Jessica Blue, the senior VP of licensing at event organizer UBM Americas, talks to World Screen about this year’s Licensing Expo, which is taking place in Las Vegas later this month.
For more than three and a half decades, the Licensing Expo trade show has been connecting entertainment, character, fashion, art and corporate brand owners with consumer goods manufacturers, licensees and retailers. The event is sponsored by the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA). Last year’s edition saw more than 5,000 brands and properties represented across such categories as entertainment, animation/anime/manga, characters, apparel/fashion, art and design, food and beverage, interactive/video games, publishing and more. Attendees hailed from 90-plus countries.
This year’s Licensing Expo will be held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas from May 23 to 25. “Our many new initiatives, activities and programs will bring a fresh look to the event and provide an immersive experience for the over 480 exhibitors and over 16,000 manufacturers and retailers that attend each year,” says Jessica Blue, the senior VP of licensing at event organizer UBM Americas. “More than 150 new exhibitors will join the 2017 lineup at Licensing Expo, including Atlantyca Entertainment, Ben Cooper Halloween Costumes, BuzzFeed, Coca-Cola Licensing, Dark Horse Comics, Diane Packer Studio, Earthbound Brands, Edutainment Licensing, FAO Schwarz, French Bull, Funko, Hang Ten, John Wayne Enterprises, LEVEL-5 abby, Line Friends, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Scott Living/The Scott Brothers, San Diego Zoo Global and Vooz Co., among many others.”
Licensing Expo 2017 will be part of the new Licensing Week, taking place from May 22 to 25. “Licensing Week incorporates Licensing Expo and all of the events surrounding it to provide attendees with a week-long experience that will make networking, learning and conducting business much easier,” says Blue. “Every year we learn something new and different as each event is unique. We used the feedback from 2016 to provide a complete package to our attendees and exhibitors, which materialized this year into Licensing Week!”
Licensing Week will feature a variety of invitation-only entertainment showcases on May 22 and 23 from such companies as Cartoon Network, Disney, Hasbro and Mattel, to name a few. It will also include LIMA’s Licensing University, which aims to teach “students” new strategies, innovative ideas and practical solutions during the more than 25 sessions that are offered.
Cole Gahagan, who serves as the chief commercial officer of Fanatics, will give the opening keynote address on the morning of May 23. Later that day will be the LIMA International Licensing Awards, for which there are 126 nominees from ten countries across 20 categories. Up for best film/television/entertainment animated property are DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls (Universal Brand Development), Elena of Avalor (Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media), Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man (Marvel and Disney Consumer Products), Masha and the Bear (Animaccord), PAW Patrol (Spin Master), Peppa Pig (Entertainment One) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Nickelodeon).
Taking place on May 23 and 24 is The Girls’ Lounge, meant to unite women in licensing. Panels will include See Her, Be Her: Empowering Kids Through Strong Female Characters, and Blurring Gender Lines at Retail, both of which are being moderated by Nickelodeon execs.
Attendees are encouraged to use the Licensing Expo Matchmaking Service, which helped book more than 2,500 meetings last year. “The Matchmaking Service was one of our most popular programs in 2016 and it’s back for 2017,” says Blue. “Many trade-show organizers invite exhibitors and attendees to the trade show venue and hope that they find the right people to fulfill their business objectives. However, we feel strongly that we should go the extra mile and offer a service that helps them find the right people to connect with in advance.”
There is also the International Buyer Program Select, a joint government-industry initiative that brings thousands of international buyers to the U.S. for business-to-business matchmaking with American companies exhibiting at major industry trade shows.
“We expect to have a successful show,” says Blue. “I would like attendees to return home from Licensing Expo having made the connections they need to drive their business forward. It’s also important that it’s an enjoyable experience and that everyone is having some fun and memorable moments along the way.”