IMG on a Mission in Australia: Feature Interview with Elie Mansour and Cedric Schaal

by The Editor 0

Offering a full service solution for brands, IMG represents the licensing rights of prominent corporate trademarks, media & entertainment properties, sporting brands, personalities and estates. IMG is also the largest independent licensing agency in the world and has an unmatched 50 year track record and global network of offices. We catch up with Elie Mansour, Director of Licensing, and Cedric Schaal, Licensing Manager, to discuss the IMG business in the Australian market.

IMG currently manages properties worth in excess of 8.5 billion dollars, and has been ranked the #1 licensing agency in the world by License! Global for the past seven years. Prestigious trademarks such as Playboy, Volkswagen, Ducati, UEFA EURO 2016™, Cosmopolitan, Goodyear and James Bond 007 are just a few of the intellectual properties handled by IMG’s global licensing division.

Elie Mansour has recently joined the company’s Australian office as Director of Licensing. Elie joined from the BBC where he managed the licensing and retail operations. Richly entrepreneurial and with a passion to succeed, Elie is charged with the task of evaluating the Australian market and fast tracking IMG’s licensing business in the region.

As a result, one of Elie’s first moves was to appoint Cedric Schaal as Licensing Manager. Cedric joined IMG from a cross platform and retail background and his initial focus will be on driving the business by identifying opportunities within their current portfolio

We recently caught up with both Elie and Cedric to learn more about their vision, strategy and the plans they have in place over the coming months.

Elie and Cedric

To Elie:

IMG are the custodian of many global iconic brands. To date many of them have not resonated in our market. What is your vision for brands such as Volkswagen?

If we look at VW specifically, There is a great love and following for this iconic brand with collectors and fans here in Australia. The history of VW and the connection with the surf, sun and beach lifestyle is plain for all to see. We are on track here in Australia in replicating the successful global licensing program that will roll out across mass and specialty retailers. In 2015, VW became the biggest car manufacturer worldwide. With this enormous brand awareness, we are partnering with licensees that understand the legacy behind the VW family which includes the Beetle, the Combi and the Golf. VW is making its first-ever appearance at a licensing event at Brand Licensing Europe, located at the biggest booth on the Brands floor, and we look forward to seeing Australian licensees dropping by.

You will already inherit a licensing program for Playboy. This Consumer Products (CP) business has been operating for a number of years now. What is your vision for this multi billion-dollar brand in our market?

Our mission with Playboy is to continue pushing the lifestyle brand point of view with an emphasis on fashionable and on trend design. By promoting new creative materials and brand direction we are reinforcing brand credentials in our market through existing and new partners. We are planning new PR activities and annual marketing events that will enable our consumers to have a very relevant experience with this powerhouse brand. Everything that we do is intended to open peoples eyes to the creative power and beloved heritage of Playboy.

IMG recently acquired the 007 brand. Traditionally James Bond has enjoyed a strong following in this market. What are your plans to develop this brand?

The next Bond movie “SPECTRE” will be in cinemas in November, providing a timely hook to begin developing the brand as a year round evergreen, trading on its 30-year history and amazing art archive in addition to capitalising on the global film release and plan for the next one. The James Bond brand has not been widely licensed in the past, so we have a great opportunity to bring some creative and profitable partnerships to a very ‘clean’ market.

Do you intend to reach out to the market and attract other brands and programs to the IMG business model?

We’d love to partner with Australian brands and help them exploit their full business potential by reaching a bigger, more global audience and tapping into our worldwide network. We provide 360°executional capability with respect to the development, marketing and monetization of brands, events, teams, federations and individual superstars. IMG is the premier resource and leader in global licensing with a 50 year track record of success. We provide global management with local execution and knowledge.

Fashion has always been part of the IMG DNA, what is your vision in terms of developing programs in conjunction with the personalities you already manage?

We aim to be authentic, strategic, engaged and willing to evolve with fashion trends. We help our clients deliver products that ensure consumers appreciate that products are carefully selected; for example, a celebrity having a hand in designing them and use in aspects of their own lives. At the end of the day, a celebrity raises consumer awareness of a product, but once the consumer has the product in their hands, the design and quality is what counts. We need to collaborate with well-known and respected licensees who are true to the brand and understand the unique qualities of building long term partnerships with fashion talent. Importantly in this regard, a successful celebrity fashion brand must evolve along with major life milestones, market appeal and trends.

To Cedric:

Cedric, can you tell us a little about your background?

I have experience across an eclectic mix of fashion, events, retail and digital across Europe, the Americas and the Middle East, which certainly helps me to understand the wide remit of IMG’s business and support its global growth. I’m also a huge sports fan too!

We understand that IMG will manage the EURO 2016 football event in France. How do you see this playing out for you?

We (IMG) are proud to represent UEFA as the global master licensee for the second biggest football tournament on the planet (after the World Cup). Football is the fastest growing sport in Australia and we have an important task in delivering a market-oriented licensing program while at the same time celebrating football and embracing the origins of the tournament. This said, being French and a football fan, I’m looking forward to seeing how my team and our European neighbours perform, and equally excited to work with our licensees on consumer engagement activities in partnership with retailers.

Will you engage other aspects of the IMG business model to assist in developing your CP programs?

Yes, absolutely. From modelling and event management to media distribution and sponsorship, at IMG we can leverage our contacts and services to offer the strongest value proposition to our clients. We are not only representing world-class brands but also providing expertise in all business areas including product development and marketing strategies.

Will you be able to draw inspiration from global programs that are currently running in both North America and Europe?

Let’s face it, the real challenge for licensing activities in Australia is being market relevant as Australians tend to defend their national identity and retail landscape, which I believe is a good thing. Nevertheless we do take great inspiration from all our global programs including for example Claudia Schiffer, Cosmopolitan and US colleges. To give you a specific example, our global achievements with Volkswagen speaks for itself with 170 licensees signed in just three years. This becomes an easy sales pitch in Australia, especially when associated with the Beetle and Campervan heritage.

The Australian market is challenging at present, where will you devote your energies in terms of engaging retailers?

We have to be innovative, knowledgeable and forward thinking, and in our digital era that means learning from the global market trends and helping the retailers to reach their consumer base. Whilst we showcase a diverse brand portfolio, our focus is to continuously educate our existing and potential licensees with the latest news and assets from our licensors, as well as finding tangible ways to expand one branded product offering across multiple categories.

Thank you both for your valuable time and we look forward to seeing IMG effecting our market. Whilst the market looks challenging, there are many opportunities for those who can think outside the square. Retailers are looking for new revenue streams and experiences for their customers. IMG’s global business model can provide greater leverage for your brands and those that you aim to attract.

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