Entrepreneur interview: David Ciclitira, Executive Chairman of LVCG

David Ciclitira, executive chairman of LVCG explains how he has grown a company focussing on sponsorship from one event a year to 60 in just two years.

Since playing a major role in the US sponsorship and TV market, David Ciclitira has used his expertise to form and grow exhibitions that deliver Lego events across the UK through his Live Company group, which is listed on AIM.

What is the business, when was it started and what were you doing beforehand?

Live Company is a live event, entertainment and content company. Through a reverse takeover of Parallel Media in January, it acquired Brick Live Group and Parallel Live. BRICKLIVE Events is a leading network of partner-driven shows designed to showcase the benefits of LEGO® as an educational tool worldwide. It is a global family event that celebrates the beloved Lego brick and embraces fans of all ages and actively encourage families to learn, build and play together. The number of shows/events has increased significantly since its launch. In 2016 one event was held in NEC, Birmingham, in 2017 it was 17. In 2018 the group expects to hold 60 events.

Throughout my 30-year career, I’ve played a significant role in shaping today’s satellite broadcasting and sponsorship landscape.

I was one of the four original shareholders of Europe’s first satellite television station, Satellite Television plc (‘SATV’), which was renamed SKY following the sale in 1983 of 65 per cent of SATV to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. I remained with Sky as Deputy managing director until the end of 1986 when I left to found the original Parallel Media Group (‘PMG’).

In 1987, I founded PMG. In 1998, under my guidance, PMG entered into a joint venture with NBC for the formation of CNBC Sports International Limited, the international sports broadcasting arm of NBC which was broadcast on its CNBC Europe and CNBC Asia platforms. PMG successfully sold its shareholding in CNBC Sports to NBC in 2004.

I’ve has also overseen the marketing strategies for some of the world’s leading brands including managing Pepsi’s UK music sponsorship strategy, representing Heineken as its global sponsorship agency, acting as Omega’s sponsorship agency of note, negotiating UBS’s title sponsorship of the Hong Kong Open, creating a sports tourism strategy for South Africa at the end of apartheid and launching the Ballantine’s Championship in Korea for Pernod Ricard.

How did you get the idea, and what opportunity did you see when you started the business? What are your sales and what do you expect the turnover potential to be?

When I first saw a Bricklive event I instantly recognised that it could become a global event rather than just focused in one territory. Overseeing growth from one event in 2016 to seventeen in 2017 and the aim for sixty in 2018 around the world affirms my early belief in the potential for this brand

The concept and appeal of the event are universal: learning through play is something that speaks to cultures on a global scale. In particular, it resonates with Asian countries and this versatility makes brand extensions such as Bricklive Kids possible. The fact that is also fits into nigh on any venue is also hugely valuable. The first event was NEC at 15,000 square meters and now we do events that range from 100 to 15,000 square meters. This is encompassed by our new brand extensions for Bricklive, which has been a great opportunity for us to realign the brand through new and interesting concepts.  For example we’ve launched Bricklive Centres, Kids, Café and Touring (which will be taking themed shows on tour) within the last year.

As we are in a closed period financially we are unable to comment on turnover until we have released the numbers to the market.

<See more: Rise of the reverse takeover

How did you finance it and what were the challenges of that?

Originally in 2016, when the company was first acquired, I privately financed the business. In late 2017, I started to begin the process of a reverse take-over (RTO) of Bricklive Group into PMG creating a new business of Live Company Group. The money raised from the reverse takeover was used to further expand our global network as well as acquiring new content.

In terms of challenges, the only challenge we faced was the lengthy time it took to complete the RTO. Since then, the decision to make the company part of a public company was the correct decision and we have managed to get institutional investors on board, such as Miton Group.

What were your key marketing strategies?

We have only self-promoted two events. The first being the show in Birmingham 2016, the second in Saatchi Gallery 2017 over Christmas.  Since then the model has been based on a franchise model and so we work closely with our partners, providing them with a series of video, design and photography material through which to promote to their markets. We work closely with all our partners to skill and knowledge transfer but we are very aware that they have region-specific insight.

Bricklive has a key educational outlook and this is something we really look to emphasise, particularly in Asian markets. As a result, with all our marketing strategies we are looking to approach schools and engage with local families in order to encourage learning through play.

<See more: Going solo – how to make the most of exhibitions, expos and trade shows

What are the revenue streams?

Predominately license fees. Bricklive Group partners with international promotors to stage the shows globally. For this we charge a license fee for the use of the brand, lease of content and operational and brand manuals. Meanwhile, the partner promotes and operationally organises the show, retaining all profits from the show.

Additional revenue streams are through sponsorship revenue and merchandising income. License fee income represents the largest proportion of the group’s revenue.  The group also see scope to create new content, exploiting its existing network and track record.

What are the main challenges you have experienced and seen?

As a global business, we work with a number of different partners and with this we have to adapt to different cultures and develop our model to suit different audiences. However, with such a ubiquitous brand and product as Lego, we have found that the Bricklive language is very transferable and it is a pleasure to work with such a diverse partner network.

What advice would you give to early-stage businesses looking to disrupt markets?

An ability to weigh up situations and take risks when necessary is essential. In these early-stage businesses, having a clear vision and goal is crucial to maintaining focused even when things are moving as quickly as we are.

Building relationships and having ideal partners and sponsors in mind also helps guide decision making processes in the early stages. They provide support from a position that has a vested interest in your success. We have built a strong partnership network, our original investors such as Mr Kim (Hi Brick in Korea) we still work closely with and have some exciting plans for the future.

Not being afraid to set yourself goals above what others may expect. A lot of people doubted the possibility of the RTO we completed over the Christmas period and it was a lot of hard work, but here we are with nine partners, institutional support and a great network of fans around the world, and we still have lots of possibility for expansion in the future.

When setting yourself goals it is important to surround yourself with people that you trust and have the same common goals and belief in the company. I have built a very strong team around me and this is crucial to enabling our partners to feel supported so that we can all work as a team, it’s a two-way process.

In the same vein of trusting those around you, maintaining strong relationships with all stakeholders is hugely beneficial. This helps to grow a global network of like-minded companies and individuals that also want you and your idea to succeed. Since the RTO we have developed new ways of communicating with the public, we do weekly blogs through our live company website, regular social media posts on Twitter, interviews with proactive investors and director’s and we always make sure we produce high-quality video and photography documentation of our shows.

Find out more: BrickLive


Michael Somerville

Uriel Beer

Michael was senior reporter for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2018 to 2019.

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