Are you ready for one of the biggest brand revivals, currently taking the UK by storm?
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Are you ready for one of the biggest brand revivals, taking the UK by storm?

90s action-packed TV show, Gladiators, has exploded into viewers’ homes and with it comes a huge licensing programme, courtesy of Sky One, Start Licensing and some 15 licensees.

As the new-look show nears the semi-finals, the popularity of the original series, according to Ian Downes of Start Licensing, has put the property in good stead.

“American Gladiators launched successfully last year and that opened up the way for the format to be sold internationally again,” Downes tells

“The show is a perfect fit for Sky One not least because of its all-family appeal and the brand recognition it carries,” he continues.

Gladiators combines action, competition and drama with distinct characters, aiming to entertain viewers regardless of generation, or as Downes puts it, “watercooler television”.

“The promotional spend that Sky have put behind the show has helped raise brand awareness and trigger the positive memories people had of the show.”

The main focus of the licensing campaign is to initially target children, concentrating on toys, apparel and publishing. Character Options has come on board as master toy licensee, while deals with Underground Toys and Grossmans have also been signed.

“The style guide that has been developed for Sky One by Red Central emphasises the action, pace and distinct visual identity of the show making areas like apparel logical development areas,” Downes explains.

“We also see great potential in areas like collectables – for example a sticker collection is in development and also in the role play element. Cesar are developing dress ups based on some of the Gladiator costumes – initially for children but also looking at the opportunity for adult costumes as well.”

A range of products including slogan t-shirts and talking key-chains is also in the offing for 16 to 34 year-olds, who make up a significant percentage of the viewing profile.

“A number of licensees wanted to get on board quickly,” Downes says. “There was genuine enthusiasm for the licence as licensees recognised that Gladiators is a brand with recognition and potential for them.

“I think it also interesting to note that the Gladiators has a positive edge to it in terms of the fact it is a very active show and that the Gladiators are all great role models. We are looking at ways of harnessing this further. One of the Gladiators, Predator, is involved in a schools fitness programme and I think this opens up opportunities for us to develop this side of things.

“Furthermore Rainbow Productions are working with management agency Princess Productions to look at opportunities for the Gladiators to make personal appearances… indeed we hope to have one or two Gladiators at the Brand Licensing Europe show.”

And as we wait to find out who will win Series One and the £50,000 prize money, Sky is looking to develop the franchise in other ways too, such as making a digital game available through red button technology, making episodes available to subscribers to view online, making episodes available on the Anytime TV service and cross promoting within its channels.

“The biggest challenge I think was managing expectations – the first series was a huge licensing success but times have moved on and the licensing/tv model is different now,” Downes admits. “We have had to bear this in mind and also had to react quite quickly to the launch of the show.

“I think it is about good communication and trying to be open with people about the development of the property and to give licensees access to good qualitative information so they can assess things themselves. Sky is a well-known brand, but it is a brand that is best understood if you consume it so we have tried to give as much insight into Sky’s promotion and marketing as possible.

“You are also battling with people’s memories of the original series – the new Gladiators is a different proposition to the original show but it is the right style of show for today’s market. We also have to allow time for the personalities to build. Wolf wasn’t created in a day.”

Overall, Start Licensing is optimistic Gladiators will return as a “rewarding licence”, outperforming its competition.

“I think we have to be realistic and not over promise on the potential but I think we can be encouraged about the early reaction to it, the consistent viewing levels and the general media interest in the show,” Downes says.

“We need to deliver a focused licensing programme and allow the licensees to have room to develop without overfilling the licensee list. Equally we need the licensees to present the show in the round and to get across the fact that Sky have invested in the show and are supporting it in a very proactive fashion.

“I think generally we are in a more competitive market than when Gladiators was first launched, but the show has all of the elements that made it a hit first time round and the benefit of Sky’s marketing skills behind it so I think we should be optimistic for the future.“




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