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Jo Edwards, Global Head of Licensing at the TSBA Group, sheds light on the creative strategy behind TfL’s brand extensions – and why it’s a great IP to design for.
With high-profile launches spanning board games to booze, Transport for London boasts an expansive licensing programme with creativity at its core.
Key to the growth and success of this brand activity is the firm’s licensing agent, the TSBA Group. We caught up with Jo Edwards, Global Head of Licensing at the TSBA Group, to find out more about the creative strategy behind TfL’s brand extensions – and why it’s a great brand to design for.
Hi Jo, great to connect. So, for anyone new to TSBA, talk us through what you do?
TSBA is The Sports and Brands Licensing Agency. We work on a global basis to deliver licensing programmes for major sports and heritage brands. As examples, our brand portfolio includes The Open, the National Portrait Gallery and, of course, Transport for London (TfL).
Now in our 12th year, TSBA has a strong reputation in helping clients power their brands into new sectors through world-class retail and brand partnerships, products and services.
Great stuff. You mentioned TfL there, and there’s lots of really creative work being done with that brand. What makes it an exciting one to work on?
TfL is the home of London’s transport network, from the London Underground to the Routemaster bus, along with trams, riverboats, bicycles and cable cars. The roundel and tube map are recognised globally, while also being classic design icons: quite simply, this is “the” London brand.
“The licensing programme is established, with more than 80 licensees in its roster, so the time felt right to push the boundaries with the brand.”
As an agency, you really need to believe in the brands that you represent and, as we’re a London-based business who lives and breathes TfL as part of our everyday, the brand really resonates with us.
From an award-winning collaboration with Adidas, to a best-selling puzzles and games range with Gibsons; from a 200-SKU souvenir range to a gifting range in Selfridges; along with over 80 licensees in apparel, accessories, stationery, gifting, games, publishing and homewares, this is a brand on the move – and we are delighted to play such an integral role in its success.
Congrats on such a vast programme. Now, from a design point of view, why is TfL an exciting prospect for designers at licensees to create for?
There is a rich asset bank to draw upon, going back through TfL’s more than 150-year history. This includes the tube map, which has influenced all other transport networks the world over, as well as the roundels, the moquette seat fabrics, the Johnston font, station architecture and design… And the poster archive with over 5,000 images.
Working with TfL, we wanted to recognise the heritage of these assets and make them accessible for today’s markets and trends. Recently, new style guides have been developed by Skew Studio and AntJam which provide fresh graphics that licensees and their designers can apply to product in a more creative way while still ensuring they are recognisable as TfL.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Gresham Blake a few weeks back about his TfL collection. What do you think made that partnership work?
The product that Gresham has designed speaks to the above point perfectly. He worked with us collaboratively to understand the heritage of the TfL brand, with the moquette seat patterns being the focus. The results are striking, with tracksuits, shirts for men and dress shirts for women.
His celebrity clientele and catchy music track, with the video shot on the TfL network, elevated this collaboration to another level, resulting in extensive social media coverage and an upcoming award nomination.
It also does a good job of highlighting how creative partners can be with the brand.
Absolutely – there is so much scope for creativity with a TfL license. The licensing programme is established, with more than 80 licensees in its roster, so the time felt right to push the boundaries with the brand, allowing licensing partners more scope in product design and development.
TSBA developed a three-pillar licensing strategy for the brand that helps break out the TfL assets into identifiable sectors, allowing more than the iconic assets to be utilised.
Great, can you talk us through those?
Yes, the three pillars are:
• New Iconic – a fresh perspective on the roundel and tube map for use across category with a focus on apparel and accessories: a separate trend pack has been created for Fast Fashion.
• New Classic – using the moquette seat fabrics and intricate tile designs from the Underground network, this is particularly suited to homewares and home décor.
• On The Move – a new focus for TfL that speaks to their core mission statement, designs have been created for the walking, cycling and active travel sectors.
These pillars are supported by collaborations with well-known brands, along with content-led categories, including publishing and experiences. There are exciting partnerships with renowned brands that we are currently working on which we look forward to announcing very soon.
We’ll keep our eyes peeled for those. Before we let you go, how do you and the TSBA team fuel your creativity?
We work very much as a team, watching the market across categories to understand trends in both product and design. We have regular team brainstorm sessions to put our ideas on the table and see where they could contribute to the strategies that we have developed for the brands we represent.
“As we’re a London-based business who lives and breathes TfL as part of our everyday, the brand really resonates with us.”
Within our wider group, we have both a sourcing and product design team – we involve them too as they have invaluable experience to input. We try to stay watchful and proactive so that we can get to new opportunities quickly, and include some fun along the way to keep the creative juices flowing!
Sounds like a great approach. Thanks for taking time out for this Jo, it’s much appreciated.
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