12 Part Blog Description
Are you looking to learn as much as you can about the business of sports licensing? Then please read the 12 Part "An Insider's Guide to the World of Licensed Sports Products in 12 Parts: Practical Lessons from the Trenches" - all 12 parts of the blog can be found within this site. Click here to start with the Introduction.
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Part 1 - An Insider’s Guide to the World of Licensed Sports Products: How Licensing Works - Follow The Money or How $5,000,000,000 can be less than you think
This is Part 1 of a 12 Part Series of blogs Scott Sillcox is writing called “An Insider’s Guide to the World of Licensed Sports Products”. For a backgrounder on Scott Sillcox and his company, Maple Leaf Productions, please see the introductory blog and/or watch Scott's 11 minute introductory video.
The 12 Parts of this Licensed Sports Products blog are:
Part 1: How Licensing Works - Follow The Money or How $5,000,000,000 can be less than you think
Part 2: What’s Involved in Getting a License – You need them far more than they need you
Part 3: The Landscape and some of the players
Part 4: Quality Control – Where The Real Power in Licensed Sports Lies
Part 5: Royalty Reporting and Audits
Part 6: Selling Licensed Goods - Why it’s not as easy as it looks
Part 7: Players Associations and Current vs. Retired Players
Part 8: Royalty Rates – Is 12% the norm and when 12% isn’t enough
Part 9: Local Licenses – myth or reality?
Part 10: Packaging
Part 11: Ten Things (Actually 12 Things) I Learned Along The Way
Part 12: Ten More Things (Actually 14 Things) I Learned Along The Way
Let’s put the sale of licensed sports products into some sort of perspective. In 2010 approximately $200 billion dollars worth of licensed merchandise was sold worldwide. Of that $200 billion of annual sales, approximately $25 billion was sports related.
Of the $25 billion of licensed sports products sold worldwide in 2010, some of the leading licensors are:
1. MLB: $5 billion in retail sales
2. US colleges: $5 billion in retail sales
3. NFL: $3.25 billion in retail sales
4. NBA: $3 billion in retail sales
5. NHL: $2 billion in retail sales
6. WWE: $1.2 billion in retail sales
7. NASCAR: $1 billion in retail sales
8-10. MLS: <$1 billion in retail sales 8-10. PGA: <$1 billion in retail sales 8-10. UFC: <$1 billion in retail sales
Missing: Non North American soccer teams (England, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Brazil, etc.), largely because when it comes to merchandise licensing most of these teams operate independently and not as leagues – it would be as if the New York Yankees licensed their own merchandise and operated outside of the MLB umbrella. The North American sports leagues treat each team in the league as equals when it comes to sharing royalty revenue from the sale of licensed sports products, and most have done so since the 1960’s, whereas Manchester United of the English Premier League (a 20 team soccer league that is arguably the world’s best), says “No, we’re not going to be a 1/20th partner when we sell 30% of all licensed merchandise – we will control this revenue source ourselves”.
These figures aren’t hugely accurate but they are reasonable guesses based on industry knowledge and the great work done by License Magazine which publishes a terrific “Top 125 Global Licensors” list each year. I have compiled a one page summary of the Top 50 Global Licensors for 2010 and 2009 below.
With respect to sales of licensed sports products, MLB with their $5 billion in sales is #1, but to keep it a bit in perspective, MLB licensed product sales are dwarfed by Disney which sells more than $28 billion worth of licensed products each year. So at $25 billion for 2010, the sale of all licensed sports products sports is big, but Disney sells more licensed products than all the sports leagues combined.
Now let’s focus on the $25 billion that is the world of licensed sports products.
Traditionally, all products licensed by the leagues listed above fall into one of two categories:
A. Soft goods
- Sometimes referred to as soft goods and headwear; or apparel; or apparel and headwear.
- This category is generally dominated by Nike, Reebok, adidas and a handful of other apparel giants.
B. Hard goods (aka Hardlines)
- Sometimes referred to as hardlines; or trinkets and trash.
- Electronics, especially video games, falls into this category although some people/leagues might call it a third category – I am going to leave Electronics as part of Hard Goods.
- This category has no giants on the scale of the apparel companies, rather this category is characterized by lots and lots of small, entrepreneurial companies.
Please see Part #3 of this blog series for more information about Soft Goods vs. Hard Good licensees – there are some important differences between the two categories of licensees that it is important to understand.
All that having been said, let’s now “Follow the Money”…
I’m going to assume that if you are reading this, then you are likely a pretty good sports fan. As such, I want you to answer a question – quickly and off the top of your head.
The question is: How much revenue do the New York Yankees receive each year from the sale of licensed sports products around the world? Not how much revenue is generated, but how much revenue do the Yankees actually receive.
You might want to read the question one more time, then write a number down on a piece of paper and then read on. Come on, just try it.
If you have a figure written down – well done – thanks for participating. If you haven’t written a figure down, this is your last chance – what do you have to lose?
So here is today’s lesson about how licensing works in general – let’s "follow the money" together…
A. Let's say my company is a hard goods MLB licensee.
B. Let's say we sell $1,000,000 worth of merchandise to retailers each year, i.e. we sell $1,000,000 of merchandise at a wholesale level (not retail).
C. We owe MLB a royalty equivalent to 12% of the wholesale value – 12% x $1,000,000 = $120,000. You can read more about royalty rates in Part #8 of this blog series, but for now I ask you to accept the fact that 12% is a decent average royalty rate in the sports world.
D. It doesn't matter what the stores sell our $1,000,000 worth of product for - they could turn around and sell the $1,000,000 worth of product that they buy from us for $3,000,000 or they could sell it for $1,500,000 - MLB gets the 12% of $1,000,000 from us, the licensee, not from the retailers. This is generally called the “First Level of Distribution” principle – the league derives their share of the revenue (their royalty) as a percentage of sales from the wholesaler, from sales to the “First level of distribution”.
E. MLB then takes our royalty payment of $120,000 and combines it in a pool with all the other payments from all the other MLB licensees. MLB then takes that royalty revenue and splits all of the royalty revenue EQUALLY among all 30 MLB teams. Even if 35% of all the MLB merchandise sold in a year is New York Yankees merchandise, the Yankees only get 1/30th of the revenue.
F. Now let’s do some simple math.
- Retailers sell approx $5,000,000,000 of RETAIL MLB merchandise per year (as noted above, this figure comes from the good folks at Licensee Magazine – they have published the figure of $5,000,000,000 as the MLB sales figure for both 2009 and 2010 and I believe it to be a fairly accurate number because MLB itself provides it to License magazine).
- A reasonable guess is that the wholesale value of the $5,000,000,000 worth of MLB licensed product sold is $2,500,000,000. This is the key figure – the $2,500,000,000 wholesale amount.
- We then take 12% of that wholesale amount – 12% of $2,500,000,000, which equals $300,000,000. This is the total amount of royalties that MLB collects from their licensees - $300,000,000. As mentioned above, 12% is a fairly standard royalty rate for a sports league.
- MLB then takes the $300,000,000 of annual royalties it receives and divides it equally among all 30 teams. This means that each MLB team gets $10,000,000 a year from the sale of licensed merchandise. That’s right - $10,000,000 from $5,000,000,000 – $10 million from $5 billion.
- So the answer to the question I posed above is $10,000,000. The New York Yankees get $10 million from the worldwide sale of licensed sports products. My guess is that if you took a chance and wrote a figure down on a piece of paper a few minutes ago, you guessed something considerably higher than $10 million.
- What I am trying to get at is although $5 billion is a huge amount of licensed sports products – and MLB is the leading sports league when it comes to the sale of licensed sports merchandise - the $10,000,000 per- team-share is barely enough to pay the salary of one decent pitcher. I am certain that most fans, and media, and even seasoned business people in the licensed sports industry see all sorts of MLB licensed merchandise being sold worldwide and they automatically jump to the conclusion that the MLB teams are "raking it in", but simple math shows you that they really aren't – they are only making “$10 million from $5 billion”.
- And to me, that's the big story about the sale of licensed sports products, one that you as a (potential) licensee need to understand. Each MLB team is only earning $10 million from the sale of licensed merchandise – and thus their natural inclination will be to want more, and in many ways it’s hard to disagree with that sentiment. When you consider that each team’s share of the national TV revenue pool is $35,000,000-ish, and that even the smallest market teams generate at least $12,000,000 of local TV/radio revenue (the Yankees might be $100,000,000 or more), you can see that the $10,000,000 from the sale of licensed sports products is important but not all important. The lesson? Keep things in perspective and you will have a better understanding of the business you’re in.
I would like to add a couple other side notes, but the primary lesson of this blog is “$10 million from $5 billion - How $5,000,000,000 can be less than you think!
Side note #1:
I will expand on this in Part #3 of this blog series, but I’d like you to understand that I have been using verbal shorthand when I refer to MLB, NFL or NHL, etc. I should really be referring to them as MLB Properties, NFL Properties and NHL Enterprises. My quick point is that each league typically forms a stand-alone subsidiary company (generally ending in “Properties”) as their licensing body, and as such each is its own entity, separate from the league itself. To me it looks like the league and acts like the league, but legally and structurally “Properties” are a separate entity. This is neither good nor bad, you should simply be aware of it and move on. This list may help you understand what each league calls its licensing entity:
1. MLB = MLB Properties
2. US Colleges = Please see Part #12 of this blog series for more on NCAA licensing
3. NFL = NFL Properties
4. NBA = NBA Properties
5. NHL = NHL Enterprises
6. WWE = WWE
7. NASCAR = NASCAR Properties
8. MLS = Soccer United Marketing
9. PGA = PGA Tour
10. UFC = UFC
The one thing that each league handles differently is the overhead cost of running the league. I have a reasonable grasp of how MLB handles it, so let’s stick with MLB. Each MLB team is required to pay back to the league [they call it the MLB operations fund] approximately $5,000,000 to cover all of the salaries, office rent, overhead, etc. of running the league (keep in mind MLB employs approximately 1000 people). I have no idea what it costs the league to run MLB Properties, the licensing side of the business, but a reasonable guess might be that 25% of the $5,000,000 MLB operations fund payment per team relates to MLB Properties (25% x $5 million = $1.25 million per team). So if you were to factor that cost into the whole equation, the $10,000,000 per team share of royalties gets reduced to a net profit of $8,750,000 per team – so perhaps the truer story being told here is “$8.75 million from $5 billion”.
Side note #2:
Almost every team in the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, etc. owns their own retail store(s) at their home stadium and perhaps elsewhere in the local community as well. The revenue and profits from the sale of merchandise at these stores, is handled differently than the royalties that accrue from the sale of licensed sports products. I don’t have any exact figures, but let’s do a bit of an educated guessing game.
- The Green Bay Packers have one of the most successful retail operations in the NFL. My guess is that they sell approximately $15,000,000 of merchandise each year. When you factor in the cost of the goods sold, the staff costs, and all of the other overhead costs, my guess is that the Packers retail operation might be turning a profit of $5,000,000 a year. $5 million is a significant amount of money, but again, not enough to pay even a modest 1st round draft pick.
- Now contrast this with a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars – a fine team and a fine organization, but the Jags’ retail operations probably sell less than $2,000,000 worth of merchandise annually. And when all of the costs are factored in, my guess is that the Jags don’t make any money on the sale of merchandise from their retail operations – they would like to of course, but in the end it’s really a service to their customers and fans, they are almost obligated to offer Jaguars merchandise.
- So in addition to a 1/30th share of royalties from the sale of licensed sports products worldwide (the $10 million from $5 billion equation), each individual team might make anywhere from $0 to $5 million additional profit from their own retail operations – a significant difference between teams, but still not a game changing amount of money when compared to the team’s operating budget.
- My point in all this? It is key that you, a (potential) licensee, would do well to understand that each team makes no more than $15,000,000 from shared royalties and their own retail operations.
Side note #3:
In the MLB example above, I used a 12% figure as a somewhat average royalty rate paid by licensees to the league. What I haven’t yet mentioned are products that are licensed by MLB AND the MLB Players’ Association. Please see Part #11 of this blog series for much more on this subject, but I wanted to point out that for certain products, such as trading cards or video games, each licensee is paying a “blended” royalty rate. Let’s say the blended rate is 18% - 9% going to MLB and 9% going to the MLB Player’s Association. So the fact that when there is a joint MLB-MLBPA license, the licensee will be paying less than 12% to the league, means that in reality the total royalty collected by MLB will actually be less than the $300,000,000 speculated earlier, and the per team share will be somewhat less than $10,000,000 – maybe as much as $1,500,000 less – meaning each team may actually only receive $8.5 million from $5 billion. Not subtract the “operations fund” overhead costs I guessed at being $1,250,000 per team, and we’re now down to “$7.25 million from $5 billion”. That’s 0.15 of 1% of retail revenue – not 1.5% of retail revenue, but 0.15% of retail revenue.
So if you have “Followed the money” in this lesson, I hope you can understand why Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, or the Steinbrenner brothers, owners of the New York Yankees, would look at their $10 million from $5 billion – or $8.5 million from $5 billion – or $7.25 million from $5 billion – and say, “I like the way Manchester United handles things a whole lot better”.
That’s all for Part #1 of “An Insider’s Guide to the World of Licensed Sports Products”.
Thanks for reading and all comments are welcome!
PS In March 2012 I launched a new, free-to-use, searchable Online Directory of North American Licensed Sports Products Companies – it can be found at www.LicensedSports.net . This is a highly searchable directory of licensed sports products companies in North America, companies that have been licensed by various sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NCAA, Nascar, MLS, etc.) as well as the various players’ associations (NFLPA, MLBPA, NBAP, NHLPA) and there is nothing like it anywhere on the internet.
So if you’re looking for all the licensed sports products companies based in Connecticut, or all of the NFL licensees which sell housewares, or all companies licensed by the NBA and the NHL and MLB, check out this terrific, free, and highly searchable resource at www. LicensedSports.net .
You might be asking yourself why did Scott Sillcox spend so much time and effort to create this free Online Directory?
The answer is simple. I have a fair amount of knowledge about the licensed sports products business, knowledge that seems to be in scarce supply, especially on the internet. After spending 15+ years in the licensed sports products business, I accumulated a wealth of knowledge that I am happy to share. This blog and Online Directory are designed to share that information for free - information that is simply not available anywhere else on the internet. This blog and Online Directory are my way of giving back and helping people interested in the world of licensed sports products. I am also available as a consultant to people wanting to enter the licensed sports business (either by obtaining their own license or working with an existing licensee) as well as to existing licensees and would be delighted to chat with you if you think I might be able to help you in some way. Thanks!
PPS from April 2014: This is just a quick FYI that Scott Sillcox is continuing the multi-city tour of North America that he started in the spring of 2013. While in each city, Scott will be meeting with people who want to learn more about sports product licensing.
If you are considering going through the process of acquiring a sports license(s), or if you are considering working with an existing licensee, you should strongly consider meeting with Scott as he criss-crosses North America.
There are three different types of meetings being offered:
1. You can meet with Scott for a full day session – from 8:30am – 5:00pm - just you and Scott (or you and your team if you wish). The full day one-on-one session fee is $1500.
2. You can meet with Scott for a half day session (4.5 hours) – either in the morning or the afternoon. This half-day session is also one-on-one - just you (or your team) and Scott. The half day session fee is $900.
3. You can meet with Scott in a day long workshop attended by no more than 5 people like yourself. 8:30am – 5:00pm. Truly great things come from workshop sessions like this – you meet and learn from kindred spirits because everyone brings a little something to the table. As long as you are willing to share a little bit about your idea, a small group workshop like this is a great learning tool and you will leave highly energized and highly motivated. The group workshop fee is $499 per person, and if a second person wants to attend from the same organization, the fee for the second person is $250.
One of the more popular parts of Scott's tour will be the 3rd option mentioned above - the one-day workshops in each city where there will be no more than 5 participants.
The focus of these workshops will be twofold:
- Understanding in detail what is involved in trying to obtain your own license(s)
- Understanding the ways in which someone with an idea for a licensed sports product might be able to work with an existing licensee to see the product come to life. We will discuss the pros and cons, as well as the hurdles you will face.
If you are interested in sports licensing but have a lot of questions, this day long workshop is a great source of information - and at $499, it's a terrific value.
The cities and dates for the May-July 2014 tour are:
Dates / City
1 May 6: Toronto
2 May 12-14: Chicago
3 June 4-6: Los Angeles
4 June 9-11: Seattle
5 June 23-24: Washington DC
6 June 25-27: New York City area
7 July 17-18: Fort Lauderdale FL
You may have been dreaming about your product and the opportunity it represents for months, maybe years – now’s the time to move your idea forward! Take advantage of Scott being in your own backyard, roll up your sleeves and sign up to meet with Scott in person.
To register, simply call Scott at 416-315-4736 or email him at email@example.com and book your face-to-face time - you can lock-in a confirmed session right over the phone.
If you would like to see a proposed agenda for any of the three different session structures, just ask Scott and he will email you a proposed agenda.
Or if you are unsure but would like to be on an email list (you will not receive a flood of emails, less than a handful of reminders), please signup by clicking here.