The Strategy Interview

David SheltonGroup Account Director, Cundari Group, TorontoDavid Shelton is group account director at the Cundari Group in Toronto, responsible for senior client contact, concept development and planning partnership negotiations.Shelton is the former director of promotions and special events at Shoppers Drug...

David Shelton

Group Account Director,

Cundari Group, Toronto

David Shelton is group account director at the Cundari Group in Toronto, responsible for senior client contact, concept development and planning partnership negotiations.

Shelton is the former director of promotions and special events at Shoppers Drug Mart, and as a consultant he has created and executed promotional programs for Wang Canada, American Express Travel, Fisher-Price and Simmons Mattresses, among others.

Before joining Cundari, Shelton ran his own consulting firm specializing in the development of promotional applications for interactive voice technology.

Shelton has a Master of Communications degree from Boston University.

Q. What does the owner of a product or an event want from a licensing agreement? Is it another source of revenue or a higher profile or something else?

A. I think it depends a whole lot on the nature of the company or the nature of the brand. With T-shirts, for example, they’re looking to merchandise a property; to take what is just a regular T-shirt and turn it into something that is of specific interest and generate some revenue.

In some cases it does mean a higher profile. I think that’s more important when you’re dealing with a less established company or a less established brand; an association with a property can lend it credibility or a ‘bigness.’

In addition, there have been a lot of other reasons why people use [licensed] properties.

One of the biggest uses for them is that it helps to integrate otherwise unrelated brands or divisions within companies.

It can act as a promotional type of a platform to spin off all kinds of activities that include special events and employee programs.

A good example of that would be the Olympics. In association with the Olympics, the Olympic ideals of excellence could spin off in many different directions and pull together communications plans.

Q. Are there elements to licensing that are common to all properties?

A. It’s different in each case depending on how you are going to use the property, and the nature of the property [itself.]

The first step in purchasing a property, or acquiring a property and merchandising it, is to plan through the way you are going to be using it in advance, and make sure your agreement covers through all those uses: make sure that the rights for those uses are included, and that you’re speaking to the rights holder of all the various uses.

In the case of a movie or a theatre [production] for example, you may have rights to the use of the logo with a name, but it may not include footage or personalities or tickets or a number of other things associated with it that might be important to the client.

Q. Are there certain things to be avoided when seeking a licensing agreement?

A. In cases of event kind of properties such as a movie, for example, which are appearing for a short period of time and don’t have the longevity of, say, an Olympics or a property like Disney, you have to be sure that the timing is going to work to your timing.

In the case of a movie or another event-style property, they may be delayed for reasons beyond your control, or the licensed agent’s control, and could leave you in a position where you’ve done all your promotional planning and be ready to launch and that property isn’t happening when it’s supposed to.

Q. Can you recall a case where that happened?

A. I was involved in a promotion involving a number of different movies. Of about half a dozen or eight or so that we were promoting over a pretty broad time period, three or four of them, their release dates were shifted. It caused some difficulties. Some of the other things in the hazard category. Rights are often held by a variety of different partners. You may not be able to speak to just one person and get everything that you need.

Q. The issue of who owns what. How complicated can that get? Is it a field day for lawyers?

A. I think that’s another case that depends on the nature of the case you’re dealing with. If you wanted to do a promotion with the W[orld] W[restling] F[ederation], for example, you’re dealing with an integrated organization that can provide you with rights to all kinds of different activities – special events, use of logos and promotional rights, and so on and so forth.

In the case of entertainment properties, the rights are spread around from the studio to the director/producer to the actual celebrities that are involved. It becomes much more complicated. It’s sometimes true with sports.

Q. Does the success of one licensed property drive an entire ‘category?’ Does the success of the Toronto Blue Jays, for example, help the Montreal Expos?

A. Oh, I would say definitely. You could probably see that in television for one thing. Interest generally in sports, especially since the Blue Jays arrived in Toronto, [player] registration in baseball has been way up.

Q. Is there a case to be made for ‘licensing fatigue?’

A. No, I don’t think so. I think [licensing] could evolve to take different types of forms; it might be used in different ways. It could be a licensing fatigue when it comes to the popularity of those types of items [university logos, sports equipment names] and shirts and jackets. There could be, over time, some kind of drop off there. But as far as the use of licensed properties in marketing, no.