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How Licensing And Football Are Becoming Inextricable

Thu 17th Sep 2015 | Football Industry Events

Football licensing is big business says Darren Brechin, Event Director of Europe’s largest licensing event. 

The licensing industry is booming. Last year it generated approximately $241.5 billion in retail sales, according to industry body LIMA’s Global Licensing Report 2015.  Sports licensing alone was responsible for $26 billion in sales, and accounted for 11% of the total market.

That’s an impressive slice of the licensing pie, and it’s obvious that sports and licensing go hand in hand. Branded merchandise has long provided the cornerstone of fans’ connections to their teams. 

But licensing is much more than this. It allows fans to connect with individual players, allows clubs to promote the right marketing messages, aids expansion into new territories and increases revenues. 

In his book ‘Licensing for Growth’, Bruno Schwobthaler describes football licensing as meeting the ‘beyond the 90 minutes need’ -  a simple but meaningful way of expressing the fans’ desire to engage with their team outside the 90 minutes of the game. He adds that European football clubs have been among the first to realise their fans’ need for more, so it’s no surprise that all the major clubs have now developed licensing programme which generate substantial revenues. 

We’ve seen the growth and evolution of football licensing at BLE over the last five years as clubs and their agents join us on the show floor with increasingly ambitious aims.

Licensing has allowed clubs like Chelsea FC to operate a successful programme on a global scale, with licensees in many of the rapidly growing football markets including the USA and the Far East. 

According to Schwobthaler’s book, UEFA has been using licensing increasingly to maximise the impact of its European championships. Last year UEFA 2016 appointed global agency IMG Licensing to develop an extensive licensing programme to appeal to all segments of football and sports fans, officially launching the programme at BLE. Its remit? To seek out licensees for a range of fan, lifestyle, fashion and leisure products to be sold throughout Europe and other worldwide markets. 

But beyond the teams themselves, it’s often the players who are at the very heart of the licensing programme itself. Fans are more connected to their players than ever before, thanks to social media and the popularity of fantasy leagues.  Licensing can also create high impact, fun campaigns such as the “Simpsonisation” of the Chelsea squad and face masks of Arsenal’s top six players, produced by licensee Mask-arade. 

Licensing can steer a brand in a new direction too. Take note of AC Milan’s recent collaboration with Hello Kitty to produce co-branded sports gear for female fans. In an innovative move, Arsenal’s Rachel Yankey OBE has recently teamed up with CBeebies for a new live-action children’s show ‘Footy Pups’ to encourage children to get active, celebrate the game and promote team work.

Earlier in the year Tottenham Hotspur attended our sister show, Licensing Expo, in the US to push its brand licensing campaign to the American audience. According to US industry magazine, License Global “As international events like the FIFA World Cup bring sports franchises to audiences around the world, teams are looking beyond the home pitch to reach an international fan base.

The year following the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil has seen lots of new international licensing agent appointments. In the last few months U.S.-based Fermata Partners has taken on Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Newcastle United, Queens Park Rangers and Swansea City as well as Fulham and Norwich City. Meanwhile, Manchester United is planning a series of fan events in Asia and South Africa called "United: Live" that will feature games, fan zones, live Q&A sessions with players and more.”

If you’re interested in finding out more about licensing, Brand Licensing Europe is offering two free seminar sessions specifically on sports licensing. You will also find the following brands on the show floor:


  • Adidas - AC Milan 
  • Adidas- Real Madrid Global Merchandising SLU
  • Paris St Germain FC
  • Manchester City FC
  • Arsenal Football Club 
  • Chelsea Football Club 
  • FIFA
  • UEFA 2016 


Brand Licensing Europe takes place from 13 – 15 October 2015 at London’s Olympia. Registration is free at www.brandlicensing.eu

Action Images / Tony O'Brien Livepic

Posted by: Aaron Gourley 



If you have any football business related news stories you’d like to share then please contact us – agourley@fcbusiness.co.uk  

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