Both Top Gear and One Direction are huge worldwide brands, so what happens now for licensees?

Why the departure of Clarkson and Malik is a double blow for the licensing industry too

There was a two-hour period yesterday when the internet – and social media in particular – pretty much had a breakdown.

First, the BBC confirmed that it would not be renewing Jeremy Clarkson’s contract on Top Gear, following what they originally described as a ‘fracas’ with his producer, but which actually turned out to be a 30-second physical assault and a 20-minute verbal one.

Then, still reeling, the internet had to cope with the news that Zayn Malik had quit One Direction.

Luckily, my Take That phase had already passed by the time Robbie Williams quit the band in 1995, followed by their split in February 1996, so I was spared the teenage heartbreak. However, I remember seeing a report on the news that the outpouring of grief was so bad in some cases, that The Samaritans had to set up a support line.

One NewBay Media colleague took to Twitter last night, to say that his young daughter was ‘literally’ having a meltdown over the Zayn news and he didn’t know how to handle it.

The heartthrob may change, but the result is the same.

The double bombshell could also have thrown some members of the licensing community into a mild panic.

Back in 1995, while Take That had a solid merchandising programme behind them, this was nothing compared to the industry which has sprung up around One Direction since they finished third on The X Factor in 2010.

Last October, the band was voted as the second most influential brand in our Power List (moving up from third place in 2013). They continued to defy the critics who said – as a boy band – they had a limited shelf life and should have been well past their sell by date.

But, both the retail sales and product portfolios continued to soar, with clever changes to style guides and colour-ways being praised.

Of course, there will be some that argue One Direction’s dominance couldn’t have gone on for much longer anyway. But for many licensees, One Direction is a major part of their portfolio. They will now be watching even more closely as to what happens at retail now that they are a four piece. Existing stock already in the channel could either be snapped up by fans desperate to get their hands on merchandise featuring all five of the boys, or it could end up in the bargain bin.

The headache for Top Gear licensees, however, could be even greater – at least in the short-term.

BBC Worldwide was quick to issue a statement to yesterday saying it remains ‘strongly supportive of and committed to’ the Top Gear brand.

It is helped slightly that none of the presenters ever featured in licensed merchandise, due to the fact some of the overseas versions had different hosts and product needed to be universal. The Stig, however, has featured on product in the past.

It will be a tense wait though to see if the Top Gear brand itself has been damaged. It may have existed before Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, but it is undoubtedly that triumvirate that has made it what it is now. Love them or hate them, they got people watching the show, meaning overseas broadcasters were more receptive to airing it or creating their own version.

The live experiences and shows, too, are big money spinners and attract thousands of fans.

It seems for many that this week should end with …’and on that bombshell…’

About Rachael Simpson-Jones

Check Also

Toonz Media Group partners with Leadbelly Productions for Creepy Candy

Global kids and family entertainment major Toonz Media Group is partnering with Leadbelly Productions to …