A growing number of licensing deals and collaborations in the U.S. and internationally feature a charitable component, as consumers, especially young adults, choose to purchase from companies they perceive to be ethically and socially responsible. In many ways, this type of charitable tie-in has replaced traditional nonprofit brand licensing in the U.S.
Of course, there are a number of exceptions to this rule, with a range of longstanding outbound licensing programs going strong and newer nonprofit players occasionally coming into brand licensing. But outbound licensing has always been a challenge for nonprofits in the U.S. Working with licensors and their licensees as the recipient of funds, to create a value-added charitable component within their partnership—rather than being a licensor themselves—seems to be nonprofit IP owners’ preferred method of working with the licensing community at the moment.
Not so in the U.K., which has long had a more robust charitable licensing business than in the U.S. While charities participate in licensing in a variety of ways in that market, they are able to maintain outbound licensing programs based on their IP that attract a significant number of licensees, earn wide retail distribution, and generate strong sales. And U.K.-based licensees see value in securing rights to charitable IP as well.
Several recent charitable licensing initiatives centered on the U.K. market illustrate this point:
- Members of the U.K. licensing community, including Simta Sawhney of Viacom CBS, Hannah Miles of Fashion U.K., Ravina Mehta of BB Designs, and Saphia Maxamed of agency London Entertainment (who is a leader of the effort), are serving as the committee overseeing Black Lives Matter Licensing, an official partner of Black Lives Matter U.K. The committee is working with retailers and licensees in the hopes of creating official products to generate funds for the organization. One of its first ventures was a London Fashion Week BLM collection last fall with designer Samira Ebrahimi, who is managed by London Entertainment, and R&B artist MJR. Black Lives Matter U.K. is a separate entity from the U.S.-based Black Lives Matter group.
- Guide Dogs, which breeds and trains dogs to assist people with sight loss across the U.K. in remaining independent, retained Bulldog Licensing as its agent in January 2021. The primary focus is on pet products, training aids, and pet travel accessories; other categories of interest include collectible toys, apparel, and accessories.
- The NSPCC (The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) launched a licensing program for the first time, with Edutainment Licensing as its agent, last fall. At the center of the licensing effort is the NSPCC’s Pantosaurus mascot, which helps parents, caregivers, and teachers talk about abuse in a non-scary way, to help children recognize it and stay safe. Aardman Animations has worked with NSPCC to create videos and other media to get the message out.
- Earlier this month, PETA paired with Skinnydip London for six limited-edition pieces including t-shirts, hoodies, and mobile phone cases featuring phrases such as “Choose Kindness” and “Happy in My Own Skin” combined with animal motifs. In this case, PETA is a U.S.-headquartered organization, although it has an office in the U.K. and nine other regions. Skinnydip is a U.K.-based marketer of apparel and lifestyle products that has 16 standalone stores across England and is carried in 200 stores around the world as well.
As noted at the top of the piece, new licensing programs tied to nonprofit IP are not unheard of in the States, although the examples are few and far between compared to the U.K. market. One recent development: IMG announced in November that it would represent the Jackie Robinson Foundation for licensing, cause marketing, and institutional campaigns.
A heads-up that we have just posted new coverage of the co-located Showcase and Noted trade shows, held digitally last week, on our Trade Show page. The story features highlights of interest to the art licensing community, with spillover to the licensing business at large. While on the page, take a look at our recently posted coverage of the FMX conference, which includes insights for those involved in VR, AR, and location-based entertainment.
Note that we will not be publishing this coming Monday, May 31, due to the Memorial Day holiday in the U.S. We’ll be back next Thursday.