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Partnerships with Purpose | POC's Partnerships Ambassor Tracey Richardson on 'why size doesn't matter'

Mon 24 Jan 2022 | 05:08 pm GMT
Tracey Richardson | Products of Change Writer

Tracey Richardson (right) talks partnerships with purrrrpose

When it comes to realising the power of brands and licenses to effect and influence societal action and change, few understand the nuances quite as well as Louis Kennedy. A company driven by the mantra of ‘partnerships with purpose,’ whether it is the licensing programme surrounding Children in Need or Asthma UK and Bagpuss, Louis Kennedy knows that it’s never the size of the challenge that counts, it’s the message it has to share. Here, Tracey Richardson, licensing and partnership director at Louis Kennedy and Products of Change’s own new Ambassador of Partnerships, kicks off a regular series of articles exploring the nature of partnerships with purpose.
Size really doesn’t matter Louis Kennedy has helped the world’s leading brand, charities, and licensors deliver measurable funds, impact, and societal good by facilitating imaginative partnerships and delivering dynamic campaigns. It’s become something of a specialist area for the business. These triangular partnerships are usually instigated in four ways: briefs can come from a charity, they can arrive via a licensor or a brand itself, they can be part of a call from a retailer, and then there are our own Eureka moments. As we appreciate only too well in the licensing industry, business is always about partnerships – and one thing we don’t focus on is size. Take, for example, our 2006 project with the homegrown charity, Asthma UK. The organisation was in search of a licensed character partner to bring on board for a competitive pitch to a major supermarket chain who was preparing to choose its next Charity of the Year partner via a staff vote. A real challenge indeed, particularly for an organisation that was comparatively small compared to some of the giants it was to be competing against. This was a head to head against the likes of children’s and animal charities, as well as the major health charities dealing working across the kind of causes that touch most of us at some stage in life, and therefore the staff. We needed to find a means of engaging with audiences, a familiar character that embodied the message of the Asthma UK charity, and a means of making this organisation stand out among a sea of giants and hold its own amid a competition of the world’s biggest causes. The first thing we needed to do was really understand the charity and its work. And this is where the fun really began. In learning more about them, we were able to find out that Asthma UK was working on a ‘cat vaccine’, having only recently discovered that cats were among the leading causes of asthmatic attacks. That put the wheels in motion to discovering our Eureka moment. In early 1999 a BBC poll of the UK’s favourite children’s television programmes found that Bagpuss perched atop a list of the biggest characters in the kids’ entertainment landscape. And despite there being only 13 episodes of Bagpuss made way back in 1974, the frequency with which they were repeated on television had helped to immortalise the character as one of the world’s most famous and best-loved felines. We had our Eureka! Of course, the opportunity for Bagpuss to appear on High Streets and out of town retail across country, raising money and awareness, all while championing the work of the charity, was embraced with enthusiasm by the licensing team. The final hurdle was the retailer’s staff vote. In December that year, a UK Fundraising report, read: “Staff at supermarket Morrisons have voted Asthma UK to be their Chairty of the Year for 2006/2007. The supermarket will help to raise money for the charity by customer fundraising, cause related marketing, and through event-based fundraising by Morrisons employees. Customers who visit Morrisson stores will be able to buy a number of Asthma UK products featuring Bagpuss, the charity’s mascot. This week has also been dedicated to the charity with volunteers visiting Morrisons supermarkets up and down the UK to raise money.”
Bagpuss pin badges formed the basis of a fundraising merchandise range launched to support Asthma UK
As well as ranges of tens of thousands of pin badges, trolley tokens, keyrings, and mini plush toys, the forecourt team asked for their own, dedicated product. With our thinking caps firmly on, we brainstormed until finally, the Bagpuss car tax disc holder was born. Louis Kennedy never turns down a challenge. Now, the next chapter in the story is a fascinating one. Bagpuss and the increased awareness of the charity that transpired from this Morisson’s partnership opened new doors with many more corporate supporters, including high street banks, hotel chains, and gyms in addition to High Street retailers with their demand for Louis Kennedy-designed and developed fundraising products. What’s more, the popularity of Bagpuss as a license grew, and grew… way beyond Louis Kennedy’s involvement. In fact, in January 2012, Kidscreen wrote: The UK-based family entertainment producer and rights management company, Coolabi, has locked down a two-year extension on its promotional relationship for Bagpuss with the charity Asthma UK. The deal will see Asthma UK expand the number of stores that sell collectable Bagpuss products, including pin badges, bookmarks, and charm bracelets which are already sold for Asthma UK outlets, including Fitness First and QHotels. The Bagpuss property has helped raise more than $1.5 million for Asthma UK over the last five years, and the brand continues to grow with licensee Intelex planning to add new product lines for 2012 and adding retailers River Island and Topshop as new listings for Bagpuss merchandise. Coolabi also signed a deal last October with Whiteleys Shopping Centre in London that saw the opening of the first pop-up shop dedicated to children’s characters Bagpuss and Clangers. Additional deals have been inked for greeting cards, plush, and apparel. Of course, this story would have an entirely different telling were Louis Kennedy a company influenced by the size of a partnership. And why do we say that ‘size doesn’t matter’? Because, quite clearly, it’s all about the fit.
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