Vanessa Andreis – Former Head of Licensing at the Premier League – on the power of licensed promotions

“It’s important to challenge the status quo and stretch boundaries”: Former Head of Licensing at the Premier League, Vanessa Andreis, on how brands can help promotions take flight.

Vanessa, thanks for making time. First up, how did you find your way into licensing?
I have worked in commercial partnerships for over 25 years and fell into licensing almost by accident, coming from a background in marketing and promotions. I joined CPLG as the EMEA brand manager for Sony and Marvel, working with the brilliant CPLG team to forge some breakthrough partnerships with the likes of Men In Black, Godzilla, Spider-Man…

After six years, I joined Warner Bros leading the Promotions and Partnerships category across all the divisions and developing brand alliances. These would run across all release windows, from theatrical to home entertainment, to digital and consumer products. I was lucky to have worked on a diverse portfolio of franchises: FRIENDS, The LEGO Movie, The Dark Knight, Harry Potter, The Hobbit and Scooby Doo.

From there I joined Beano Studios, developing their rich franchises and creating licensing partnerships across all categories – including retail, LBE, promotions, apparel, toys and publishing.

I then transitioned into the world of sports as Head of Licensing at the Premier League, with global responsibility of the strategy and delivery of the commercial partnerships program. I work across multiple and diverse categories – from collectibles to video games, footballs and apparel, retail to NFTs to the Metaverse and beyond!

“A shared brand equity and audience should be the starting point.”

I’ve had the privilege of working both on the brand and agency side with amazing teams and constantly learning the complex and wonderful world of licensing, and more broadly commercial partnerships.

You mentioned having spent a lot of time in the promotions and partnerships world. What do you think makes a licensed promotion work?
A shared brand equity and audience should be the starting point. The best brand collaborations are based on a similar synergy; whether that means brand principles, audience demographic, objectives and a shared vision as to what is the ultimate goal.

There also needs to be a balance as to the brands being equal partners, whether that’s the strategy of the partnership, the creative execution and the actual activation… Ultimately, it has to provide credibility and excitement around that particular activity and alliance. It has to be a win-win on all sides.

And brand-to-brand partnerships are not just becoming more popular among marketers; consumers are enjoying collaborations between brands! So it’s crucial to find a partner brand that operates within the same vertical, as their target audience will have similar interest to your own consumers base.

On that, what questions should people be asking when looking for a brand partner in promotions?
What are the brand values we share? What is our audience – both from a demographic and regional perspective? What is our shared goal? How do the brands come together creatively? How can the brands integrate, without losing their own values? What is the consumer engagement, activation and offer? And what does success look like across all touch points? It sounds complex, but actually, when a brand partnership makes sense, it all cascades naturally.

Terrific insights, thank you. Thinking about your wider experience, can you highlight a few promotions you have worked on that are good examples of this licensing partnership model.
One of the most recent examples is the collaboration with EE that I worked on when I was at Beano. EE were looking to launch and run a campaign aimed at parents and children, educating kids how to use their mobile phone safely. For children, a first phone is a portal into a world of opportunity and adventure. To a parent, it’s a gateway to a world of hidden dangers. And in recent research, it was revealed that over half of parents say they wouldn’t survive the online world if they were a kid today.

That’s why EE partnered with Beano to give Dennis his first phone. We used the hijinks that would create to provide parents with an easily accessible, non-threatening guide to keeping their kids safe online.

The campaign was complemented by two supporting mini-comics that directly provided their audience with valuable digital skills. The comics were also turned into a set of beautifully animated videos.

The content was housed on a bespoke digital hub and rolled out through a fully integrated campaign across owned, earned and paid. They were also distributed to national and lifestyle media and the learning content ran on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube – and as TV ads on BT Sport. It also featured on digital screens in key London Underground stations, in EE stores, on 602 StreetHub screens nationwide, and as an OOH execution at Westfield Shepherd’s Bush.

A lot of coverage!
Yes, the results were impressive: overall circa 500k parent were confident as to how to help their kids stay safe online – exceeding the key campaign objective by 44%. And 61% of parents thought EE actively addressed important cultural issues, resulting in 76% of parents being more likely to consider EE.

The partnership worked on many levels… Crucially, it cut through the noise and used the characters and their personality traits to address very complex issues in a fun, educational way.

Vanessa Andreis, Premier League, Sports, Experiences

Terrific example. Now, focusing on design and brand identity, how do you make sure both parties achieve ‘equal billing’ in the promotions world?
The main challenge is twofold… Avoiding a straight-forward badging execution on one hand, and avoiding having the two brands featured alongside – but not integrated with each other – on the other hand. Some brands feel that by integrating the two brand identities, their brand equity is diluted and may be lost. The challenge is to ensure equal prominence, while retaining the brand essence.

The key factor to ensuring the right balance is to set out the key messaging from the start. This includes how the creative ambition and development would achieve stand out and retain the right balance. I’d always advocate having the creative and brand teams involved from the ideation stage of the partnership… While it’s important to share and follow guidelines, it’s equally important to challenge the status quo and stretch those boundaries.

Absolutely. Do any examples come to mind of that approach?
One example of taking a regular campaign to the next level – in terms of brands creating a dual-branded campaign – is the Nissan and The Dark Knight Rises partnership I worked on during my time at Warner Bros.

We wanted to stand out and reach our collective audience in a way that was new but also credible. Gabriel Hardman – the storyboard artist on The Dark Knight – created the ad, which featured a custom-designed drawing of Batman’s silhouette with the Nissan Juke standing in for his face. This was replicated across all of the print campaign and was also carried through and adapted for the home entertainment release. We used AR, turning the Batman figure into bats, which scattered across the screen before forming an image of the Nissan Juke. The ambition was to combine innovative design and the latest in technology to deliver an exciting audience experience.

Vanessa Andreis, Premier League, Sports, Experiences

Lovely example. Are there new categories emerging that are suited to licensed promotions ? Have others gone away?
The market is now much more fluid, dynamic and varied in terms of how we target audiences – and of course, digital platforms and social media have become integral in any partnership. Influencer driven activities and branded content can establish a deeper connection with the consumer.

The last decade has also seen a shift in consumer behaviour, preferences and expectations, driven by technology advancements and changing demographics, as well as sustainability, CRM and personalisation. Emerging technologies such as AR, VR and AI will play a significant role in shaping the future of promotions. These technologies enable brands to create immersive, personalised experiences for consumers – and these will foster deeper connections and drive engagement.

Changing demographics are also shaping the future of consumer promotions. With the rise of Gen-Z and the growing influence of millennials, brands must adapt their promotional strategies to cater for these groups’ unique preferences and values. Younger generations place a high value on experiences, so brands should focus on experiential promotions which offer memorable, shareable moments.

“While it’s important to share and follow guidelines, it’s equally important to challenge the status quo and stretch those boundaries.”

You have also been involved in activations in the leisure industry. What benefits do you think well-known IP can bring leisure sector operators?
The main benefits include providing a way to differentiate from other attractions and keeping the consumer experience fresh. F&B and retail are ways to drive incremental commercial revenue, but are also a way to delight and immerse the visitors further into the world they love.

During my time at Beano Studios, we identified the leisure sector as one of the main verticals which would resonate with our existing and new audiences. We worked with leaders in this sector: Kew Gardens, the Eden Project, Somerset House, English Heritage, Clip & Climb, Hollywood Bowl., Gullivers Parks to name a few.

Vanessa Andreis, Premier League, Sports, Experiences

The appeal from the leisure sector in partnering with the Beano IP was the ability to immediately target the consumers by making an emotional connection and creating memorable experiences, tailored to their brand. For instance, with Kew Gardens we developed a bespoke Dennis and Gnasher trail with activities tailored to be engaging and playing to Dennis’ personality traits of fun and mischief. Elsewhere, the Eden Project invited visitors to join them on a quest to save Beanotown from the dreaded CO2-Zilla, with,of course, lots of antics and hijinks.

As well as creating bespoke experiences, we created bespoke digital content and specially created comics, merchandise and F&B offerings for partners. This helped to provide activations across all touchpoints, driving brand awareness and footfall, as well as new revenue streams.

Vanessa, this has been great. I have one last question! Outside of your own work, can you give us two examples of promotional partnerships you admire?
It would be hard not to acknowledge the amazing brand partnership program to promote Barbie in 2023. I think the phenomenal success of Barbie can be in partly attributed to the incredibly savvy brand collabs that Mattel and Warner Bros Discovery orchestrated in the lead up to the film’s launch.

By strategically aligning with other major brands which resonate with Barbie’s image and values, they successfully created synergistic campaigns which reinforced the brand’s iconic pop culture status – and reached new audiences. They created an unprecedented amount of hype across a multitude of categories and brands including Burger King, Airbnb, Xbox and Crocs. The master stroke was to align all these activations into a shared demographic, thus ensuring a cascade of positive results for all parties.

Vanessa, huge thanks again. Let’s tie-in again soon.

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