Talking Brands: With The Ashes underway, where are the opportunities for this unique sports IP in licensing?

SGLP’s Simon Gresswell, The Brand Director’s Tim Collins and Lisle Licensing’s Colin Lisle reveal where licensing could take the brand…

With The Ashes currently underway, we asked SGLP’s Simon Gresswell, The Brand Director’s Tim Collins and Lisle Licensing’s Colin Lisle for their thoughts as to where licensing could take the brand…

Simon Gresswell, SGLPSimon Gresswell, SGLP
The anticipation leading up to the The Ashes was palpable.

There was a real buzz in Birmingham the day before and fans were still tingling with excitement on the morning of the first day, busily buying up Barmy Army bucket hats – which sold out before the start of play – as well as limited edition caps and cricket hats from Bob’s Bowling Zone, our activation for The Bob Willis Fund – no apologies for the shameless plug!

And while the action on the pitch did not disappoint in what turned out to be an epic Test match, The Ashes ‘brand’ has the age old challenges of whether the event is at home or away, whether it’s financially viable to acquire all the necessary rights, whether there is quantifiable reach and relevance to mainstream retail – and whether the home team wins or not!

If Ben Stokes’ brave declaration had resulted in a win at Edgbaston, there might have been some print on demand opportunities for tees and bucket hats, the must-have merch item of this and many recent summers.

Just as in other major sports’ LMR programmes, brand-building takes time and investment, but the personalities within the sport are more to the fore; not just as players and heroes on the field but as influencers, investors, cause supporters and proponents of new ways of ‘playing the game.’

Success on the field always undoubtedly breeds wider commercial opportunities. if England do pull things back from 0-1 down and a challenging first day at Lord’s to go on to win another classic Ashes series, alongside ‘winners’ product I’d expect to see more of the Stokes and Bazball ‘brands’ in existing cricket-related products and experiences… Be that in the Cricket 2024 game – Ben is front cover already! – or at SIXES, the competitive socialisation venues.

And if money were no object in the sport, we could dream of activations like MLB’s Trafalgar Square Takeover last weekend; an impressive dollar-driven promotion for the expansion of the sport, with all the merch opportunities these bring too.

Regarding The Ashes ‘brand’, yes there is some merch on sales at Lord’s this week, but basic, requisite souvenirs for visiting Aussie fans. And while the series’ name conjures incredible history, heritage, legendary names and the purest of love for Test cricket, its marketability remains more as a media tool than a very wearable, usable, lifestyle brand.

I aim to help The Hundred develop its LMR programme in creative ways and with the fledgling Cricket Super League coming to the US this summer, who knows where cricket LMR could eventually go…

Simon Gresswell, SGLP, Colin Lisle, Lisle Licensing & Creative Product Solutions, Tim Collins, The Brand Director, The Ashes

Colin Lisle, Lisle Licensing & Creative Product SolutionsColin Lisle, Lisle Licensing & Creative Product Solutions
Cricket is played by around 300,000 people in the UK and it is reported to being the second most popular sport in the UK. The Ashes, a biannual event played between England and Australia, is arguably the highlight for all cricket players and supporters.

Spicing things up for this series has been greatly helped by Bazball. Baz is the nickname of the English coach and the word has been coined by English followers to describe England’s new way of playing Test cricket aggressively, both in batting and fielding terms, and generally thinking outside of the box!

The first test was a fabulous advert for cricket and both teams played their part. With a sell-out crowd each day – including the last day which doesn’t always happen – and a sell-out crowd for each of the next four series, over 750,000 people will watch the live games.

The first Test also produced Sky Sports’ highest ever Test watching figures with a peak audience of 2.12m viewers. A further 1.8m views came from streaming. This was topped up with record viewing figures with coverage on BBC2 and BBC Radio5 Extra.

So, in light of all this, surely now is the time to license The Ashes brand here in the UK and in Australia… Unfortunately I think the risk-averse retail environment in which we operate – coupled with the fact it runs for a limited six week period – will prove too risky for licensees an retailers alike. This will restrict consumer sales to apparel and cricket equipment like bats, pads and so on.

That said, the new Bazball approach could attract a wider demographic to the sport and open up the opportunity for a new raft of cricketing related products… Watch this space, but I have my doubts!

Simon Gresswell, SGLP, Colin Lisle, Lisle Licensing & Creative Product Solutions, Tim Collins, The Brand Director, The Ashes

Tim Collins, The Brand DirectorTim Collins, The Brand Director
Cricket in general has been going through a massive growth spurt… We all know about India’s IPL – the annual and very lucrative 20 overs per side franchise format – but now Major League Cricket has been established in the US. This will be helped no doubt by the 2024 World T20 competition jointly hosted there and in the West Indies.

The commercial opportunities for the wider game – including digital, broadcast, sponsorship, replica kit, player endorsements and so on – will surely have room for a licensing partner or two.

The Ashes are held every 18 to 30 months, offering plenty of matches for fans in both England and Australia to enjoy. With sold out stadiums and record TV viewing – Sky reported a peak 2.1m watching the fifth day at Edgbaston – the audience is there and as long as the on-field standards are maintained, this should continue.

The Urn – the original trophy awarded to Australia when they beat England – is the ultimate symbol, and it’s on display at Lords. ‘The Ashes’ trademark in the UK is owned by the ECB, and I feel the usual rules apply: if there’s a tangible piece of IP, a large audience and demand then why not license it?

Don’t forget, 2023 sees both men’s and women’s Ashes teams competing at the same time too. Licensees should also remember fancy dress appears to be obligatory for some of the crowd, so marketeers take note.

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