Firstly, can you just give me a brief overview of the museum?
The NMRN has been in existence for approaching six years, now comprising five museum sites: NMRN (Portsmouth), the Royal Marines Museum, the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, the Fleet Air Arm Museum and Explosion! The Museum of Naval Fire Power. The NMRN’s Historic Fleet consists of 10 ships and submarines and 99 historic aircraft. Amongst the submarines we have HMS Alliance, X51 and Holland 1, and the major ships include HMS Victory, HMS Caroline, HMS Trincomalee and HMS M.33.
Why did you take the decision to move into the licensing sector?
The purpose of our licensing programme is to promote and explain our mission whilst enhancing our brands. Licensing sits in our commercial division whose primary aim is to raise funds for the preservation of our collections and wonderful ships - in particular HMS Victory, the only remaining ship of its type in the world which celebrates its 250th anniversary in 2015.
What will be available for licensees and partners to use?
Access to all our collections as well as the special expertise of our curators and historians. Where appropriate licensees may also incorporate actual pieces of wood or copper from HMS Victory in their products. Licensees also have the opportunity to launch their products on board HMS Victory, a life-changing experience, or within an appropriate venue.
Do you already have licensees signed up? Which categories are they active in? Where are the products sold?
Yes, we already have some sold, and are hoping to announce another four or five at BLE. Amongst these are categories such as collectables, models, memorabilia, greetings cards, posters, chronometers, and puzzles. These are sold through standard retail outlets, as well as specialised mail order companies and high-end boutiques.
Please explain to me about 'Futtocks'?
Futtocks is a wooden rib that forms part of a ship, such as HMS Victory. We launched a limited range of clothing and souvenirs using this word, alongside amongst others, Kingfisher Leisurewear. It was designed to be a light hearted, almost seaside postcard/Two Ronnies’ humour range, aimed at highlighting the fact that we had more than just ships to offer. There is a huge range of archive material, images, posters, letters, illustrations and language. For example, in this range we offer a mug which states “Get off your Futtocks and make me a cuppa!”
Which categories are you now looking to target? And what kind of products do you think will work best?
All categories are available but we are particularly interested in Apparel, collectables, stationary and fine time pieces.
Are you looking to open up retail distribution further?
Yes - we would like our licensed products to be distributed amongst major High Street and online retailers.
What are the main challenges you face when licensing a brand such as the NMRN and how are you working to overcome these?
The main issue with licensees is the appreciation of the vastness and diversity of the collections and the potential that can be exploited. We would be very happy to work with licensees who wish to develop and interpret the collections and are inspired by the brand.
If you could name one thing which would get potential licensees interested in working with you, what would it be?
I guess it would be opportunity to work with the HMS Victory brand, although we have others, and possibly incorporating some of the ship into their products. HMS Victory is celebrating the 250th anniversary of her launch in 2015.
Why did you decide to exhibit at BLE? What are you hoping to gain from your experience at the show?
After discussions with other like-minded organisations I became convinced that BLE was the key place where we could show our brand and attract interest. I’ve visited for the last four years, as we developed our programme, but we are now in a strong enough positon to know that we have the ability to support our licensees. We hope to talk to many different people and, of course, start the process to sign deals.
What would you most like to have achieved with the NMRN licensing programme by the end of 2014?
We would like to enhance our reputation and visibility, sign deals and be recognised as a serious player in licensing.
And slightly longer-term, say five years' time?
We have so many exciting plans in the pipeline it’s hard to speak to specifics. However, in 2015 we are opening HMS M.33 to the public for the first time in commemoration of Gallipoli, where she served. In 2016 we are opening HMS Caroline to the public for the first time, in celebration of the centenary of the Battle of Jutland of which she is the sole remaining survivor, and in 2017 we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of HMS Trincomalee. We would like to capitalise on these anniversaries and have a strong licensing programme in place for these core brands by then.