Established in 2010 by Founder, Chairman and CEO Jamie Salter in partnership with Leonard Green and Partners, Authentic Brands Group has evolved from a house of brands to a diverse and multifaceted platform of consumer verticals, value driving business models and global brands. Here, RLI spends some time with Nick Woodhouse, President and Chief Marketing Officer of Authentic, to discuss the continuing momentum of the company and how they are set to maintain this in the future.
The mission of Authentic is to evolve, transform and reimagine global brands through innovative business models, powerful storytelling, compelling content and immersive experiences. It builds long-term value for its brands around the world by partnering with best-in-class manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers.
Its portfolio includes more than 40 entertainment and lifestyle brands including Elvis Presley, David Beckham, Shaquille O’Neal, Ted Baker, Brooks Brothers, Nautica, Reebok, Sports Illustrated and Barneys New York.
Today the business has a global reach with offices in London, Los Angeles, Mexico, Miami, New York City and Shanghai that are dedicated to supporting and driving growth in key regions including the US and Canada, LATAM, EMEA and APAC.
“Authentic is a brand owner and multifaceted lifestyle and entertainment platform with vast reach and presence,” explains Nick Woodhouse, President and Chief Marketing Officer of Authentic Brands Group. “Our brands generate upwards of $24bn in global annual retail sales and have an expansive retail footprint in more than 150 countries, including more than 9,800 freestanding stores and shop-in-shops and 355,000 points of sale. As a licensing business focused on brand identity, we partner with best-in-class manufacturers and operators who strategically support brand growth across key industry verticals, territories and product categories.”
As the conversation moves onto the upcoming development pipeline, Woodhouse highlights that their acquisition strategy is focused on brands and opportunities that exhibit meaningful, organic growth potential and are synergistic to their existing portfolio. They are looking at their audiences and their habits to determine crossover and the opportunities to create synergies among their brands that are truly open-ended.
“In 2023, retail will be about evolution and transformation. Our proven playbook continues to create entries into new verticals and categories within our current portfolio, while uncovering strategic opportunities to bring additional brands onto our platform.”
An example of this is in the scaling of the Metaverse with the Forever 21 “Shop City” on Roblox, which is a game available in the Roblox metaverse video game platform, which sees about 58.8 million active users every day. When Forever 21 celebrated its one year “Meta-versary” in November last year, they launched the first metaverse-tested fashion collection inspired by the virtual goods worn by their avatars in “Shop City”. Through this launch, Forever 21 and Virtual Brand Group have created an entirely new way to innovate, design and retail fashion globally.
Embracing the pivotal role that social media plays in marketing in today’s world, the Authentic marketing team drives brand storytelling across all consumer touchpoints, platforms and emerging media. They develop original, branded content and dynamic advertising campaigns for earned, owned and paid distribution channels.
Woodhouse explains that they leverage the power of their combined following of more than 453 million across their portfolio of 40-plus brands. By examining the data that comes from their brand audiences, they can strategically determine how to market their brands through their owned channels and stay on top of the most relevant and impactful influencers and trends.
“Our teams have their fingers on the pulse of social media, especially TikTok, where new influencers are popping up all the time. We recently partnered with Alix Earle for Forever 21. She’s the new it girl. She was recognised by our team and the partnership was executed quickly. Not only is she the face of our Forever 21 festival season campaign on TikTok, we were also able to integrate her into our platform, with Alix joining us for Big Game Weekend events,” says Woodhouse.
Along with social media, sustainability is another key area for Authentic as they believe that many consumers nowadays – particularly Gen Zers – are looking for more sustainable solutions and consider ethical practices before making a purchase.
The company recently entered into a partnership with the world’s largest international advocacy organisation, Global Citizen, to amplify its ESG goals and drive awareness and action around environmental and social issues. Through this partnership, Authentic and Global Citizen are not only breaking new ground, but also leveraging and building upon their respective expertise in the fashion, retail and social impact spaces.
Authentic has also established a task force to help drive sustainability across their global brands and businesses. The Sustainability Alliance platform is designed to engage, educate and equip their partner network with the shared tools and resources to scale sustainable brand innovation, value creation and positive environmental impact.
So, looking at the company as a whole, what does Woodhouse consider to be the reason the business has enjoyed monumental success in recent years and what makes them stand out?
“We combine the operational and financial benefits of a traditional brand licensor with the brand development, marketing and long-term value approach employed by the world’s most successful brands.”
As Woodhouse looks to the future of the company, he highlights that the partnership with David Beckham marks a definitive step in Authentic’s global strategy to expand its corporate footprint, launch new business verticals and drive growth in key territories, including EMEA and APAC.
Meanwhile back in October they completed the acquisition of distinctive British lifestyle brand Ted Baker, which is in line with their strategic focus on growing and diversifying the portfolio through the acquisition of brands that originate from outside of the US.
“We are more than a licensing company; we are a lifestyle, entertainment and media platform fuelled by our portfolio of iconic and world-renowned brands. There isn’t a single company out there that we can point to as a true competitor. We continue to push the boundaries of what brands can be through our innovative partnerships and category expansions and we continue to look at acquiring brands that have the legs to expand into new territories and markets,” Woodhouse concludes.