Rocket Men

Rob Wijeratna and Charlie Donaldson set up Rocket Licensing and Rocket Consulting in January 2007, when they thought the time was right to fulfill what they perceived as a need for a "nimble and agile" consultancy.

April 6, 2018

3 Min Read

Rob Wijeratna and Charlie Donaldson set up Rocket Licensing and Rocket Consulting in January 2007, when they thought the time was right to fulfill what they perceived as a need for a "nimble and agile" consultancy. i1_565.jpg

The pair met at BBC Worldwide, where Wijeratna worked for 12 years, followed by stints at HarperCollins and Entertainment Rights. Donaldson left the BBC for a 12-year stint at ITV companies.

The duo's first signing was Dangerous Book for Boys, an intuitive deal that is paying off as the quirky boys' and men's property finds its niche. Rocket has set up 18 licensees globally, and Christmas 2008 saw product launched in the U.K., U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Holland, Belgium, France and Germany.

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Other signings include entertainment properties from the portfolios of MGM and HBO, HarperCollins US, and Decode's Franny's Feet. It also represents retro property of the moment, Atari.

In the spring, two non-executives, Rupert Dilnott-Cooper and Helen McAleer, joined the business. With their media experience at Carlton Communications, Walker Books, Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide, Wijeratna and Donaldson believe they can help to take the business to a new level.

Apart from the economy, what is happening in the industry now?

The core licensing model is a tough one to make work. If you are a straight licensing agency, the margins are really very tight. Working cross-category with retailers is the gold standard, but retailers are extremely competitive, and buyers tend to be focused on their own shelf space.

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One of the things that is important now is that people want to feel safe. So classic brands that people can relate to are very important. Atari really fits into this mood for nostalgia and so does the new Fame, which is just right for the 1980s retro fashion mood.

What's your approach to licensing?

For us, this business is about working with great partners and great brands. We only go for brands that we love. Although we are growing, we are very selective about what we sign. We want to be able to give each brand absolute focus, time and energy and be able to work closely with the licensors, licensees and retailers. We are skewing slightly toward entertainment properties, but we have a mix of experience and know the industry really well, so we can operate in all areas.

What's happening at Rocket?

MGM's remake of Fame debuts globally on Sept. 25, and we've got 14 best-in-class licensees on board, covering categories from kids' apparel to melamine ware, stationery and classic and new Fame fashion. We're looking to set up deals on beauty and cosmetics and are talking to retailers on direct-to-retail deals; we're presenting now on a brandwide basis and bringing key buyers together. We've had a great response from retail; licensees and buyers feel nostalgic about the original Fame, and the new story is just as relevant.

Fame will be followed at Christmas with the new St Trinian's movie. Plus on the HBO side, we have "True Blood" and "The Wire" just starting to air.

Atari fashion is about to burst onto the U.K. high street as licenses with Joystick Junkies and Trademark Products come to fruition with product about to hit stores, including Topman, Rover Island, Next and Urban Outfitters.

What's the next big thing?

Fame!

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