Sports licensing has arrived as one of the fastest growing sectors of the licensing business, while setting bench-mark as it leverages a global fan base which is either via a sports star, team or the sport itself. Among other segments viable for licensing, sports licensing accounts for 5 – 7 per cent of the market. TechNavio’s analysts forecast the Global Licensed Sports Merchandise market to grow at a CAGR of 2.74 percent over the period 2014-2019. India first experienced sports licensing in 1996 with WWE coming to India, which has grown at a rate of 30-40 per cent annually. Its L&M portfolio spans over categories with key partnership with Mattle (toys & figurines), Topps India (gaming cards), Only Kids (Back-To-School), Proline (Apparel), Penguin (Publishing), etc. In a candid conversation with License India, Mayuri Pitale, Director - Consumer Products Group (India & Pakistan) at WWE India spoke about the market share of sports licensing, strategies by WWE and brand associations in India.
- What is the size of sports licensing industry and what is the market share of WWE in this segment?
Licensing in India is still in the nascent form and sports licensing is on the horizon here. It is difficult to ascertain the exact size of the industry but it is rapidly growing. IPL has contributed to this segment in a big way, and we continue to see growth in our businesses here at WWE.
- What leads to the success of sports licensing?
The content has to be strongly seeded in. Be it character merchandise, gaming-related merchandise or sports. The chances of success are higher if the sport in question has strong viewership on TV. At WWE, we air programming every day through Ten Sports. 2015 has been one of the most iconic years for WWE in India as we began live telecasts of our shows and also customized our content to better suit the Indian TG – we launched WWE RAW Sunday Dhamal (a locally produced show) and also made WWE SmackDown available in Hindi. WWE on Ten Sports has a cumulative reach of 120 million per year, which is 2.3 million viewers per week in India alone.
- what is the difference between product licensing and promotional licensing?
Product Licensing is the actual product sold at retail which has the licensed IP on it and well integrated in the product features as applicable (e.g. a WWE t-shirt, or a WWE video game which is meant for sale at retail). The licensee will sell a WWE product at retail and pay royalty on the product sales to the IP Owner. Promotional licensing is essentially a free product given away using the IP with the main product at retail. The free gift with purchase will have the licensed IP on it and is intended to help push sales of the main product being retailed through a promotion. E.g., Buy Parle Full Toss Chips and get a WWE trading card for free. The licensee usually will pay a royalty on the total cost of the premiums or the free gifts sourced to the IP Owner. There is a MG (Minimum Guarantee) expectation in both cases.
- what issues do you face from the end of licensees while dealing with them?
In the licensing world, the actual work begins after the deal is signed with a licensee. We work closely with our licensees at every step of the process whether it’s determining the products, pricing or distribution. From our standpoint, we also work with the licensees to help guide them on the use of the Superstar or Diva that would resonate with their customer.
- What are the innovative categories in which WWE has marked its presence?
WWE’s current business is driven by video games (WWE 2K15), mobile games such as WWE Super Card and WWE Immortals, followed by toys, trading cards, back to school and apparel.
- How has been the market response in those categories?
WWE is a multi-generational brand, loved by kids and adults alike. We have a passionate fan base and a huge following with our gaming and toys businesses. Mattel, one of our global licensees, caters to both - kids who love to play with WWE action figures, rings and role play with the WWE World Championship titles and masks, and adults who have grown up watching WWE. Our video game, WWE 2K15, allows WWE fans to experience WWE like never before. Fans can actually feel the pulse of WWE, where players can start out as a recruit in WWE’s developmental system, NXT, and carve out their path to win the ultimate WWE World Heavyweight Championship title. Both of these franchises are very successful for us in India.
- Who are your leading licensees and which segment is most lucrative - FMCG, F&G, CDIT, fashion or any other?
WWE’s core business comes from toys and vdeo games. Our licensees here are mainly Mattel and Take Two, respectively. Having said that, we are focusing a lot more now on apparel and promotions in the FMCG segment. Recently, we executed a promotion with Parle’s Full Toss at a pan India level and launched a north east specific promotional alliance with Yummy Foods with their chips “Goalzy”. For WWE in India, product licensing and promotional licensing have both been equally lucrative business to operate in.