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Special Report: European Sports Take the Field

Special Report: European Sports Take the Field
European sports organizations are expanding their brands to new territories across the globe, allowing for more opportunitties to reach consumers and take on new licensees.

European sports organizations are expanding their brands to new territories across the globe, allowing for more opportunitties to reach consumers and take on new licensees.

Sports licensing has always been big business, both in the U.S. and abroad. After all, what die-hard fan could head to the game (or even the sports bar) without being decked out head-to-toe in branded apparel, hats, accessories and more? Lately though, the business is expanding into even more regions and categories across Europe, reaching new fans and creating new opportunities for licensed products.

With a host of new prospects laid out before them, many of Europe's major sports organizations are heading into the U.S., Asia and other markets to continue to grow their brands and reach new audiences. Here are some of the initiatives these franchises are taking to achieve their goals.

Agents Take Charge

Although historically many organizations host their own internal licensing programs, many brands are now turning to agents to represent them for licensing across a number of worldwide territories.

In February, the British horsetrack Ascot Racecourse appointed IMG to serve as its worldwide licensing representative. Since then, IMG has been working to create a year-round licensing program that features Ascot and the Royal Ascot racing festival across multiple categories including apparel, bags, leather goods, homewares, stationery and memorabilia.

IMG also took on the Turin, Italy-based Juventus Football Club for licensing in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand. The multi-year deal will encompass a range of merchandise including automotive, apparel, accessories, stationery, toys and food and beverage.

The Tour de France renewed CPLG as its licensing agent in the U.K. and Eire. In addition to souvenir merchandise, publishing, homewares and accessories, CPLG is also working to develop performance and lifestyle product ranges for the cycling competition to create an all-round proposition.

Furthermore, St Andrews Links Trust also renewed its agreement with CPLG to oversee the global licensing program for the 600-year-old Scottish golf course complex. The agency will continue to support the brand by introducing it to a range of lifestyle and home products such as handbags and stationery that is set to launch at retail in 2017.

Rounding out CPLG's roster is the Rugby Football Union, which in September appointed the agency to oversee England RFU's global licensing program. In order to continue to grow and develop the brand, CPLG will focus on moving the brand toward a lifestyle-focused merchandising program.

Silverstone, the home of British Motor Racing, appointed Blonde Sheep Licensing to serve as its exclusive licensing agent globally. The agency will initially focus on securing licensing deals across apparel, toys, video games, paper products, gifts and homewares.

Arsenal Football Club will also expand into North America with its appointment of Fermata Partners in July. The Atlanta-based agency is owned by CAA Sports, a division of Creative Artists Agency, and has already secured several agreements for the team with first products expected to hit retail in Q3 and Q4.

Additionally, One Entertainment, a Las Vegas, Nev.-based brand management and licensing agency, has taken on three European football teams–FC Bayern, AS Roma and DFB-Wirtschaftsdienste, a subsidiary of the German soccer federation Deutscher Fu ball-Bund, for licensing in North America.

Teaming Up

A number of European sports franchises have also teamed up with various companies for licensed consumer products.

Before the Tour de France 2016, Focus Home Interactive released an official video game for the cycling competition for PlayStation4, Xbox One and PC.

Osasuna FC, a professional football team in La Liga's first division, teamed with Spanish clothing and product design firm Kukuxumusu in August to launch a collection of t-shirts, caps, mugs and scarves.

In March, FC Barcelona teamed with Nordcurrent, a developer and publisher of free-to-play games, to release an exclusive update for the game "Cooking Fever" that features the football club. In the update, players are able to access the FC Barcelona Sports Bar as well as views of Camp Nou stadium. The game also includes the likeness of players such as Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez, Neymar Jr., Gerard Piqué and Andrés Iniesta.

Meanwhile, in the last year, football club Manchester City signed licensing agreements with more than 40 new licensees in multiple worldwide territories, from Argentina to Poland, China and Australia. The team also launched a new club crest and a complete brand overhaul.

Moving forward, Manchester City plans to expand in key territories including North America through Fermata Partners and in China through agency PPW. The organization has also expanded its range of health and beauty products in Malaysia and will launch a direct-to-retail program with Jack & Jones in nearly 500 stores throughout China.

Dorna Sports has secured a number of deals for its motorcycle brand MotoGP. In the U.S., the company tapped Von Dutch for a co-branded apparel range that includes t-shirts, sweaters, caps and beanies; while in India, licensee Myntra will feature a special edition collection of biker attire that includes riding jackets, denim riding pants and a number of t-shirts that brings together the MotoGP brand with Myntra's outdoor lifestyle brand Roadster.

This year also saw the first free-to-play MotoGP game for iOS and Android devices, as well as the launch of an arcade simulator and the video game, "Valentino Rossi: The Game." In addition to digital games, the company also broke into the world of instant lottery by partnering with Scientific Games and Once for a range of scratch cards in Spain.

Finally, the U.S.-based National Basketball Association is continually growing its presence in Europe and other territories throughout the world. In fact, the league's international licensing business represents more than 30 percent of its global business and is its fastest growing portion, according to Lisa Piken Koper, vice president, global partners, NBA.

For the upcoming 2016-17 season, the NBA has started to engage new licensees domestically to create business partnerships with key retail accounts like Fanatics. The organization will also delve into new non-traditional categories such as home improvement, grocery, pharmacy and more.

The organization is also working with retail partners around the world including Foot Locker in Europe, Rebel in Australia, Xebio in Japan, Top Sport in China, Innova Sport and Liverpool in Mexico, Sportline in the Dominican Republic and many more to grow its presence.

For the 2017-18 season, the NBA is kicking off its licensing program with a global partnership with Nike as its official on-court apparel provider.

Finally, over the past year, the NBA has secured new agreements including the coming debut of the first NBA Café in Europe, which will open in Barcelona, Spain this fall; a bedding collection from Active Dreamers that features NBA players; and the launch of NBA Stores in the Middle East that sell branded apparel, jerseys, footwear, sporting goods, toys and collectibles. The organization also recently finalized mobile gaming deals in Asia, a partnership to launch NBA-branded basketball camps in France and is currently working on plans to launch the first NBA Center outside of Beijing.

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