The first-ever Licensing Week Virtual, organized by the Global Licensing Group in partnership with industry trade association Licensing International, took place June 15-19 bringing licensing industry professionals together from across the globe at a time when physical networking and deal-making was not possible. The virtual conference and exhibition secured 4,477 attendees globally from the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, among more. Noted attendees included Build-A-Bear, Guess, Primark, Selfridges, Target, and more world-renowned retailers. Furthermore, 2,933 virtual meetings were scheduled throughout the five-day period and on average, attendees spent 23 hours + on the event platform. The virtual event showcased the immense and timely need for developing new and nurturing existing industry connections, as well as future-looking and educational sessions for the licensing industry, which generated $292.8 billion in global sales of license goods and services in 2019, according to the Licensing International 6th Annual Global Licensing Survey.
Over the course of five days, the event gathered 4,477 attendees, with the top five countries represented including the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, Brazil, and Japan. Licensing Week Virtual attendees had a high-level purchasing level/seniority with 42 percent citing they finalize and make the purchase decisions for their company and 39 percent influencing/recommending purchase decisions. Top retailers including Build-A-Bear Workshop, C&A, El Corte Ingles, Guess, John Lewis, Moonpig, Primark, Selfridges, Steve Madden, Target, Toys R Us, and more were in attendance for the event.
The business of brand licensing is historically dependent upon face-to-face connections; Licensing Week Virtual notably saw 2,933 meetings coordinated through the Matchmaking Service, nearly parallel to the number of meetings that took place at the live Licensing Expo event.
Most attendees engaged with seven pieces of content and averaged 23 hours and 23 minutes on the event platform, underscoring the need for industry education and network-building at this time. Each day of the event featured content mirroring the experiences and content commonly found at Licensing Expo and Brand Licensing Europe and was organized into the following categories: Brands & Lifestyle, Character & Entertainment, Art & Design, and Emerging Categories.
Several of the Licensing Week Virtual’s 30 sponsors represented the most popular sectors from the 6th Annual Global Licensing Survey from Licensing International which included the entertainment/character (44 percent of total global licensing market) and corporate brands (21 percent). Licensing Week Virtual sponsors in those categories included ViacomCBS, Neopets, Peanuts, and The Smurfs.
Brands & Lifestyle
Consumer brands such as Kraft Heinz experienced net sale growth of 3.3 percent during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic as nostalgia inspires Millennials and younger consumers to look to familiar brands for support and direction during these critical times. As the industry works through the COVID pandemic, brands can look to the power of nostalgia to attract consumers as they cling to the familiar.
The value of purpose is now popular amongst corporate and lifestyle brands that are experiencing embrace from younger generations (Millennials and Generation Z). Brands that can showcase humility and values with conviction, and stand for causes such as human rights, sustainability, and support through strategic licensing partnerships can expect to see increased interest from a new set of conscious consumers.
Character & Entertainment
Video streaming is projected to reach $27.1 billion USD in 2020 and as the number of streaming subscription services significantly expands with movie studios launching their own services, coupled with traditional movie theatres unable to show films, more streaming properties have opened the door to vast licensing potential as a wider category of viewers are consuming more content than ever, due to stay-at-home orders, and are thus establishing deep-rooted connections with new properties. Companies such as Universal Studios with their early video-on-demand release of its “Trolls World Tour” animated movie, are releasing licensed products more closely aligned with the entertainment property itself and are able to promote product hand-in-hand with early digital launches.
The retail and licensee communities turned to e-commerce to slow the loss of revenue caused by COVID-19. With companies now focusing product rollout efforts through an e-commerce channel, the need for companies to be highly visible digitally and make online shopping a viable alternative to in-store shopping is a scalable and viable strategy, as the pandemic forced non-digitally native and hesitant consumers to understand the e-commerce landscape, from mobile curbside orders to delivery groceries. Due to the shift, direct-to-consumer opportunities will be a larger segment even as retailers begin to open.
Art & Design
“Label-slapping” is becoming a method of the past that is now being replaced by a deeper and profound brand collaborations with arts and designers. As consumers seek a greater connection to art through social media and online, licensing affords artists the opportunity to extend their brand to a wider audience through products that fall outside of their traditional product domain.
Product categories that have seen growth and are crucial to the art and design licensing community include home décor, footwear, and accessories. These categories have grown in part to the COVID-19 shutdown as consumers spruce up their home and work-from-home stations. During Licensing Week Virtual, merchandisers across the spectrum reported strong sales in those categories during the early part of 2020.
The rise in video game play has led consumers to a growth in interest toward eSports and video game influencers. Fandom has gone beyond the basics of playing singularly and now extends into an entire video game ecosystem. Companies that have creatively leveraged the massive fanbase in the gaming sector have shown promise in such partnerships. For instance, Epic Games’ “Fortnite” partnerships with brand owners for in-game digital concerts and licensed character releases have extended the brand’s popularly into other audience non-gaming audiences.
“This business is built from connections and the fact that the number of meetings coordinated during the event virtually mirrors the number set up in-person at our live events showcases the industry’s immense need for connections and learning, ” said Anna Knight, Global Licensing Group Vice President, Informa Markets. “The most critical part of setting up a virtual event such as this was keeping our community needs at top-of-mind—also realizing that not every single element of a live trade show can transfer over to a digital event beat-for-beat. We’re pleased with the results of Licensing Week Virtual and will continue to complement live events with digital offerings to continue to reach the broad and agile licensing community.”
Maura Regan, President, Licensing International, adds, “providing the licensing community a platform to continue to build successful and influential brand partnerships is more critical than ever as consumer behaviors shift. The success of Licensing Week Virtual marks the next step in the licensing landscape and I am excited to see how the industry will continue to grow during this period of time in history and look forward to seeing new and familiar faces at upcoming live events.”
PITCH THE BRANDS
The Pitch the Brands contest, in partnership with InventHelp, gives inventors the chance to present their product directly in front of a live executive panel from today’s leading brands. The 2020 winner of the contest was the Gentle Soother developed by husband and wife team Adam and Misti Fyffe that aims to help parents get the rest they need. The Fyffes were among the ten chosen contestants in the submission-based contest. The grand prize included a one-on-one consultation package, worth more than $1,500.