“When we first got involved with the brand we had absolutely no doubt how big it could be from a licensing perspective, simply because brand recognition is so huge,” says Mark Hurry, director of licensing at Space Enterprises.
The classic, surreal humour of Cleese, Palin, Idle and company is enjoyed worldwide and the Monty Python brand is a hallmark of quality comedy. Although the great brand recognition is a clear advantage, Space had worries over the sheer size of the Python canon.
With 45 episodes of Flying Circus and five feature films, as well as stage shows, numerous albums, several books and a stage musical there was a risk that some licensees wouldn’t know where to start.
To avoid this, Space set its creative team to work on a style guide to provide would-be licensees a gateway to the franchise. Deploying the creative team, they soon had the guide ready to present to the licensing community.
“The style guide was just a gateway to literally thousands of Python assets, from Gilliam artwork and animations, through to clips, stills, and, of course, soundbites,” Hurry says.
The strategy paid dividends almost immediately. Two years ago, Hurry and his colleagues took a copy of the guide to an unrelated licensing meeting with Re:creation in Las Vegas. Afterwards, when asked if it had any other brands to offer, Space unleashed the Python style guide.
It wasn’t until then that Hurry saw the full potential of the licence. “They were fans of the brand and realised we had opened a Pandora’s box of materials. A major deal was signed within three days, which has grown to the extent that Re:creation is now offering over 15 different lines.”
Since sealing the first deal, Space now has 20 licensees on board in the UK and abroad. Covering a wide range of products, Python fans can now treat themselves to toys, gifts, calendars, greeting cards, clothing and fancy dress among other items.
“Over the past two years of working with the brand we have discovered that everyone has their own favourite Python moment. This is great from a licensing point of view because the fact that fans’ knowledge of the Python canon is so broad gives us plenty to work with.”
Licensees have been quick to take advantage of the most famous Phython sketches, with a Biggus Dickus corkscrew and a Mr. Creosote ketchup dispenser along with Wafer Thin Mints (“they’re only wafer thin!”), which have proved a strong seller. There is also a steady flow of prints, posters and t-shirts using featuring Gilliam’s iconic artwork.
“We have had a fantastic response from licensees and their retail partners in terms of the new licensing activity that we have achieved at Space,” Hurry adds.
From a licensee’s point of view, the fan devotion to the brand is what translates into hard sales. People have been happy to pay for their favourite part of Python history, in memorabilia form.
Online, Space has launched www.deadparrotshop.com to sell Python products, along with www.spamalotstore.com, selling merchandise from the musical Spamalot, “‘lovingly ripped off’ from Monty Python’s Holy Grail.”
Signing up two digital partners, Zattikka and Zed, Space is focused on moving the Python brand into new media and the growth sector of social network gaming. The Ministry of Silly Games is available on Facebook, while there is also Python iPhone game, Cow Tossin’, which Terry Gilliam was involved in.
Summing things up, Hurry says: “It really has been a process of discovery for us and getting to grips with the sheer scale of the assets that have been created over the past 40 years has been a task in itself. However, it has been a fantastic experience working with such a massive brand and we have thoroughly enjoyed it.
“We want to see the brand really break through in the retail and online spaces in 2011 – and we think the partners and products that we have on board are all set to deliver on this.”