Rugby World Cup 2015 will showcase sport's booming licensing opportunities for brands

Darren Brechin
Rugby World Cup should provide excitement to businesses as well as sport lovers (Source: Getty)
The culmination of months of sporting excitement aside, there are plenty of business reasons we should be happy about the arrival of the Rugby World Cup in our back garden. One of them is the opportunity within the licensing industry.
The licensing industry is booming –the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association’s recent Annual Global Licensing Study showed that globally $13.4bn (£8.6bn) was made in royalty revenues and $241.5bn in retail sales in 2014. Europe accounted for just under one-quarter of the global market, whilst $26bn (11 per cent) of the total came from the sports category.
That’s an impressive figure, but it could get even bigger. From my perspective at the Brand Licensing Europe show sports stands out as a definite growth area – normally an accurate sign of intentions of a particular sector over the next year.
As well as strength in more traditional sports such as rugby and football, others such as tennis, cycling, golf and a range of American sports are also making waves in the European licensing industry. The PGA Tour, Roland Garros tennis and Tour de France are all exhibiting for the first time this year, whilst the London NFL series in October has given the sport a great platform to extend its licensing programme across the Atlantic.
An example of the attractive power to brands is Twentieth Century Fox, who have partnered with the likes of Barcelona, Juventus, Boca Juniors and Chelsea to create football-branded Simpsons merchandise. Their work around the 2014 Fifa World Cup shows the work that can be done to create noise and achieve cut through around such a major sporting event.
So back to the Rugby World Cup and what it will do for sports licensing. It is of course a great platform by which to promote the sport and extend the fan base beyond day-to-day rugby fans – the best example of this is Aardman, the company responsible for Shaun The Sheep, and its deal with World Rugby for the event. Positioning it alongside such a family-friendly character is a clever move and means you can now buy a whole raft of Shaun-related Rugby World Cup merchandise, from soft toys to clothes. The timing of it is also nicely placed to hit the pre-Christmas retail period.
Licensing can be a very cost-effective marketing tool and a new property can have success across a diverse range of categories or geographical locations, making it an essential part of the marketing mix. Sports licensing is already hugely successful, but there are huge areas for potential growth still to come and the Rugby World Cup will help propel this further.

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