The U.S. Army’s brand licensing program is about more than just commerce. “The licensing program leverages the importance of pride, performance and personal development to build brand awareness and create multiple touch points for Americans to show support to the U.S. Army,” says Paul Jensen, Director of U.S. Army Trademark Licensing.
Since 2006, the Army has strategically extended its brand to more than 50 categories including apparel, footwear, jewelry, consumer electronics, gift and novelties, collectibles, sporting knives, and camping equipment, among others. New York City-based Beanstalk is the Army’s licensing agency.
Official Army licensed products are available in more than 80,000 stores across the United States, including major retailers such as Walmart, Target, Kmart, Toys “R” Us, Dick’s Sporting Goods, The Sports Authority and J.C. Penney.
“The Army Trademark Licensing Program was created to share the time-honored qualities of the Army’s service to the nation,” Jensen says. “The Army has established a strict set of brand guidelines for licensing, and the goal of the program is to promote positive brand awareness.”
Proceeds from the licensing program support the Army’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) program, which benefits soldiers, retirees and their families. Examples of how this fantastic program helps the Army community are visible on Army posts across the United States: daycare and child development centers, libraries, movie theaters, bowling alleys, basketball courts, sporting and cultural events, travel opportunities, job training, and much more.
The newest products to bear the Army brand include a line of airsoft products licensed by the Crosman Corp., which the Army expects will complement an existing line of paintball markers. The airsoft line will be introduced in the fourth quarter of 2013, Beanstalk notes.
Other new licensees include the Elite Group and Bestway International, which will launch a line of outdoor camping equipment and accessories this year. Northeastern Plastics debuted their line of roadside assistance kits and batteries at The National Hardware Show, and Global Tissue Group is set to introduce paper towels, tissues, napkins, cleaning wipes and bath tissues.
In addition, The Thal Organization is in development of U.S. Army branded ruggedized mobile phones and accessories.
Beanstalk is also boosting its efforts to educate consumers about the MWR program through the development of new brand guidelines. The new guidelines will allow MWR information to be featured on the front of packaging to let consumers know they are purchasing a quality product from which the royalty proceeds benefit the lives of soldiers, retirees and their families.
Retailers are taking notice of this initiative and finding innovative ways to highlight the program so consumers can learn more.
The prominence of the Army’s brand brings with it the challenge of trademark infringement. “Unfortunately, there are companies that have a misinformed perception that the U.S. Army’s name, logo, slogan and insignia are in the public domain, and we are continually challenged to protect Army’s brand assets,” says Caren Chacko, AVP of brand management at Beanstalk.
The Army’s official licensees help police infringement by reporting products they find on store shelves or at trade shows. Beanstalk then approaches the unauthorized manufacturers to explain the program, often leading to converting that manufacturer to a program licensee.
If necessary, Beanstalk and the Army work through legal channels to resolve infringement issues, and also work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to prevent unauthorized products from being imported.
“Beanstalk also meets with retailers to educate them about the licensing program and requests that manufacturers of Army products show license agreements when selling or exhibiting products, and the Army is working to implement hologram labels for officially licensed products to help consumers identify legitimate brand merchandise,” Chacko says.
“Licensed products provide customers a way to experience the essence of the U.S. Army and give back to our soldiers and their families, who have sacrificed so much for this country,” she adds. “Often, infringers’ products are of poor quality, and sold at prices that unfairly make it hard for official licensees to compete.”
In its role as the Army’s licensing agency, Beanstalk works to find best-in-class licensees to represent the brand. One longstanding licensee is paintball manufacturer Tippmann Sports, which joined the licensing program in 2007.
“Their retail relationships are phenomenal and they dominate the space at the sporting goods and specialty paintball retailers across the United States,” Chacko says. “Tippmann helped the brand break through by focusing on the Army’s history of developing cutting-edge equipment and pushing the envelope of technology in optics and survival gear.”
The success of the Tippmann license cleared the way for the Army to bring on other sporting goods licensees, including fitness apparel giant, adidas. The sporting goods category is one of the Army’s focal points for growth, and it is seeking new licensees in golf and fitness equipment. The Army is also looking to extend its licensing agreements in the toy, back-to-school and hardware categories.
“The Army appeals to men, women and children across all age groups, along with patriotic Americans and brand enthusiasts alike,” Jensen adds. “The Army understands that there are consumers at all levels of retail, and therefore allows licensees widespread distribution opportunities to reach a broad audience of consumers.”