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Keynote: How Sports Licensing Kept Kinetic in Lockdown with F1 and Team GB

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With the world engaging with sports in myriad of new ways in lockdown, Simon Gresswell, managing director, SGLP shares how sports brands like Formula One and Team GB have kept fans engaged during the industry’s toughest test in recent history.

Due to the cancellation of mass gatherings and spectator events, sports have faced a turbulent year in 2020. However, in the face of challenges, the licensing industry within sports brands, clubs and events has innovated to stay on top of fan engagement through a myriad of new means. Formula 1 is one such brand, using esports, social media and more to build on brand engagement during the last many months.

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“It's fascinating to be part of F1 in these times,” says Joan Carrera Lopez, senior manager, retail, consumer product licensing, Formula 1, during a recent keynote at Festival of Licensing. “It’s a really innovative and technological company. I like to say it's a 70-year-old startup. […] I think as a business it's been an extremely challenging season for us, but everyone, I think, has been hit by the COVID situation. It's been difficult but good to go through all these processes from a professional perspective [but] I think that the saddest part is also the wider society. You know, I think F1 is a fast-paced environment, and we are used to being amenable.”

One brand that had no choice but to pivot thanks to the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics was Team GB, who brought social media, apparel and retail innovations to keep the Great British Olympic engagement alive – and even enhance its processes ahead of the global event. 

“I guess you're defined by how you act in situations like that,” says Tim Ellerton, commercial director, Team GB. “So, we’ve got an extremely strong agency in The Point.1888, and an excellent head of licensing, and we got together and saw how can we take advantage of the situation in terms of making it as easy and smooth for our licensees, our retailers, and of course, our sponsors as possible. The postponement has allowed us to focus on certain areas such as making our print-on-demand as efficient as possible. We've got a new store that we're launching in October, we're trying to align that closer with teamgb.com, which is also had a refresh. We're working on new collections for the store, whilst improving the assets available that we can market. For example, we're having a whole refresh of our style guide, which by our own admission needed a refresh – I think it’s been the same for three or four years. So those kinds of things probably wouldn't have happened, frankly, in such a quick period, without this postponement.” 

While the postponement of sports across the scale and throughout different regions has dealt a challenging blow to the sports licensing industry, the return to screens and pitches will undoubtedly be more powerful and more widely welcomed than ever before. 

“I think the Tokyo games next summer will be perhaps the greatest coming together of humanity ever,” adds Ellerton. “There's no other environment that you get so many people from so many different nations in one place at one time. Yes, of course, that comes with a lot of complexities in terms of how it's organized on the back of this pandemic – but in terms of a story for us and our licensing partners and sponsors that could potentially be absolutely huge.” 

For the full insight into the panel “How the Sports Industry Swerved the Biggest Brand Disruption of Recent History”, watch the Festival of Licensing session on-demand here.

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