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Olympics Go for Gold with Licensing

By Mark Seavy

The global brand licensing industry is making another run at the Olympics this summer in Paris.

This year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has increased its efforts to create a year-round licensing program inspired by the event, rather than limiting launches to once every four years. And, to some extent, it is succeeding.

While broadcast rights and sponsorships remain the top revenue generators for the Olympics, licensed products enable the IOC to build a global community while providing funding for the event, which this year will run from July 26 to August 11.

The 2021 summer games in Tokyo, which occurred after the event scheduled for the previous summer was cancelled due to the pandemic, generated $52 million in revenue from products developed by 127 licensees, according to the IOC. That was an increase compared to the $31 million in revenue and 52 licensees connected to the 2016 summer games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. The Tokyo games in 2021 marked the most licensees since there were 125 licensing partners in Atlanta for the 1996 games, but was short of $119 million in revenue produced by the Olympics in London in 2012.

The goal for the Olympics this summer is to broaden revenue, product categories, and retail distribution.

In Australia, for example, licensee Fanatics is handling the Australian Olympic Committee’s online store. And Merchantwise—which signed on as a master licensee in 2022—is expanding sales of Team Australia merchandise to mass retailers like Big W and Kmart as well as specialty chains including Australia Post and Lagardere Airport Stores.

Merchantwise also signed 11 sublicensees as the program expands into publishing (Scholastic Australia), plush (Headstart International), costumes (Rubie’s Deerfield) and drinkware (Zak Australia). Additionally, as part of the bid to widen distribution, Merchandise developed a style guide that provided several designs.

“This allowed Australian retailers to each have their distinctive range, appealing to a broader audience,” said Merchantwise Managing Director Kerryn McCormack. “There has been a focus on expanding retail distribution to include mass market retailers, airport retail, and a new eCommerce platform.”

The Point.1888, meanwhile, worked with Team GB (Great Britain) to develop a roster of 14 licensees, including Mappin & Webb (luxury jewelry), Brompton Bicycles (fold-up bicycles), Vow Nutrition (nutritional products and water bottles), and Aurora World (plush and gifts).

The IOC also struck a deal with Warner Bros. Discovery Global Consumer Products to build a collection of Olympics-themed products co-branded with Looney Tunes characters. The agreement marks a return for Warner Bros., which previously developed a collection for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, GA.

In addition to working directly with the IOC, Warner Bros. Discovery is also partnering with organizing committees in the U.S. and Italy as well as national Olympic committees in Australia, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, and Mexico to create country-specific Looney Tunes merchandise for each team. Warner Bros. Discovery also worked with licensees to develop products tied to the Paralympic Games (taking place from August 28 to September 8).

“It is really all about capturing the spirit of the games, while ensuring the products keep with current trends that appeal to the broadest audience,” a licensing executive said. “For the Olympics licensing program to succeed it is important for the licensed products to have appeal long after the games are over.”

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