“Any global brand which can boast a Wimbledon tennis sponsorship dating back to 1902 and array of international sports stars supporting it would always have the right ingredients for a successful licensing programme.”
IBML’s marketing communications manager Ben Fell is, of course, talking about Slazenger. The evergreen brand makes up one of the firm’s sports and fashion licensing programmes.
IBML licences and markets these global brands and the Slazenger case study clearly demonstrates the company’s expertise in the market. To establish the licensing programme, sports and fashion partners were carefully selected which had the distribution, product and marketing to align perfectly with the brand.
Fell explains: “The selection process and subsequent support given to integrating new Slazenger licensees was key in perfectly positioning the brand and giving it true longevity. Slazenger is now thriving and with our cricketers ready for the summer’s Ashes and Wimbledon around the corner it promises to be another great year for the brand.”
The cricket campaign last year saw IBML arm England cricketers Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior and Ian Bell with custom designed black bats for the $20 million Twenty20 against the Stanford All-stars. The innovative mix of licensing and marketing in such situations creates a demand for these products with consumers, thus driving IBML’s business forward.
In its mission statement, the firm outlines this very sentiment, saying: “Through an integrated approach to the management of our brands we strive to develop consistent brands both in terms of product and brand image throughout the world.”
An international operation, the group has offices around the world and employs over 10,000 people across a broad range of specialisms including brand licensing, retail, manufacturing, marketing, legal counsel, factory auditing and design, each facilitating the growth of the brands and the products.
Slazenger is joined on IBML’s property list by an extensive and equally renowned array of names in the sports and apparel markets, including Dunlop, Lonsdale, Everlast, Kangol, Campri, Karrimor, No Fear, Lillywhites, Donnay, Voodoo Dolls, Carlton, Title, Antigua, and LA Gear.
The last year has seen three new brands join the IBML stable including USA PRO, Golddigga and Sondico. The company also relocated all of its operations to a new million square foot head office in Nottinghamshire. Fell quips: “Busy sums it up well.”
Ever growing, the firm made a number of other changes over the year. Fell explains: “To manage our ever-increasing portfolio of brands we have also put in place a superb new brand team to work with our global partners and optimise their potential.”
It seems the company is standing itself in good stead to build its portfolio and strengthen existing brands. Fell comments: “I can’t reveal too much about new clients [in the pipeline] but we have signed an agreement of our own with Muhammad Ali to produce a signature range of boxing equipment for Everlast.
“As the brand prepares to celebrate its 100-year anniversary, there is no better way to celebrate than with the man who originally wore Everlast in such classic fights as the ‘Thrilla in Manilla’ and the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’.”
Celebrities form a key part of IBML’s marketing activity as they promote the brand and spark consumer interest in the licensee products. Many memorable promotions have taken place for the brands over the course of the company’s history.
Fell’s most memorable of these was for Dunlop: “A youth tennis campaign we ran with our Dunlop brand ambassador John McEnroe was my best campaign so far. As a tennis fan, working with the biggest character in the history of the sport was a bit of a dream.
“John had just been knocked out of a Masters event and didn’t turn up in the best of moods, but the moment the cameras started rolling he switched on the style and delivered.”
Less high profile campaigns, but equally beneficial to licensees include retail initiatives. The next decade will see over 100 Dunlop and Slazenger boutique stores open in China. In partnership with licensee and regional racket distributor Jamost Sporting Goods.
Based in Shenzhen, the stores will focus predominantly on racket sports and involve a number of already established licensees including footwear licensee Pegasus and Slazenger luggage licensee Lohmum Leather.
The success of outdoor and adventure brand Karrimor also continues as licensee Dongjin Leisure presses ahead with its programme to open 60 outlets in South Korea by the end of 2008. Since the agreement was signed in the summer of 2007, 26 department store concessions have opened.
The brands on IBML’s books already boast a wide variety of licensees from traditional sportswear firms creating footwear and apparel to more unusual signings like Slazenger’s deal with Aimia Foods for its S1 sports drink last year. Opportunities are endless and there are many more for the firm to go after. Fell’s dream licence, for example would be Base Jumping parachutes for No Fear.