Lifesaving and licensing: the RNLI’s Emma Beeson reveals how Royal Mint coins help save lives

The RNLI’s Senior Partnerships New Business Manager, Emma Beeson, on their bicentennial year.

Emma Beeson, we interviewed you for Brands Untapped a few years ago. It was for a different company and project… People can read that here. Where are you now?
So today I have what I consider to be my dream job… I’m taking all of my experience in the brand partnerships and licensing world and working for an organisation I’m truly passionate about: the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

The RNLI… Aces! And what do you do there?
I’m the Senior Partnerships New Business Manager. Catchy, right?! Essentially, I’m responsible for securing strategic partnerships, cause-related marketing and licensing programmes – along with sponsorship opportunities to help drive the charity forward, building a sustainable future.

So am I right in saying that the RNLI remains a charity after all this time?
Yes, the RNLI remains a charity – one that’s been saving lives around our coastline and at sea for 200 years. We do that through our lifeboats, our lifeguards, flood-rescue teams, international teams… And through a huge water-safety education programme. I’m glad you mentioned this, actually, because I think there’s sometimes a misconception. Some people think we’re fully or partly government funded – which isn’t the case. Instead, our charity is powered by over 30,000 volunteers and generous donations from the public.

“The lens must be adjusted when seeking out partnership and licensing opportunities.”

Indeed! I don’t know if I mentioned this, but the RNLI was my mother’s mother’s favourite charity. She was always astonished that you had to fund yourselves. That being the case, how different is the lens through which you see licensing opportunities?
It’s REALLY different. The lens absolutely must be adjusted when seeking out and considering partnership and licensing opportunities. It’s important that we maintain our reputation and ensure there’s an alignment across values, and that our activities feel like a natural fit.

Emma Beeson, RNLI, Royal Mint

We also have to undertake really careful due diligence with any partnership or licensing programme. We mustn’t compromise our 200 years of heritage, or the trust that our volunteers, supporters and board of trustees has in us. So we won’t enter into any inappropriate or reckless collaborations. It’s a careful balance while also pushing forward and engaging new audiences.

Fantastic answer. That’s exactly what I was looking to understand! So in regard to congruent and appropriate partnerships, the RNLI did a Royal Mint coin recently. Tell me about that; how did it come about?
Oh, yes! Thank you for asking! On March 4th this year, the RNLI will be 200 years old – a huge milestone to reach. We’ll be remembering our remarkable history, celebrating the modern lifesaving service we provide today, and looking forward to inspiring and welcoming a new generation of lifesavers and supporters. For those reasons, it was a real privilege to be recognised by The Royal Mint for inclusion in their commemorative coin designs marking 2024’s most significant anniversaries!

I’ll bet. Stunning looking coin…
Thank you! I do think that – together – we’ve created the most beautiful 50p coin – it’s a real stunner. I’m sure coin collectors and everyone who gets to see one will really appreciate how beautiful it is.

Emma Beeson, RNLI, Royal Mint

What process did you go through to make it happen?
The process behind it, as all great partnerships and licensing programmes, was a shared vision and desire to see the best finished product. We really wanted to make sure it connects the brand with an audience – specifically, in this instance, serving as a wonderful commemorative keepsake to mark this very special milestone. We wanted a reminder that our ultimate aim is – as it has been for the past two centuries – to save lives at sea.

The 50p coin was designed by experienced coinage artist John Bergdahl. Using the very recognisable RNLI flag asset, and surrounded by a life ring, it highlights the extraordinary lifesaving our charity has achieved.

You said John Bergdahl, there did you?
Yes! As you know, The Royal Mint is the official maker of UK coins. Their expertise in bringing this to life has been invaluable. They ensured John’s original design – created on a plaster model – was translated accurately to appear on the 50p coin, which has a canvas of just 27.30mm. It’s a lot of detail in not a lot of space so it needed to combine traditional engraving techniques with modern minting technology…

Emma Beeson, RNLI, Royal Mint

What might that entail, Emma?
That includes the use of optical scanners to create a 3D file. The design is then refined, and delicately translated so as not to lose any of the detail or visual impact. And then came the colour! The shade of orange that’s synonymous with the RNLI and our lifeboats was meticulously matched to give the coin its pop and vibrancy. There’s a wide range of 50p coins, and it’s also available in the wider range of Royal Mint Annual Sets.

Terrific! I’ll make sure we include a couple of different images.
Thank you. What’s lovely – and massively important to all our volunteers in recognition of the work we do – is that The Royal Mint also gifted all 238 RNLI lifeboat stations across the UK and Ireland with their own commemorative coins as a lasting memento of our bicentennial anniversary. That’s a wonderful thank you to help recognise our selfless and brave volunteers.

Yes, that’s a kind gesture. And I imagine a coin like this is an excellent way to raise awareness for you, too…
Absolutely. It’s such beautiful work so it not only helps raise awareness of what we do, but also provides the opportunity to continue to raise the funds we need. We have a licensing arrangement in place so that a percentage of the price of each coin sold by The Royal Mint supports the RNLI’s continuous work and commitment to saving lives at sea.

Emma Beeson, RNLI, Royal Mint

Elsewhere, I recall the RNLI did a cute cardboard construction toy with PlayPress a few years ago…
Yes, the original Inshore Lifeboat playset! PlayPress also have their RNLI People and the RNLI Heritage Lifeboat Station too. The latter is a 2024 Gift of the Year finalist!

Oh! Is that right? I hadn’t heard! Let me ask you this: what values unite the kind of partners you look for?
Selflessness, courageousness, dependability and trustworthiness. They will, of course, manifest themselves differently, but an understanding, appreciation and genuine desire to support our cause is paramount.

Similarly, what qualities should all your products have?
Whether they’re RNLI branded products retailed directly by us, or product that we co-create and develop through licensing programmes, they need to align to those RNLI values too. How does a value become a product quality? The RNLI is trustworthy and dependable so in terms of product qualities, our products should be of good workmanship, durable and have longevity…

The PlayPress toys embody this as well as ensuring that the products align to our sustainability plan. And there’s a huge educational and engagement piece with these toys, allowing imagination and creativity to flow freely – who knows, we may find the next generation of RNLI volunteers was inspired by one of these toys… We’re constantly evolving as an organisation and our product strategy continues to evolve too.

Emma Beeson, RNLI, Royal Mint

And in regard to that, in what specific areas of licensing would the RNLI like to be more active?
I’d like to see us being more active in and around toys and gifting, taking some of our assets into digital environments and into some of the more unexpected areas – watch this space! Looking to the future, it’s critical for us to be more active in areas where we can resonate more strongly with different generational audiences… So understanding them is key, ensuring we develop programmes to support this.

Like a lot of charities, we need to bridge a gap between our supporter base of today and new ones to ensure a sustainable future. This means we need to look at licensing opportunities and partnership opportunities in areas where we can really get into the fabric of their lives… And like many of our volunteers, this means us being more courageous and braver with those opportunities. It’s a tricky balance to get right.

Fantastic answer. What’s your background, Emma? How did you come to be doing what you do?
I’ve spent many years working in and around the licensing industry on the agency and licensee side. I’ve always been a champion of genuine, authentic and creative partnerships where creativity can really excel. We all know emotional connection is a key driver to creating fandom – and that’s what essentially charities have: our supporters are our fans. In my role today, there’s a real opportunity to support this within the modern-day lifesaving service we operate. It’s a really exciting time.

“I’m also an operational crew volunteer for the RNLI. When the pager goes, I go…”

Great stuff! Thank you. Let’s wrap this up with one final question in two parts… First, what’s the one question I could’ve asked you today but didn’t? Second what’s the answer?
Probably “Why did you leave this interview part way through and run out the door, leaving me hanging on the zoom screen?” And the answer is that I’m also an operational crew volunteer for the RNLI. When the pager goes, I go. I genuinely love what I do – both my day job and my volunteering role.

Well, nothing underlines more certainly the importance of what you do, Emma, so thank you for joining me. Greatly appreciated.

Stay up to date with the latest news, interviews and opinions with our weekly newsletter

Sign Up

Enter your details to receive Brands Untapped updates & news.

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.