The Royal Navy may not immediately spring to mind as a typical licensed property. For a start, it’s owned by the Ministry of Defence and it has a serious function, unlike the many children’s/adult entertainment brands which exist solely, well, to entertain.
Simon Gresswell, VP of licensing at IMG, the agency responsible for handling the brand, is aware that as a very public organisation, the Royal Navy had to be sure it found the right company to fit with its culture, aims and objectives.
“Our initial objective was to harness all its content from the metaphorically distant ‘grey ships on the horizon’ to create a tangible and alluring set of unique, licensable assets which we could take to selected licensees,” Gresswell explains.
A combination of launch and licensee events were earmarked and IMG went about building pillar deals in core categories to highlight the facets of the Royal Navy and demonstrate the brand’s licensee touchpoints such as media exposure, marketing support and the unique long-term opportunity such an association represents.
There are now 12 licensees on board, a strong base from which to expand believes Gresswell. “Some are specialists like Haynes, some are also established relevant brands, such as Airfix and Dorling Kindersley and some are hungry, dynamic companies with real focus, such as Northern Suede and Leather and our new watches licensee SK. All are genuinely interested in long-term partnerships, with an appreciation of the value of the past, present and future of the Royal Navy and its brands.”
There are a number of categories that Gresswell is keen to move the brand into. Toy lines factor highly on the list, including action figurines, play vehicles/sets, strategic board and card games, such as an officially licensed Royal Navy Battleships, specialist die-cast and radio control. Apparel, plus mobile and console/PC gaming areas have also been earmarked.
Airfix’s first product – the Falklands commemorative Sea Harrier set – is already on sale and Q4 will see publishing products, watches and calendars on-shelf. Wider publishing titles and potentially toys and games will be launching next spring.
The main demographic for the products is clearly kids and family, although Gresswell is keen to point out that some specialist products are targeting wider age groups. “There’s less need to slot the brand into a tight demographic, when it has so much history and so much modern day exposure,” he says.
Of course, the one thing that the Royal Navy has on its side is its uniqueness. “The Royal Navy covers land, air and sea, touches pretty much everyone’s lives at some age and stage, through derived language, daily media, history and national security. It’s prestigious, revered and respected around the world and has been around for 500 years. The challenge is transmitting all that value.”
IMG and Gresswell are forging ahead with some ambitious plans for this year including major licensee/prospective partner events in spring/summer, Navy Days in Portsmouth in July, TV documentaries, Royal Navy and Royal Marines ad campaigns, plus the preparations for the Fleet Air Arm’s centenary in 2009.
So how does he see the brand developing in the future? “With the development of unique, bespoke product as well as mass-market categories, I’d hope the Royal Navy licensing programme can challenge for an industry award in September 2009, whether nominated under existing or new awards categories.”