National Geographic: A Natural Leverage

May 6, 2009 at 9:29 pm


National Geographic Society seems to understand intellectual property. It is continuously cited as the one non-profit organization that effectively leverages its brand equity in successful brand extensions. A compiled roll of headlines over the last couple of years reveals a strategy.

“The National Geographic Society, one of the most recognizable names in the country, has signed multiple licensing agreements to develop a line of home furnishings and accessories.” (2003)

“Block Industries signed a licensing deal with the National Geographic Society about two years ago to design and market the apparel, which will first appear in 91 Dillard’s department stores, in the Norm Thompson catalog and on the Web site this fall.” (2005)

“National Geographic has hired {a} director of licensing for television and film properties…to oversee the development of product licensing programs for the network, Kids’ Programming and Production unit produces such animated shows as Adventures in Color, Loco Starburn and Mama Mirabelle’s Home Movies.” (2007)

“National Geographic was overwhelmingly voted best extension of a not-for-profit, thanks to its clever partnership with Google Earth, a software program that offers maps of the world that include content from National Geographic.”  (2008)

Its VP of licensing talked about details with the licensing magazine Global License. An exceprt below, full text here.

Q: Any co-branding deals for properties currently licensed?

A: We’ve explored a select number of co-branding opportunities, but they are the exception to the rule. We partnered with Kershaw Knives for a special Carabiner and Mini-Carabiner Tool, since it has an established brand in that particular marketplace. But in most cases, the National Geographic brand is all that’s needed. That said, we’re certainly not opposed to co-branding. In fact, we currently are in discussions with a company on the apparel side for a co-branded men’s and women’s apparel travel program.

Q: What new product categories are you looking to tap into?

A: We’re focusing our attention on greater product depth in the women’s travel arena. To date, the bulk of our program has been focused on the men’s side. Beyond that, it’s about further building out the success of our home and kids’ collections. All of our programs are strategically structured, and we often take into account consumer and focus group studies.

Entry filed under: licensingville, non-profit ip.


These pages are all about the murky crossroads of advocacy, markets, marketing, and intellectual property,


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