IMG’s Gabrielle Sims talks through the global success of the Ministry of Defence brand

Can you give me a history of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) brand and its successes?

With such a rich history, the success of the MOD brand has been based on staying true to its values from the very beginning, ensuring that respect and relevance remains central at all times.

This is achieved with the selected partners we work with through to the products they develop. One of the more prominent recent successes is our MOD watch programme – in 2014, this long-term category sold almost 18,000 units at approximately £10.5m RSV.

In this space we have a number of credible partners, including Breitling, Citizen and Casio, creating great positioning, relevance and cobranded product . This is just one example which showcases the heritage, strength and demand of the MOD IP, which continues to be a part of our everyday lives.

What is the demographic for the property and who are you targeting with the licensing programme?

The MOD is relevant to us all. Its particular appeal to serving and ex-serving personnel, associated friends, families and supporters is thought to be around 20 per cent of the population. As a brand it therefore appeals to a wide range of consumers, and our licensing programme and retail strategy reflect this, targeting both adult and children’s markets.

How many licensees do you have on board for the Ministry of Defence and in what categories?

We have a total of 28 different licensees across the three key brands – the Royal Navy, British Army and the Royal Air Force. Categories include Attractions, Clothing, Collectibles, Eyewear, Gifting, Home, Kids Outdoor, Promotional Beverages, Publishing, Toys, Watches

What are some of the most popular licensing categories and what would you like to see the Ministry of Defence brand move in to?

Gifting and Collectables are the most popular category within our licensing programme to date, with some great long-term partners such as Citizen Watch, Widdop and Bingham and The Westminster Collection.

We are also moving into the lifestyle and fashion/fashion accessories markets, which we consider to be a key area for the brand. By way of an example, eyewear is something we believe could mirror the success we have had in the watch category.

What do you look for in a licensing partner and how do you pick your licensees?

Our approach is to work with well-established and co-branded partners. Licensees and products must be of high standard appearance, quality and design has to reflect the values of the Armed Forces, whilst protecting and enhancing its reputation.

Working with British brands is also a key initiative, which is a more recent strategic drive to really celebrate the traditional elements of our service men and women.

What are the main challenges with managing the Ministry of Defence brand?

Being aware of the sensitivity of the brand and ensuring that respect and relevance is maintained at all times. Integrity is paramount in all merchandising activity and we steer clear of inappropriate product categories, such as replicas.

Reputational risk is more acute for brands with a high media profile.

What is the secret to maintaining the success of Ministry of Defence and its heritage?

It’s about staying true to the brand values and making sure we are working with partners that are the right fit, and have that same strategy and respect within their business too.

How different is your approach to the Ministry of Defence property compared to the others in your portfolio?

Every brand is bespoke. Like each of our licensing programmes, it’s always key to take into account the client’s objectives and their own structural and operational challenges. It’s what makes our industry so varied and great to work in – no day is the same just as no brand is the same.

What’s next for the Ministry of Defence property?

Having won the tender for all three services, our immediate focus is to drive a more coordinated approach. We will be taking a ‘ less is more ‘ attitude and looking to sign only key categories.

Investing in new creative is key and taking the brands down a more consumer friendly and fashion lifestyle route will also allow us to reach outside the core target market by introducing the armed forces to new generations and enabling them to be inspired by our service men and women.

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