & Curwen range, a key inspiration for the fashion show was an industrial backdrop featuring Tommy Shelby which really set the mood for the show – in this instance the photography is not directly on the product, but instrumental in how the product is presented.

The series is set in fascinating historical time periods, and we are pulling themes from these eras to inform design and inspire great creative artwork to capture the look and feel of a particular period of time. One example we have in development is some art deco product which is influenced by design of that time. 

There are also incredibly strong female characters and we look to these for our inspiration too with plans for ladies’ fashion in development.

The Kent & Curwen partnership really highlights its fashion focus – How will you look to uphold this ‘high fashion’ ideal around the brand as the programme begins to roll out? How do you translate that to mass market, or indeed, will you be translating that to mass market?

Daniel Kearns at Kent & Curwen was inspired by David Beckham’s love of the show and personal style. What they have created is not a copy, it’s not dress-up, but it is authentic, well designed tailoring with a nod to the dress and style of the TV series. 

In men’s tailoring we saw the opportunity to go into the higher end of fashion for launch which will roll out in Q3 across 166 stores globally and online. The clothes of the male characters lend themselves perfectly to brilliantly designed, tailored products and it is testament to the high-end look and feel of the show that we are able to launch in this space.

Beyond this we are also looking to develop more mass market opportunities and we will identify products that will appeal to the broader audience at a lower price point that will focus more on clothing rather than tailoring. Items such as hoodies and footwear are examples of this.

The look and feel of Peaky Blinders lends itself very well to the concept of experiential licensing (we have seen themed bars, Peaky Blinders nights etc – albeit unofficial…) will this play a role in the licensing approach? Can we expect more experiential licensing from the programme?

People want to be part of the Shelby world, they want to connect with the characters and feel what it is like to be a Peaky Blinder. We are in the final stages of closing agreements for several categories of Peaky Blinders experiences including escape rooms, tours and immersive theatre. 

The appetite for experiences based on the TV series is huge, and there is still lots of untapped potential and opportunity to grow this area, which is a key focus for us.

We are aware that there are unlicensed operations and we are continually working to protect the quality and authenticity of the brand and form official partnerships in this space. We are diligently choosing partners that can deliver the experience that our dedicated fans expect and deserve.

How will you be tapping into current trends in the licensing or consumer space – is there room for Peaky Blinders in the digital space?

There is absolutely room for Peaky Blinders in the digital space. We are working with a leading games developer and publisher on a console game and are in discussions about a VR experience with a leading studio. 

We also have interest from a number of mobile game developers and will be at GDC in March to further these discussions.

VR for us straddles gaming and live events as we see it as a key element in our experiential category as it helps bring the series to life. We work closely with the show’s creator and writer Steven Knight as we develop and roll-out the licensing programme, but especially in gaming and experiential, to ensure all our narrative extensions are authentic and true to the Peaky Blinders ethos.

How has or how do you think the IP will translate to an international audience – how will approach differ when looking at the global audience?

Peaky Blinders has a really strong global fanbase and is heavily supported by Netflix around the world. We already have a licensing programme planned for the US with product in the market later this year, we have the global publishing deal with Michael O’Mara with sublicenses in multiple territories and we are launching the brand in Spain, Italy, France and Brazil, with other markets to follow.

What do you think the future of licensed products at retail is and how will Peaky Blinders help this along to its next stage of evolution?

Out initial product launch with partner Bravado focusses on fan-based apparel with a range of t-shirts and hoodies across a variety of online and high-street retailers. 

We are seeing big online pre-order numbers and continue to broaden our retail partners by offering them bespoke designs tailored to each of their customer base. 

We want our products to be equally available at physical and online stores and offer the option of choice through our print on demand products we are launching shortly in the upcoming official Peaky Blinders Webstore. 

With the experiential opportunities that Peaky Blinders offers, we are looking to work with retail destinations and venues to offer experiences that deliver the shoppers something more than just retail.

We know there is an opportunity for gifting and we have worked hard and fast with BB Designs to craft a compact range of gifts that will be available just in time for Father’s Day. With Corsair we will have a great range of men’s grooming products at retail in time for the Christmas season, whilst GB Eye will continue to deliver further products, including posters and drinkware throughout the year and Danilo will release the new 2020 calendars building on the launch of the very first Official Peaky Blinders calendars at the end of last year.

There is a huge appetite at retail for Peaky Blinders and we are working carefully with the best partners to bring product to market which will resonate with consumers.

We’re looking to build a long-term brand licensing franchise which will continue to evolve as the series moves on in time. 

We feel a responsibility to the show’s creators and the fans to deliver products and events which reflect the on-screen experience. Peaky Blinders is a unique show which has captured the hearts of many and we’re very lucky to be working on it. 

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of Licensing.biz and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent some six years with both ToyNews and Licensing.biz, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@bizmedia.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobHutchins3 if ranting is your thing...

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