The Brand Radar: Nadiya Hussain, Wilton Bradley and why authenticity is key to successful personality licensing

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes looks at the world of celebrity licensing, shining a spotlight on Nadiya Hussain’s partnership with toy firm Wilton Bradley.

There has been a long history of licensing programmes associated with well-known personalities. These stretch across a range of genres, product categories and activations.

A good example is the licensing programme associated with Jamie Oliver that embraces food products such as pizza making kits and cooking utensils, to a garden furniture range with Hartman – corner sofa grilling set pictured below!

Nadiya Hussain, Wilton Bradley
Personality brand licensing can also feature celebrities no longer with us through legacy campaigns. I remember at recent US and UK licensing shows seeing celebrities such as John Wayne and Jimi Hendrix represented at booths at the shows. Earlier this year, Champion announced a multi-year partnership with the Muhammad Ali brand, with the first apparel range featuring images and quotes from the iconic boxer.

Nadiya Hussain, Wilton Bradley
A well-managed licensing programme associated with a brand personality can be very rewarding. It can help create and, in turn, protect a legacy.

There are certain licensees who specialise in working in this category of licensing. Whilst the basic mechanics of licensing a personality are the same as other forms of licensing, there is also a specific skill set required.

One consideration is that in most cases you are dealing with someone – or an estate – that will have a voice they want heard, is an expert in their field and almost certainly has a ‘brand vision’. In simple terms, it would be short-sighted to work with someone like Jamie Oliver and not seek his opinion on product development. But conversely, this requires a certain management style.

Working with personalities can be very beneficial from a marketing point of view, particularly in terms of social media. The age of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok means that personalities can now ‘own’ and control their own media output, making it easier for them to support their brand partners.

That said, there is also a fine balance for celebrities to achieve. It would be easy to turn their social media channels into sales channels, and this may well be a turn off for their followers. Indeed, these days commercial posts have to be tagged as such so the public has full disclosure about posts.

Successful celebrities are also very busy and active. They are in demand. They are often filming or busy on projects such as writing. Licensees have to bear this in mind when working with celebrities and factor this into their planning.

A further consideration when working with personalities is their reputation. Naturally one would expect deals to be struck when a celebrity’s brand is in the ascendancy. Licensees and retailers are aware that a celebrity’s star can wane – or worse still, their reputation can be tarnished if they become involved in a controversy or some other misfortune. While there can be contract clauses that address this sort of thing, there is no escaping the fact that celebrity brands do carry a risk.

In my own work, we represent Nadiya Hussain and Jane Devonshire. Our role is to develop licensing programmes on their behalf alongside their talent manager. In both cases the first thing we did was to try to understand their motivation for licensing, appreciate their USPs and get a handle on what product areas they felt most comfortable working with.

The campaign with Nadiya is more advanced than that associated with Jane, but in both cases they have a solid foundation to build from. They have both achieved success, have ongoing activity and have an anchor point in commercial terms. They also have strong publishing programmes, which is a solid foundation to develop a wider licensing programme from.

Nadiya Bakes – the most recent book from Nadiya – was a bestseller and is nominated for a British Book Award, while Jane has just published her second Hassle Free Gluten Free cookbook.

Nadiya Hussain, Wilton Bradley

A recent deal that we developed for Nadiya was with toy company Wilton Bradley. This product started with a cold call conversation at a trade show. Credit to Wilton Bradley that they welcomed our unsolicited but well-timed approach.

They were looking for some new licences and were looking at a number of product categories to develop licensing in. One of these was home baking. Their background includes developing role play toys and they wanted to harness their experience in new categories.

Nadiya appealed to them because of her high profile, her media personality and crucially the fact that they perceived her as a very authentic personality. This is a crucial point in this kind of licensing. Licensees, retailers and consumers respond well to celebrities who are authentic and have something to offer in a category. I think there is a great cynicism towards shallow partnerships and products that are seen as opportunistic.

Not surprisingly, but reassuringly, Wilton Bradley were further persuaded by Nadiya’s authenticity after meeting her. We set up a series of calls and information exchanges to help shape the product range.

A crucial point about this development was that Wilton Bradley wanted to create ‘real’ bakeware for children. The kits and equipment would be stored in the kitchen cupboard rather than the toy cupboard. They would be designed to be used time and time again.

Nadiya Hussain, Wilton Bradley
With this in mind, the opportunity and relevance of Nadiya to the category was further underpinned by the ability to link the products to Nadiya’s Bake Me A Story book series. This is a successful recipe book series that Nadiya created for children.

Wilton Bradley used this as inspiration and in turn Nadiya created some new recipes specifically for Wilton Bradley that matched the three baking sets they developed. These recipes were developed into recipe cards that were co-packed with the silicone baking accessories to complete the product offering .

A further strand to the partnership and a clear signal that this was indeed a partnership was the fact that Nadiya and Wilton Bradley developed social media content, including a bespoke film showing Nadiya demonstrating how to use the kits. Her assistant on screen was her daughter, creating a nice link to the fact that these are family friendly products.

Nadiya Hussain, Wilton Bradley
Nadiya also attended the UK Toy Fair last year to support the launch of the product at Wilton Bradley’s stand. She was interviewed by the trade press and met the wider Wilton Bradley team. This was a public vote of confidence in the range from the celebrity who is lending her name to the products. This really reinforces the authenticity of the product and the development.

It should also be noted that Nadiya felt comfortable working with Wilton Bradley… This is an important point. For a licensing relationship to really work and be effective, the celebrity has to believe in the concept, trust their commercial partners and their ability to bring their brand to life.

Celebrities have generally worked hard to build their profile and develop a public following. They are loath to risk this by entering into licensing deals that may not deliver or risk their reputations. We are currently in talks with a number of new licensees for Nadiya – the watchword on both sides is authenticity.

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