A Guide to the eSports Licensing Landscape

It’s a world in which high-profile unaffiliated teams carry names such as FaZe Clan, Team Liquid, Cloud9 and Evil Geniuses; where stars with handles such as Ninja, Shroud and DrLupo are, in some cases, better known than the games they play; and where the playing fields are games as varied as Overwatch, League of Legends, NBA 2K, Counter-Strike,  and Call of Duty, among many others.

All three of those aspects segments – teams, players and leagues are at the core of an eSports business in which revenue from such areas as sponsorships, media rights, advertising, tickets and merchandise are expected to roar past the $1 billion mark this year, while event attendance and viewership (both online and via broadcast on such outlets as ESPN) also soars.

For companies in the licensing business, however, the road toward leveraging that interest with merchandise is still being built. It’s difficult to get a handle on the current size of the merchandise piece, but research firm Newzoo predicts that global merchandise and ticket sales revenue will increase 22.4% this year to $103.7 million.

Here’s a look at the current state of affairs for the eSports licensing business.

Who is the esports consumer, and how does this fan watch? How many of them are there?

NBA developed special logos for its NBA 2K teams - Licensing International
NBA developed special logos for its NBA 2K teams

The potential market is sizeable. Global revenues –largely from media rights, advertising and sponsorships – are expected to rise 26% this year to $1.1 billion as the eSports audience jumps 15% to 453.8 million driven by viewership on ESPN, Twitch  and other streaming platforms delivered to PCs and mobile devices, Newzoo said. It expects total revenue to reach $1.8 billion by 2022 when the audience – a mix of enthusiasts and occasional viewers – is forecast to be 645 million.

The technology consulting firm Activate projects that by the year after next, eSports will have 84 million U.S. viewers, second only to the National Football League (141 million), and ahead of Major League Baseball (79 million) and the National Basketball Association (63 million). By next year Activate forecasts, 70 million people will be watching a single eSports final. Esports is most popular among the coveted 18-34-year-old consumers, who account for 73% of the viewers and are decidedly male, Activate said.

What’s the licensing play? What’s been done so far?

For the licensing community, there are three basic avenues into the world of esports: leagues, teams and players.

Leagues

eSports leagues are built around specific games, such as Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty and Overwatch, Riot Games’ League of Legends, Take-Two Interactive’s NBA 2K, Valve Corp.’s Defense of the Ancients (DOTA-2) and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (the latter of which is that basis for the Europe-based Electronic Sports League). So, in a sense, if a company has a license for one of those titles, it has an inherent connection to the game.

Many of the leagues have taken on the structure of other professional sports leagues with centralized licensing.

For example, Activision Blizzard designed trademarked logos and handles merchandise licensing for all league franchises in the Overwatch League through a central organization. It signed a deal earlier this year with sports licensing ecommerce and licensing powerhouse Fanatics to supply and market league and team apparel.

The ESL has a licensing program for its league
The ESL has a licensing program for its league trademarks

Twenty-one of the National Basketball Association’s 30 teams have franchises in the NBA 2K League – a joint venture between the NBA and Take-Two Interactive. Licensing is operated by the existing NBA Properties organization, which developed distinct logos for each of the franchises. Companies with NBA 2K League licenses include NBA licensees such as Champion (team kits) and New Era (caps, t-shirts), while adding videogame-oriented companies such as Scuf Gaming (controllers), Raynor (gaming chairs) and HyperX (headsets).

Licensing of the League of Legends brand is administered by developer Riot Games. In conjunction with its League Championship series, walmart.com in May  launched sales of jerseys from 10 teams, taking to Twitter to promote the collection through an LCS Fan Shop, and sounding much like it was promoting the NFL or NBA: “Wear what the pros wear as you cheer them on to victory,” Walmart said.

ESL, which among the oldest eSports leagues, handles licensing of its brand through its Cologne, Germany headquarters, but also is represented by Beanstalk’s Tinderbox division across Europe.

Teams

As already noted, licensing related to teams in the NBA 2K League and Overwatch League is handled centrally while there are 10 independent teams in League of Legends North America, 16 in League of Legends Pro League in China (and countless others competing in League of Legends tournaments around the world).The three-year-old ESL Pro League has 48 independent teams.

Those independent teams carry names such as FaZe Clan, Evil Geniuses, Team SoloMid, Team Liquid; they’re not directly affiliated with the leagues, but rather compete in lucrative tournaments around the globe. Most of them have squads to compete across multiple games.

Individual players in the Overwatch League are spotlighted in an Upper Deck trading card series
Individual players in the Overwatch League are spotlighted in an Upper Deck trading card series

One of the more developed independent teams is FaZe Clan, which has 29 players competing in as many as eight leagues at a time. It’s based in California and expects to have a licensing operation formed by late this year to represent both the team and individual players for merchandise deals.

The teams – whether as franchises in the centralized leagues, or as independents – have drawn investments from other parts of the sports and entertainment worlds. For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers in December invested in the Pittsburgh Knights eSports teams which compete in several tournaments including those for Playerunknown’s Battleground and Electronic Arts’ Madden NFL 20. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones bought a stake in compLexity Gaming in 2017; the team is based at the GameStop Performance Center, which opened earlier this year at the Cowboys training complex. Owners of franchises in the Overwatch League have connections to such traditional sports teams as the New England Patriots (the Kraft family), New York Mets (Wilpon family), Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Rams (Kroenke Sports and Entertainment), among others. And athletes and rappers also have purchased stakes in teams. For example, former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal and baseball star Alex Rodriguez having invested in NRG eSports, which fields independent squads competing across nine games, while rappers Miles “Lil Yachty” McCollum and Kiari Kendrell “Offset” Cephus have stakes in FaZe Clan.

Players

For the most part, player licensing focuses on eSports gamers that aren’t affiliated with a team, but rather have built huge following on social media based on the fame they developed earlier in tournament play.

Among the top unaffiliated players is Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, represented by the talent agency Loaded and licensing agency Brand Central, who has 22.4 million YouTube followers and 14.6 million followers on Twitch (before switching to Microsoft’s Mixer game streaming service earlier this year). Ninja has about a dozen licensing agreements including toys (Wicked Cool Toys) and housewares (Zak Designs).

Loaded also represents Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek, who has 6.9 million followers on Twitch, while the agency ReKtGlobal has about 50 eSports gamer clients, including Benjamin “DrLupo” Lupo, a Fortnite player with 3.4 million followers Twitch.

eCommerce Inside Licensing
Fanatics is promoting championship merchandise for the Overwatch League the same way it does for traditional sports

“We believe the individual streamers have the ability” to translate better to retail than teams as “they have a media platform to appeal directly to fans who get to know them in the same way digital influencers have made an impact at retail,” says Brand Central CEO Ross Misher. “It is difficult for an individual eSports player to get recognized nationally since they are part of a team. Once players leave the teams and become streamers, that’s when their profile and popularity rises” and they become strong candidates for licensing.

An exception among teams may be FaZe Clan, which has positioned some of its players for licensing.  For example, the team is positioning its first female member, 13-year-old Soleil “Ewok” Wheeler, who plays Fortnite and has 200,000 followers on Twitch, for women’s apparel, says FaZe Clan President Greg Selkoe.

“Through Twitter, Instagram and other social media, we seed the marketplace by having our players stream and promote their and our stuff in advance of a drop” in seeking to build demand for products,” says Selkoe.

That’s not to say the leagues aren’t preparing players for licensing – Minnesota Timberwolves Gaming point guard and NBA 2K championship series MVP Michael “BearDaBeast” Key is among those players viewed by the NBA as having licensing potential based on his personality and social media following, says an NBA spokesman.

“When you see a player like him [Key] it starts to make sense,” he says. “When you have a charismatic and engaging competitor, we want to align with him just like we would with any other [NBA] athlete.”

One attempt to leverage the influencers’ popularity is by Wicked Cool Toys, which plans to release this month five-inch eSports influencer collectible figures that are packaged with a QR card that “unlocks” a game developed by LAMO for play on a mobile device.

What’s happened so far at retail?  What does the future look like?

There’s a relative trickle of eSports-licensed product making its way to retail so far, as licensees and merchants feel their way through a necessary learning process. For example, sales of Champion Athleticwear co-branded with six eSports teams (OpTic Gaming, Counter Logic Gaming, Dignitas, Spacestation Gaming and the Renegades) reportedly fell short of forecast at 75 Footlocker stores during May and June.

“There is definitely an appetite for eSports,” says one Footlocker executive, “but right now it is in its infancy, and we are going to continue to support and grow with it. Maybe what will trigger the business is merchandise tied to a specific event in a given market.” Footlocker sold the apparel through four of its chains – Footlocker, Footaction, Eastbay and Champs — with the latter having the most success with the line.

Adds Matt Waterman, VP-GM of Champion North America: “We see eSports as emerging sport that people are competing in. It is a natural extension our brand since the uniforms are typically t-shirts, hoodies and sweats all of which we produce.

“We are exploring different elements within eSports and it [the eSports licensing program] will become more formalized in the way it is executed.  We are very much developing this as we go and as we understand the players and their needs.”

Scuf Gaming has a controller licensed by independent team FaZe Clan
Scuf Gaming has a controller licensed by independent team FaZe Clan

There are other signs that eSports is moving toward the masses. For example, Fanatics — which has licensing agreements with and operates the ecommerce sites for all four major U.S. professional sports leagues, and top global soccer clubs such as Manchester United, Real Madrid, Manchester City (among many other ventures)—billboards “eSports” on its menu bar right alongside those leagues’ logos. Click on “eSports,” and you’re taken to full shops for the Overwatch League and NBA2K League. Its assortment of Overwatch League t-shirts, hoodies, socks and other apparel also is merchandised on Walmart.com and affiliate Jet.com.

Walmart has split the Overwatch apparel with lower-priced goods being sold through its own web site, while more expensive ($59 and up) team replica jerseys, hoodies and jogging pants are sold through Jet.com, which is expected to bring in League of Legends products in November. Jet.com staff also have taken the lead in buying eSports products for both websites, says an executive familiar with Walmart’s plans.

“They [Walmart] see this as a chance to get a jump start in what they think is going to be a growing eSports business moving forward,” says that executive. Walmart didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Sales of goods tied to the NBA 2K League have been built around a sub-site (https://2kleaguestore.nba.com/) of the NBA store online, and at the NBA Store in New York, with shirts from Champion and New Era, and socks from Stance. The NBA also began in-venue sales this year at the league’s eSports arena in Long Island City, NY.

Esports goods have also been popping up in less-obvious places. For example, FaZe Clan sold $1.7 million of co-branded Champion apparel in a 24-hour sale in April on NTWRK – the app-based venture that offers unique merchandise drops via “shoppable shows.” FaZe Clan also had a pop-up shop with player autograph signings and apparel at the shoe store Stadium Goods in Lower Manhattan in late July, drawing throngs of fans already in New York for the Fortnite World Cup. FaZe Clan also is launching co-brand warm-up kits with Manchester United starting with a game on Oct. 6 as part of an agreement with team uniform supplier Puma.

“It isn’t about units and volume, but rather maintaining that edge and doing things that might not work other more traditional leagues that are focused on competitive gaming,” says Selkoe.

There’s also the question of whether eSports merchandising migrates anytime soon to become a staple at brick and mortar, or rather continues to live mostly online. Given that eSports is very much an online endeavor, says Champion’s Waterman “there may not be as much of a brick and mortar play, and it may be mainly an ecommerce business. We are trying to find that natural evolution of where this is going, and we want to be part of it.”

What products are on the market?

While apparel has been the major focus, equipment aligned with playing the games also has proven popular. Controller supplier Scuf Gaming has FaZe Clan and NBA 2K models. Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League took a page from other professional sports in licensing Upper Deck for player-signed trading cards that are packaged with swatches of game-worn jerseys.

There also have been the more conventional uniform deals.

Nike announced an agreement last month to supply the uniforms for 16 teams in the League of Legends Pro League (LPL) in China, combining the LPL team logo with the Nike Swoosh. And Puma struck an agreement earlier this year to supply Cloud9 uniforms.

The Puma deal allows Cloud9 to “affect broader culture” where “if you want to be able to relate to younger people globally, you had better be thinking about eSports as much as you are thinking about cultural lenses like music and sports,” says Cloud9 Head of Partnerships Jordan Udko.

The footwear company K-Swiss worked with the eSports firm Immortals Gaming Club on “One-Tap” slip-on lightweight sneakers that are designed for those competing in multi-player video games. Then there is AjX Armani, which was among the first fashion brands to enter the eSports business when it signed to provide the Italian eSports team Mkers with uniforms for global tournaments. (They’re not available yet at retail.)

“We are trying to offer fans as many products as possible to help them express their fandom and connect with one another,” says Activision Blizzard eSports Licensing Head Daniel Siegel. “We know that fans respond strongly to any product that our players wear or use on stage.”

Shock championship t-shirt features player names
Shock championship t-shirt features player names

Like Activision, the NBA 2K League has focused on building out its team and league brands by drawing from the NBA’s roster of licensees (such as Champion, Stance and New Era), while adding gaming-specific newcomers such as Scuf Gaming (controllers), Raynor (gaming chair) and HyperX (headsets).

“Everything we have done with NBA, WNBA and G-League is serving as a template for eSports in terms of licensing,” the NBA spokesman said. “If you look at the NBA2K League, we have an advantage — the NBA knows how to build a business around the teams and league and has a record of building a local fan base, creating compelling content and selling merchandise and sponsorships.”

The focus thus far most leagues and teams has been on premium priced merchandise. For example’s Scuf’s Vantage NBA 2K controllers sell for $225. And a home textiles company that is developing League of Legends backpacks for the U.S., is redesigning a base model that typically sells for $10 with more room for storage and better materials and is pricing it at $49. And Faze Clan youth hoodies typically retail for $60.

“Consumers will spend on high-quality and features because the products are an extension of their fandom,” says Daniel Amos, of lifestyle apparel supplier Difuzed, whose company is developing a co-branded apparel line for ESL due in spring 2020. “For [eSports] apparel it is a different cut and sew technology; it’s not necessarily a blank t-shirt where you put a logo on it and you have made money. It needs to be more than that.”

In some cases, licensees say, indy teams such as FaZe Clan 100 Thieves are positioning themselves as lifestyle brands and, along with the social media influencers, have even greater potential than most for licensing.

“I am not sure the future is team and eSports merchandise in the same way we think about traditional leagues,” says Aaron Levant, CEO of ecommerce and content platform NTWRK. “It is more of the culture of gaming, where the real fandom is, and where the real merchandise dollars are going to be in this space. The leagues don’t yet have the generations of people that have grown up around eSports, and have an affinity for it in the same they do with other professional leagues.”

And leagues concede that many companies are still early in their understanding of eSports and how licensing plays into it.

“There is a little bit of education that comes into play and when we are looking at brands, and we’re qualifying them, it does go back to: do these brands want to just look at our audience as a transaction?” Riot Games executive Matthew Archambault told Game Haus. “If that is the case, it’s probably not the best suited for us as a brand.”

 

Contacts:

Activate, Michael Wolf, CEO, 212-326-4444

Activision Blizzard Entertainment, Daniel Siegel, Head of eSports Licensing, 949-955-1380 x64507, dsiegel@blizzard.com

Brand Central, Ross Misher, CEO, 310-268-1231, ross@brandcentrallicensing.com

Cloud9, Jordan Udko, Head of Partnerships, 424-256-8391

Difuzed, Daniel Amos, Head of eSports, daniel.amos@difuzed.com

FaZe Clan, Greg Selkoe, Pres., 617-216-1913, greg.selkoe@fazeclan.com

Hanesbrands/Champion, Matt Waterman, VP and General Manager Champion North America, 336-519-8080

Mkers, Paolo Cisaria, CEO, paolo@mkers.it

National Basketball Association, Sal LaRocca, EVP Global Merchandising Group, 212-407-800, slarocca@nba.com

Newzoo, Jurre Pannekeet, Senior Market Analyst and eSports Specialist, +31 20 663 5816, jurre@newzoo.com

NTWRK, Aaron Levant, CEO, aaron@thentwrk.com

Riot Games/League of Legends, Matthew Archambault, Head of Partnerships and Business Development, marchambault@riotgames.com

Scuf Gaming, Diego Nunez, Chief Marketing Officer, 404-851-9261

Wicked Cool Toys, Jeremy Padawer, Co-CEO, 310-804-4353, jeremy@wickedcooltoys.com

This article originally appeared on: https://licensinginternational.org/news/a-guide-to-the-esports-licensing-landscape/

Licensing International Launches in the Nordics

Licensing International, the leading trade organization for the global licensing industry, will establish a new office in the Nordics in cooperation with the Association of Agents and Managers in Creative Industries of Finland (AGMA), a professional association supporting the creative industries in Finland and the Nordics. The new Licensing International Nordics joins Licensing International’s network of global offices, which also includes locations in the UK, Germany, Australia, France, China, Japan, India, Russia, Brazil and Italy, in addition to the head office in New York City.

Licensing International Nordics will serve eight countries – Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. Combined, these countries accounted for nearly $4.8 billion in retail sales of licensed merchandise in 2018, according to Licensing International’s annual industry survey*, making the region a significant player in the global brand licensing marketplace.

Licensing International Nordics will be headed by Kati Uusi-Rauva, AGMA Director, and Heikki Laaninen, AGMA chairman and Head of Licensing at boutique licensing and publishing agency Ferly Co. Under the Licensing International banner, Uusi-Rauva and Laaninen will work with other local executives to develop events, educational programs, business outreach, networking opportunities and localized news and resources for the benefit of licensing professionals in the Nordics region.

“I’m thrilled to bring the benefits of Licensing International membership, alongside our network of resources and influence, to industry executives throughout these key countries in the Nordics,” says Maura Regan, President, Licensing International. “This region is home to a vibrant creative and professional community that has given rise to powerhouse brands and products, so I’m pleased to offer executives in these countries the resources to further grow their business and expand their connections within the global licensing industry.”

“We have seen a rise of interest in brand licensing possibilities in the Nordics during the last few years,” says AGMA’s director Kati Uusi-Rauva. “This has happened especially in the entertainment, content and design industries. Therefore, we are really happy to develop further the Nordic brand licensing community and make it more visible and accessible to the global networks through cooperation with Licensing International.”

*Click here to download your copy of the Licensing International Annual Global Licensing Industry Survey, which is free for all Licensing International members.

About Licensing International:

Licensing International – formerly known as LIMA – is the leading trade organization for the global licensing industry. Licensing International’s mission is to foster the growth and expansion of licensing around the world, raise the level of professionalism for licensing practitioners, and create greater awareness of the benefits of licensing to the business community at large. Founded in 1985, Licensing International members in over 40 countries enjoy access to an array of benefits, including extensive educational programming and worldwide networking events. Visit LicensingInternational.org for more information and to utilize licensing’s definitive online resource.

About AGMA

AGMA, the Association of Agents and Managers in Creative Industries of Finland, represents agencies and managers working in all creative industries such as design and graphics, publishing, photography, performing arts, music, games and media. AGMA organizes events and training, acts as a spokesman of its members and actively takes part in the creative industry business development on a national and international level. Learn more at AGMA.fi.


Media Contact:

Licensing International

Nicole Silberstein

nsilberstein@licensing.org

646-744-3748

40 Things to See at Brand Licensing Europe 2019

BLE 2019, 1-3 October, ExCeL London – www.brandlicensing.eu/register-now

1. Embrace this year’s multiple themes on publishing, gaming and interiors by attending our three live activations. Go to entrance N1 for Beyond the Book, N4 for The Arcade and N5 for Heritage x Interiors.

2. Uncover the vast potential of publishing licensing by taking a visit to Beyond the Book on stand D120 featuring over 15 successful product ranges from Beano, PJ Masks, Guess How Much I Love You, Ladybird, Barbapapa, Mr Men & Little Miss, Tara Duncan, Elmer the Elephant, Horrible Histories, Moomin, Miffy, Paddington, Thomas & Friends, The World of David Walliams, Beast Quest, The Gruffalo & Bing

3. With more places to eat, drink and sit down than ever before, grab a map and get your bearings as soon as you arrive. Visit the Character & Entertainment Bar on stand D200, the Van Gogh Museum Bar on stand D400, the Interiors Café on stand F462 or the BLE Café on stands B101 and B120. You can also find loads of seating across the back row of the show from stands F121 to F401.

4. Discover the vast array of opportunities in gaming and esports licensing with our live and interactive activation, The Arcade, on stand D280 brought to you by PowerStation Studios.

5. Find out how toy licensing can recover its sparkle with our expert panel featuring NBC Universal, Viacom Nickelodeon CP, V-Tech Electronics, Moose Toys and The Entertainer – License Global Theatre from 12.30-1pm on Tuesday 1st October

6. Take a walk to Heritage x Interiors activation on stand F460 for inspiration on how to take your brand into the luxury and interiors market with room sets from the V&A, Style Library, Van Gogh Museum and the Natural History Museum.

7. Get a sneak peak of next year’s BLE theme by visiting Fresh off the Runway in each of our 5 visitor entrances – N1, N2, N3, N4 & N5

8. Make sure you attend LIMA’s very popular “intro to licensing” sessions at 9.30am on day one and day three in the Licensing Global Theatre

9. Be in prime position for Europe’s biggest character parade taking place TWICE this year at 11am on day one and 10.30am on day two – rumour has it you may see close to 100 characters over the two days!

10. Take your seat for the first BLE keynote on Wednesday 2nd October at 12pm in the License Global Theatre. Featuring the best of British animation including Mikael Shields from Acamar Films, Michael Rose from Magic Light Pictures, Oli Hyatt from blue-zoo productions, Allison Watkins from Coolabi and Sean Clarke from Aardman Animations.

11. Grab a seat in the License Global Lounge on stand E200 to meet the team, read your copy of the Official Show Dailies and check out the ‘License Global Edit’ offering you an exclusive first glimpse of next year’s BLE theme

12. Visit Beyond the Book on stand D120 at 10am on Tuesday for live drawing with Adam Hargreaves of Mr Men & Little Miss fame – then pop over to the Sanrio stand on B141 to discover more

13. Make sure you take a selfie with our wonderful characters as you get off the train at Custom House DLR station…there are plenty of them to welcome you to this year’s BLE!

14. Need help navigating ExCeL and our new layout? Pick up a z-card at each of the show entrances, speak to a BLE team member or visit the Information Desk outside the N5 visitor entrance.

15. Check out License This! 2018 winners, “Oddcats!” by Zara Picken on stand B466 and “Animals” by Sarah Burman Designs on stand B465

16. Go through ExCeL visitor entrances N4 & N5 to visit this year’s Brands & Lifestyle Zone and Art, Design & Image Zones with more brands on display than ever!

17. Visit Beyond the Book on stand D120 at 2pm on Tuesday for a Q&A with Terry Deary, author of Horrible Histories

18. Visit The Arcade on stand D280 at 3pm on Tuesday & Wednesday and 2pm on Thursday for exclusive tours of this live and interactive gaming & eSports activation delivered by PowerStation Studios

19. Hear our exclusive second keynote from on the eSports phenomenon at 11.45 on Thursday featuring Difuzed, GAME & more in the License Global Theatre

20. Dust off your trainers and enter the astro-turfed Sports Zone next to the License Global Theatre featuring the biggest line-up of sports exhibitors ever including first-timers Inter Milan, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, Federacao Portuguesa de Futebol, Olympique de Marseille and Rugby Australia.

21. Grab a drink and something to eat in the Van Gogh Museum Bar on stand D400 and experience a heritage brand truly come to life before your eyes

22. Visit our biggest ever collection of gaming exhibitors including first-timers Nintendo (E220) and Difuzed (E280) as well as Activision-Blizzard (D300), Sega (A281), Pokemon (D260), Capcom (C321), Ubisoft (B241), Bandai Namco (C202), Sybo Games (C302), Rovio (B140)

23. Don’t miss the return of the hugely popular panel led by Richard Pink focused on navigating the future of retail including a stellar line-up of speakers from Warner Bros, ASDA, The Point. 1888, Rubie’s & Fat Face in the License Global Theatre at 1.15pm on day two

24. Check out the BLE official matchmaking service and book your meetings in advance of attending the show – a must-do for any brand new visitors or exhibitors.

25. Visit Beyond the Book on stand D120 at 2pm on Wednesday for a Q&A with Charlotte Reed of May the Thoughts Be With You, and previous BLE License This! Winner

26. Looking to rest your weary feet? Head to the Interiors Café on stand F462 and get a sneak peek through the window (literally) of some fabulous room sets on display in Heritage x Interiors on stand F460.

27. Be prepared for the phenomenon that is Formula E coming to London ExCeL in 2020 by visiting their licensing agent, TSBA, on stand A380

28. Make sure you visit our largest collection of heritage brands ever including first-timers Yale University (B432), Royal Horticultural Society (B366), Style Library (D362) as well as the V&A, Natural History Museum, Royal Museums Greenwich, Van Gogh Museum, Science Museum and more…

29. Check out our big screen outside the entrance to ExCeL and our 17 digital screens running through the ExCeL boulevard for trailers, animations, designs & newly launched properties all being showcased at this year’s BLE

30. Looking to find out about the latest trends impacting retail? Visit the Retail Trends Lounge on stand A440 and hear sessions from IMRG, Trend Bible, The Insights People & more. Sessions open to non-retailers and full programme on the BLE website

31. Head over to the Novotel London ExCeL from 5pm on Wednesday for complimentary drinks at the Global Licensing Group Party. Meet the team behind BLE, Licensing Expo & License Global as well as the MDs from Licensing International’s chapters from around the world.

32. Visit the Art, Design & Image Zone through visitor entrance N5 for a collection of some of the finest art, galleries, imagery and design all primed for usage on your next licensing campaign

33. Use the BLE Matchmaking Service to book meetings with more than 65 first-time exhibitors including Difuzed, Sutikki, ZAG Studios, RSPCA, Boatrocker Studios, Royal Horticultural Society, Olympique de Marseille, Evolution, Hamsta World, Style Library, Lady Geraldine Designs, Rugby Australia, Sarah Lovell Art & Nintendo

34. Make sure you’ve booked your ticket for the Licensing International BLE Official Party at the Museum of Docklands on the Wednesday evening – tickets must be booked in advance through the Licensing International or BLE websites.

35. Discover how to make the most of video gaming and esports licensing with BLE’s unofficial gaming day on Thursday. Hear an amazing Tinderbox panel featuring Fashion & Microsoft, GfK tackle the “theatre of gaming in 2019” and our exclusive esports keynote , all starting from 10.15am in the License Global Theatre

36. Visit brands from across the world in our international pavilions: French pavilion situated opposite the License Global Theatre, Italian pavilion next to the BLE Café, Spanish pavilion on stand B320 and the Korean pavilion on B260.

37. Working in retail and don’t know where to start at BLE? Attend our free retailer breakfast briefings in the Bridge Café on the ExCeL boulevard each morning from 8am, visit the Retail Trends Lounge for bite-sized trends sessions , a place to relax and ask questions about the show  and use our Matchmaking Concierge Service to guarantee meetings with your must-see brands.

38. Interested in becoming a Licensing International member? Visit stand C360 to meet the team.

39. Unlicensed brands will pitch live at the show – join the License This! Finale in the License Global Theatre on Thursday at 1pm to discover entirely new properties looking to enter the licensing industry

40. Last but not least, make the most of our brand-new home in East London by checking-out BLE’s after-hours programme on the BLE website including information on shopping, restaurants, bars and activities to suit every budget and requirement. Visit Westfield Stratford or the O2 London for the largest collection of luxury shops or places to eat.

BLE 2019 takes place at ExCeL London from 1-3 October 2019. Register for free at www.brandlicensing.eu/register-now

Ends

* © 2019 Activision Publishing, Inc. ACTIVISION, CALL OF DUTY, and MODERN WARFARE are trademarks of Activision Publishing, Inc.

For media information:

Charlie Le Rougetel at BIGTOP, 07736 330676, charlie@bigtop-pr.co.uk

source: https://licensinginternational.org/news/40-things-to-see-at-brand-licensing-europe-2019/

Eight finalists announced for 2019 BLE License This! competition

Eight exciting entrepreneurs have been shortlisted for this year’s Brand Licensing Europe License This! final following a record number of entries and an intense judging day last week in London, U.K.

Five brands are shortlisted in the Character & Animation category, and three are battling it out for the Brand & Design award. The final will take place in the License Global Theatre at BLE at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 3, and everyone is welcome to attend.

Character & Animation finalists are:

  • Adorabubbles;
  • Carrot and Toast;
  • Slime Fury (Argentina);
  • My Little Opera and
  • Noodoll.

Brand & Design finalists are:

  • Orange and Lilly (Hungary);
  • Owlasanas and
  • MINU’ Tiny Little Wonders (Italy).

“Having been part of the judging panel for the past three years, it was really pleasing to see some new and varied proposals in the character and animation category,” says Dan Grant, licensing director, Danilo. “We had a great selection of properties to judge this year from all around the world, which shows how much exposure this event is now receiving. From the long list of entries, we have been able to nominate five character and animation properties for the final that all have something different and exciting to offer. It’s now down to the finalists to convince the panel why their property should win the prize, and I’m really looking forward to judging the final.”

This year’s License This! winners will receive a free exhibition stand at BLE 2020, one year’s Licensing International membership and PR support and advice from a panel of industry experts. Finalists will also receive legal consultation from competition sponsor Wynne-Jones. Previous entrants–both winners and finalists–have also signed lucrative agent and licensing deals off the back of the competition. Last year’s winners–Zara Picken and Sara Burman Designs–are both exhibitors at BLE 2019 and can be found in the Art, Design & Image zone.

“Early September now brings a great new regular feature of licensing life for me: my first look at the submissions to the annual License This! Competition,” says Kelvyn Gardner, chair and managing director, Licensing International U.K. “The contest has evolved as a filter for genuine new licensing talent, not just from the U.K. but with a great international dimension. We have responded by now offering two categories–character & animation and brand & design–which in turn, has boosted entry numbers and quality. With past winners and finalists now having launched successful licensing programmes, License This! really is the place to go if you’re looking for your start.”

This year’s judges are:

  • Kelvyn Gardner, chair and managing director, Licensing International;
  • Sarah Ward, chief executive officer, Giftware Association and
  • Victor Caddy, partner, Wynne-Jones.

Character & Entertainment Award Judges are:

  • Dan Grant, director, licensing, Danilo Promotions;
  • Nikki Samuels, licensing director, Sambro;
  • Clare Piggott, director, Larkshead Media and
  • Julia Redman, head of buying, M&Co.

Brand & Design Award Judges are: 

  • Stuart Cox, founder, I Like Birds;
  • Vicki Thomas, owner, Vicki Thomas Associates;
  • Sarah Lawrence, owner, This is Iris;
  • Jehane Boden Spiers, founder, Jehane and
  • Will Stewart, managing director, The Point.1888.

BLE 2019 takes place at ExCeL London from Oct.1-3. Register for free at the BLE website.

source: https://www.licenseglobal.com/licensing-events/eight-finalists-announced-2019-ble-license-competition

In Between Jobs? Licensing International’s Newest Benefit is Here to Support You

As the industry’s leading trade association, there is nothing more important to Licensing International than the health of the business and the valuable talent that make it a creative, inspiring and dynamic industry to work in. One of our core goals is to support the members of our brand licensing community at all stages of their careers. To that end, we are offering a free, 6-month membership to licensing industry executives who find themselves in between positions and looking for their next move.

Our industry, like so many, experiences regular shifts and changes that an impact a career trajectory. That’s why we want to make sure those who need it, have full access to a broad slate of tools and services that will help them through career transitions.

Specifically, Licensing International is proud to offer complete access to our member resources and benefits including networking events and tools, our job search portal, research data, educational resources for continuing skill development including webinars, and business and travel discounts. Additionally, we are offering a flat rate ticket price of $25 for all networking and educational events exclusively to those who qualify for this temporary membership benefit.

So how do you know if you’re eligible? Any licensing executive who is not currently affiliated with a company, but is looking to find a new position and remain in the licensing industry qualifies. The benefit applies globally and does not require executives to have been a Licensing International member previously. Please note, the benefit does not apply to consultants or sole proprietors who operate their own businesses.

We’ve all worked hard to ensure our industry is also a tight knit community, and we place great importance on taking care of one another, not only in times of great success, but also when extra support is needed. We’re delighted to be able to offer this benefit and hope those of you eligible and interested will take advantage. Please reach out to info@licensing.org to get your 6-month free membership started.

Sincerely,

“Our new identity is symbolic of both the past and the future”

Interview by Samantha Loveday – LicensingSource.net

Since it was founded in 1985, the industry trade body LIMA has been at the heart of the business, supporting, nurturing and educating not just those within the licensing sector, but the wider business community, too.

But as the industry changes pace, so to must a trade body and in May, we were introduced to its new identity – Licensing International. Its core mission remains the same, however it has changed visual identity and how it articulates its mission to members and the broader business community.

Maura Regan, president, explains: “While our identity as LIMA has been an industry staple for those already in the licensing business, it’s also been somewhat confusing to anyone who didn’t already know us. The capital of Peru? That green bean?

“As we initially looked at merely refreshing the association’s identity, it became apparent that a total rebranding was in order. Our new identity as Licensing International is symbolic both of the changes that have occurred in the licensing business over the past three decades – for example, the rise of experiential and location-based licensing means that we’ve gone well beyond the word ‘merchandising’ – and of the future path the association will forge on behalf of our members.”

The organisation has undergone a complete visual and functional overhaul of its website, unifying its family sub-brands to support the mission such as Licensing University, MindMix and its webinars, as well as its various country-specific identities.

A bumper PR programme helped to communicate the refresh to members and the industry at large including a letter from Maura to current members, as well as press releases, trade ads and signage and branding at its Licensing Expo and Brand Licensing Europe stands.

Maura continues: “We decided on Licensing International after feedback on what our members believed we stood for and expected from us. We reviewed various options with our board of directors and the direction was fully supported.”

Maura explains that the brand marketplace is nothing if not dynamic, and it has to be at least as dynamic to be a valuable resource to its membership.

“There are so many on-going changes in the business – the rise of and brand protection issues related to ecommerce; big increases in such areas as experiential licensing, location-based entertainment and the licensing of services; the increasingly global nature of the business; the rise of influencers; corporate social responsibility, the increased importance of real time data analytics, to name a few – that we must constantly work to identify these and other trends, and give our members the tools and knowledge to deal with them.”

Ultimately, says Maura, brand licensing continues to be a “vibrant, effective tool for brand owners to develop, extend enhance and leverage their IP, and for manufacturers and service providers to use the equity of those brands in creative ways to boost their own businesses.

“And that’s not just us saying it – but is based on all the data out there,” she concludes.

Licensing International: At a glance

The licensing industry trade body has more than 1,250 member companies globally – this includes 120 in the UK.

There are 12 offices and representatives: Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, Mexico, UK (offices), Canada, France, India, Italy and Russia.

“At our core, we strive to help our members succeed, and to promote the licensing business model to the community at large,” explains Maura.

“Whether in the US, UK or anywhere else among the 12 countries/regions in which we have offices and representatives, we’re committed to convening, designing and developing best in class events and programs to achieve those goals, whether for Young Professionals or the industry at large.

“We’re constantly looking for the most effective platforms – seminars, webinars, networking events or anything else – to get the job done.”

A guiding hand

The brand refresh for Licensing International was guided by Brand Studio CAA-GBG, with chief creative officer, Alice Ann Wilson, telling us that the team was honoured to work on the rebrand and strategy.

“It was important to the client that they put their members in the centre of future needs and communications solutions,” says Alice Ann. “We also heard from key stakeholders that licensing is ever evolving to a brand-first approach – in today’s world, product becomes marketing and experiences become content. It’s exciting that brands are leveraging the power of licensing for equity building in addition to revenue driving objectives. So the power of an international resource is as important as ever, as well as a forward-looking approach.

“The critical moment in the process was when the (LIMA) leadership and board considered all strategic paths forward and were pretty unanimous in supporting the idea of revolution over evolution – hence the decision to embrace a new name as well as branding.”

Alice Ann continues: “The name Licensing International is both strength and simplicity, setting the tone for an organisation that can deliver an unparalleled network of information and resources globally, while putting the importance of each individual member and each territory at the core of its purpose.”

Ultimately, the new brand identity is a “clean and modern visual system” says Alice Ann, which communicates Licensing International’s “commitment to innovation and thought-leadership within the industry”.

This feature originally appeared in the summer 2019 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

6 Trends and Takeaways from Comic-Con

In addition to all the awesome swag, we left San Diego with a metaphorical loot bag chock full of insights. Lucky for you, we’re willing to share.

The key to brand longevity is a solid, devoted fanbase, and there is perhaps nowhere on Earth where fans are more visible than the annual San Diego Comic-Con International, which this year celebrated its 50th anniversary. Comic-Con presents the unique opportunity to be on the ground with the world’s uber-fans and see firsthand what brands and products they are responding to, in what has become a very crowded character and entertainment landscape. Here’s what we saw:

Snoopy Travels to the Moon

NASA (and Space Travel in General) is Having a Moment

Driven in large part by the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, fans and brands are showing a renewed interest not just in fictional space travel but the real deal. Peanut’s NASA collab got a pop-up museum/store in a prime location just outside the convention center, and NASA itself had a booth in the hall with a VR experience. NASA also hosted a number of panels about the organization’s ongoing search for extraterrestrial life and its efforts to send humans to Mars. As the Apollo 11 mission proved 50 years ago and the anniversary is reminding us, sometimes real-life feats of human bravery and accomplishment can be just as, if not more, exhilarating and unifying than those of fiction.

The Big Ones are Still Big

Star Wars Sith TrooperThe pure variety of characters and brands on display at Comic-Con can be a bit overwhelming, but for the most part the brands that made the most noise (and stood out in the crowded hall) were the familiar, studio mainstays: Star Wars (unveiled the new Sith Trooper from the forthcoming The Rise of Skywalker), Star Trek (made a big push for the upcoming origins series Picard), Avengers (made sure fans knew that Endgame is far from the end).

Given all this, the streamers’ presence felt subdued. Netflix’s Stranger Things and Umbrella Academy had some fan-driven buzz (with UA’s Klaus in particular appearing to be a favorite).  While the traditional studios spent big on splashy booths in the hall, the streamers seemed to focus more on content teasers (Netflix’s Dark Crystal in particular had people talking.) One notable exception was Amazon, which had a massive exterior activation located about a half mile from the convention center (free to everyone, not just CC attendees) to promote three upcoming shows: The Boys, Carnival Row and The Expanse.

The heavy focus on streamer content makes sense ­– originals are now crucial for these platforms with the competitive landscape expanding and studios pulling their back catalogs in-house as they launch their own streaming services.

Villains are the New Heroes

Villains Harley Quinn Comic-ConVillains have always been essential to any good plotline, but the glory tends to go to the heroes. Not so anymore though, as villains are increasingly getting the hero treatment in the form of coveted merch, cosplay tributes and standalone content.

A few examples: WB’s Suicide Squad featuring an entire crew of supervillains including Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang and Killer Croc is getting two follow-up films in the next two years; Marvel villain Loki was the inspiration behind the audience-selected winning dress at the annual Her Universe Comic Con fashion show this year; Angelina Jolie will return as Maleficent later this year; Avengers Endgame supervillain Thanos is getting major merch love in the form of toys, apparel, costumes and more.

We could go on and on, but you get the point. The complex, conflicted personas of some of the best bad guys are clearly hitting home with today’s audiences.

Star Trek Picard Museum

A Deep Storyline = Longevity

The most long-lasting brands are built within deep, intricate universes that can explored and mined for decades. Two of the best examples of this – Star Wars and Star Trek – both had great showcases this year. CBS’s Picard, which is set to premiere exclusively on the network’s All-Access streaming platform in early 2020, was featured in a special off-site museum that delved into the life of the starship captain complete with detailed descriptions and artifacts. Meanwhile, Disney had the whole show floor in a tizzy when it revealed an all-new stormtrooper, which will make its debut in the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – the Sith Trooper. The true brand-building power comes from the book series, that’s what keeps brands (and fanbases) alive in the fallow years between major TV/film releases, bridging the gaps in storylines and telling the before and after that fans are hungry for.

Licensing Takes a Prominent Place at the Fandom Feast

First Comic-ConNaturally after 50 years, things were going to change a little bit, but this year those changes were somehow more evident. About 15 years ago, Comic-Con started shifting from comics to pop culture. Now Comic-Con is celebration of fandom as lifestyle and a big part of that lifestyle is the merch that helps you express and celebrate your favorite brands. Enter licensing, which has helped to vastly increase the range and diversity of the types of products now available to fans on the Comic-Con show floor and at retail.

The t-shirt towers aren’t gone, but they are no longer the only show in town, as other merchants showcase eclectic merchandise like cereal, accessories, skateboards, sneakers and more.

Comic-Con Today Family Friendly

Throw in the fact that Comic-Con has now become a family affair with parents and children attending together, and you’ve got a bigger, more diverse fanbase than ever before eager for product to support their passion. This show featured more exclusive products than ever before and fans ate it up. We had reports from the the Borderlands and Star Trek exhibits that they sold every single piece of merch they brought to the show.

Where are the POD Players?

Given the fan-driven nature of Comic-Con, the major print-on-demand players should feel right at home on the show floor and yet they are nowhere to be found. We hear rumors that that is likely to change in future years, and that’s great news, because the fact is, the true essence of Comic-Con is kept alive by the artists. POD platforms have the opportunity to provide some structure and legitimacy in this space, to bring Comic-Con to the masses in a way, long after the convention center doors have closed.

Source: https://licensinginternational.org/news/6-takeaways-from-comic-con/

Lego Founding Family, Blackstone Group to Buy Merlin Entertainment

Licensed theme park operator Merlin Entertainment agreed to be acquired by Lego’s founding family and Blackstone Group in a deal valued at $7.5 billion. The sale is expected to close by Q4.

Kirkbi — the private investment company of Lego’s Kirk Kristiansen family — will own 50% of Merlin, while Blackstone and Canadian pension fund CPPIB will control the remainder.

Merlin operates 149 midways (135) and theme parks (14) under 18 brands including five licensed versions: Legoland, Legoland Discovery Center, Bear Grylls, Shrek’s Adventure and Peppa Pig. The largest part of Merlin’s park business is with Lego, including eight Legoland theme parks and 20 Legoland Discovery Centers. It also has 23 midways and recently began adding Peppa Pig World of Play – three have opened in Dallas, Shanghai and Auburn Hills, MI. Blackstone bought the Tussauds Group from Dubai International Capital in 2007 for $1.9 and later merged it with Merlin.

TheMaven Signs 10-Year License for Sports Illustrated Brand

Digital platform company TheMaven pre-paid Authentic Brands Group (ABG)  $45 million against future royalties as part of a 10-year licensing deal for Sports Illustrated’s digital and print editions.

The pact, which comes just weeks after ABG purchased Sports Illustrated from Meredith Corp. for $110 million, gives TheMaven rights to the brand in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, with much of focus expected to be on the magazine’s digital assets.

These include Sports Illustrated TV, a high-definition sports network available in 11 Asian countries as part of a joint venture with ASN Ltd. TheMaven formed Sports Illustrated Media, which will be headed by TheMaven board member and former Los Angeles Times publisher Ross Levinsohn.

ABG keeps the rights to license the brand for consumer products and events such as those surrounding Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue, says an ABG spokeswoman.

The fate of the print editions, which include Sports Illustrated for Kids, hasn’t been settled and could potentially involve Meredith publishing the magazines on a contract basis. At the time of the Sports Illustrated sale, Meredith, which acquired Sports Illustrated in buying Time Inc. in 2017, was to continue operating the website and publishing the magazine under a licensing pact with ABG.

As part of the agreement, ABG also gets stock warrants to buy up to a 10% stake in TheMaven. ABG also will pay TheMaven a share of revenue from Sports Illustrated businesses not included in the license, such as consumer products.

TheMaven, was founded in 2016 by James Heckman, who also co-founded Rivals.com, a constellation of college recruiting websites, before selling it to Yahoo. , having expanded last year through the acquisitions of content sites HubPages and The Say. It also bought TheStreet last week for $16.5 million.

Source: https://licensinginternational.org/news/themaven-signs-10-year-license-for-sports-illustrated-brand/

Comeback 300x200

DON’T call it a comeback: Why brands of the early 2000’s are back in fashion

The early 2000s were some great years for the hip-hop scene. “In Da Club” by 50 Cent was on the airwaves, every piece of oversized apparel was available in the color baby blue and everyone who was anyone owned at least one tracksuit.

Cut to 2019 to find 50 Cent spending more time as an entrepreneur than writing rhymes, tracksuits decaying at thrift stores and clothes fitting better than ever. Yet, as so much has changed in the last 20 some-odd years, a few things have held steady including the clothing brands we wear.

Hop into any store, and you’ll see plenty of clothing labels that will make an older Millennial’s heart flutter. Brands such as Starter and Champion are adorning retail outlets with new lines coming out each year. So much of this array of what-is-old-is-new-again retail nostalgia is the direct result of smart licensing deals and collaborations.

To illuminate why old school brands are thriving in 2019, we need to take a look at some key industry moves from FUBU and Baby Phat. Nostalgia and smart business decisions from both brands have led to a boom in licensed gear or fashion collabs for the pair.

 

FUBU: From Pastel Jerseys to Slim-Fit Suits

FUBU launched in the early 1990s as a hat company with a hip-hop flair. By 1999, the brand had added apparel and shoes to its collection and was earning nearly $500 million in revenue.

Jump to the mid-2000s, and the brand was forced to reshape how it operated to compete for consumer dollars. The first thing on FUBU’s agenda: on-brand licensing deals. FUBU partnered with The Brand Liaison to uncover possible licensing deals and began outsourcing the label to begin offering other types of apparel and accessories including eyewear, suits and watches. This push toward licensing was done with the belief that maintaining the brand’s original vision was essential for success.

Carlton Brown, cofounder, FUBU, told Licensing International that the key for FUBU was to avoid oversaturating the market with collaborations that didn’t make sense.

Our goal is not to be distributed as much as before, and while we have to turn a profit, we don’t want to be oversaturated,” Brown said. “We want to maintain some kind of exclusivity. We were oversaturated before, and we really had to re-evaluate how we wanted to come out this time. That means doing short runs and keeping low inventory or no inventory at all.

Baby Phat: Taking Back a Brand

Baby Phat was a crucial player in the women’s fashion scene in the early 2000s. Led by model and entrepreneur Kimora Lee Simmons, the brand found success in the era by putting a focus on fitted apparel and accessories. By 2003, it was earning nearly $300 million in revenue as a subsidiary of Phat Fashions and the Kellwood Company.

The brand stumbled during the mid-2000s in the face of a dire economy and changes in style. In 2008, a significant stake in the Phat brand led to a complete reorganization and the ouster of Lee Simmons as creative director.

The brand was out of sight over the last decade until earlier this year, when Lee Simmons brought the brand back and announced a full relaunch of Baby Phat. A mixture of Lee Simmons’ guidance, nostalgia and smart partnerships are seeing the brand come back to life. Under the direction of the label’s creator, Baby Phat has hit store shelves as part of a collaboration with Forever 21, and much more is on the way.

Hate it or Love it, These Brands Are Here to Stay

Both FUBU and Baby Phat are sustaining success through shrewd business deals and an understanding of the cultural zeitgeist. Much like Jay Z post-retirement, the brands have reinvented themselves for a new generation and identified smart ways to stay relevant for modern consumers. So, while you might call it a comeback, remember they’ve been here for years.

Source: https://www.licenseglobal.com/analysis/don’t-call-it-comeback-why-brands-early-2000s-are-back-fashion