Approaching the Starting Line

Organizing bodies overseeing global sports events are starting to look forward to when they can again host their tournaments and games—some as soon as 2021, they hope—and are jumpstarting their licensing efforts in preparation for that day. Here are some recent developments involving high-profile upcoming sports competitions:

  • Rugby League World Cup 2021 is planning to launch its official RLWC2021 store this September, after signing Cube Partnership as its retail and merchandise supplier. Cube will manage the stores at each of the 61 men’s, women’s, and wheelchair matches that are part of the event, working closely with apparel partner Kappa. The organizers of the tournament, which will take place in England, also recently signed Riverside Brands as the event’s licensing agent.
  • Tokyo 2020, now to be held in 2021, is currently considering how to run a Summer Olympics event the organizing committee has described as “frugal.” The International Olympic Committee has been offering financial help to the national organizing committees and international federations for sport during the pandemic. Tokyo is currently experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases, a worrisome development for the already-delayed event. Some Tokyo 2020 products are already on the market, including Mattel’s first of several toy collections, which debuted this spring. The initial assortment includes Barbie, Hot Wheels, and UNO products.
  • This month, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics signed four official suppliers, Beijing Kingsoft and Beijing 1rock for office collaboration software and Beijing Gehua and Hebei Broadcasting for cable television services. To date, it has 30 sponsors and 10 official partners on the promotional side. Its licensing program kicked off in 2018 with a limited merchandise pilot, followed by the application period for official licensees in 2019. Sports analysts have noted that a cancellation or second postponement of Tokyo 2020 in 2021 would likely impact the Winter Games in Beijing in 2022, which start just six months after the rescheduled Summer Games, likely leading to their cancellation as well.
  • The Birmingham (U.K.) 2022 Commonwealth Games just launched a competition to solicit children’s designs for the Games’ official mascot, to be judged by athletes, with the winner receiving tickets to the opening ceremony. Previously, a Virtual Mascot Summit had been held for children in the Birmingham region, allowing them to participate in developing the character’s look, traits, movements, and values. Last month, the Games opened the application process for licensed products based on the Birmingham 2022, Commonwealth Sport, and Home Nations trademarks. Licensing is overseen by CGF Partnerships, a venture between the Commonwealth Games Federation and Lagardère Sports Agency. The plan is to name a master agent that would contract with sub-licensees, along with separate licensees for soft toys and the e-commerce shop.
  • The Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games Organizing Committee announced a deal in December with Alibaba Group that includes an ecommerce store on Tmall—the first licensed retail store ever for the Asian Games—supported by other Alibaba businesses including Taobao, Lazada, AliExpress, and Alibaba.com. Alibaba will also be the Games’ technology partner for IT; for cloud services to manage competition results and event management; and for financial technology services, including blockchain-enabled payments and mobile payments. The Games will take place in six cities in China. Other sponsors, or “Official Prestige Partners,” have also been signed.
  • The World Games 2022 Birmingham (Alabama) said it would add flag football, in a partnership with the International World Games Association, the National Football League, and the International Federation of American Football. The competition, which takes place over 11 days, already features 32 sports. It is being billed as the first post-pandemic international sports event to be held in the U.S. The NFL is involved in flag football through its licensee Reigning Champs Experiences, which operates 1,600 local NFL FLAG leagues across the U.S.
  • FIFA’s 2022 World Cup competition in Qatar recently saw its schedule for the event ratified. FIFA announced in June that its revenues for this year would be about half of expected levels, due to several competitions being postponed. Some of these revenues will accrue in 2021 instead, if competitions can take place then. Licensing revenues, mainly connected to esports, are expected to be the top driver of revenue this year. The World Cup, held every four years, generates the bulk of FIFA’s quadrennial revenues of $6 billion-plus.
  • The Federation of International Hockey signed Kayford Branding to market officially licensed products including apparel, bags, keyrings, and badges, for FIH events through 2023. The products will be available on the FIH website’s ecommerce store as well as at venues. Upcoming events include the Women’s FIH Hockey World Cup 2022 in Spain and the Netherlands and the Men’s FIH Hockey World Cup 2023 in India. Kayford is also a licensee of other sports entities including FIFA, UEFA, Chinese Super League, and Asian and European football clubs and federations.

While all of sports licensing has taken a hit during the pandemic, events such as these are even more affected than leagues and teams by the inability to hold a traditional live event. Leagues with their seasons on hiatus can still keep their sport somewhat in mind through social and traditional media, off-season happenings, athlete participation in online events, and athlete interaction with fans. Their licensed merchandise also remains available for purchase.

Events, on the other hand, fly mostly under the radar until they come up every year, every two years, or, most commonly, every four years. Most of their merchandise sales are concentrated in a short time period leading up to and during the event, and the bulk occur in and around the event’s location (as well as online). They have a lot riding on the success of these live, fan-filled events and the licensed products associated with them, and they need to be prepared to fully capitalize, while also recognizing the risks ahead in these uncertain times.

A reminder that Raugust Communications’ July e-newsletter is distributed tomorrow, July 21, 2020. The Licensing Topic of the Month examines the nuances, from a licensing perspective, of rebranding a well-established trademark, as corporate brands, musical acts, sports teams, and more reconsider the appropriateness of offensive names in the wake of the George Floyd killing. The Datapoint research highlight will analyze the growth of streaming TV properties available for licensing over the past two years, a trend that is certain to accelerate in the COVID era. If you are not yet a subscriber to this free publication, you can sign up here.

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