NEW YORK -- Retail exposure is viewed as critical to growing sports licenses, said executives from leading licensing firms during the Annual International Licensing and Merchandising Conference, held here from June 25 to 27. Success no longer depends on the property, said Pat Allen, executive vice president and chief operating officer at the National Football League Players, Washington.
"We used to sit and wait for people to present ideas to us. As the market changed, it became necessary for us to leverage our opportunities to help licensees and retailers sell more products," she said during a seminar on sports licensing.
The NFL Players' mission is to market NFL personalities through television, radio, on-line, publishing and personal events. Through player appearances at retail, NFL Players can better promote its roster of individuals and help retailers move more licensed products in their stores, Allen said.
"We have been working with all our licensees to encourage them to leverage player appearances and help retailers," she said. To coincide with such appearances, the company is building more point-of-purchase promotions.
Sports licensing is growing at a very healthy rate, said Brian Hakan, president at trademark licensor Brian B. Hakan & Associates, Overland Park, Kan.
North American licensing in general has grown from a $10 billion business in 1980 to $67 billion in 1990, according to Hakan -- and sports licensing accounted for $10 billion of that $67 billion. Today, sports licensing has out-paced the industry to record a growth rate of 34%. It now pulls in $13.4 billion annually.
Dick Rademaker, founder of the Licensing Resource Group, Los Angeles, a licensor for the National College Athletic Association, said the college business moved from primarily on-campus to off-campus retail.
Some of the more innovative promotions NCAA will be doing includes kiosks that offer information on college enrollment, and player biographies and team information at retail.
Bill Seaborn, director of licensing at NASCAR Properties, Charlotte, N.C., reported that NASCAR products draw loyal consumers -- 71% say they consciously buy products endorsed by NASCAR.
NASCAR Properties currently has 125 licensed products and is in the process of setting up NASCAR restaurants, stores and speed parks. "As you stand back and look to see what's important to your customer and retailer," said Hakan, "there are a number of opportunities." Among the sports licensing trends he pointed to were:
Niche categories, the minor leagues of emerging sports, are spawning interest. Examples are the International Hockey League, Continental Basketball Association, Womens Basketball League, Arena Football and roller hockey leagues. Hakan said logo development is a very important trend in the success of those leagues. "We found some logos that could sell across the board when there wasn't even a specific team."
Micro-marketing is becoming more popular.
"More retailers are segmenting themselves and are interested in teams in their own backyards. There are opportunities to go in and do business in those niches," Hakan said.
Cross-licensing has become an important aspect of the business.
"You bring double equity to a program when you cross license. People are always looking for creative new alliances to reach the consumer," Hakan said.