Brands Meet Brands At Next Week's Licensing Expo

Licensing is quickly moving beyond branded t-shirts, collectibles and kitchenware. Consumer brands are making deals with entertainment properties, celebrity-owned fashion marques, and digital players, and retailers are doing up-front exclusive deals with brands. 

Chris DeMoulin, president of Licensing Expo -- the biggest global trade show for the industry, happening next week in Las Vegas --  tells Marketing Daily that this year's show exhibitor roster numbers well over the 420 who attended the 2013 show, and they range across more categories. "One of the things we see is that it's gone beyond the traditional thinking,” he says. As entertainment, character, fashion, art and corporate brand owners meet consumer goods, relationships are much more integrated and less about plastering a logo on a product. “The show is now as much about brands meeting brands, artists meeting retailers, entertainment properties meeting brands."

He says that the show now brings marketers who regard the event as a place for "upstream" deals, with 80% of the 15,000 attendees the decision-makers at brands.  

"Owners are coming to meet with owners to make those deals -- to do it directly. This has always been true with entertainment companies, and movie studios, but also with apparel, toys, housewares and traditional licensing categories. What's changed in the last five or six years is more decision makers are attending across a broader spectrum of companies." 

An example of the upstream mentality is in retail -- where, per DeMoulin, up-and-coming marques are looking to do direct, exclusive deals with the people behind apparel lines (often celebrity-owned or driven.) "If you look at a big brand manager company like Iconix [which handles brands like London Fog, Peanuts, Rocawear, and Bongo and Joe Boxer], lots of deals they do take expression through retail exclusivity," he says. "That drives growth. More and more brands are going to individual retailers and offering a full line there." He says around 80% of retail deals start as exclusives. 

Justin Timberlake's William Rast brand is, for example, coming out with a full collection with which Lord & Taylor has a two-year exclusive.  

International marketers are a growing factor at the show as well, with 30% of attendees from outside the U.S. looking for established U.S. brands to bring overseas and also to Canada. Attendance has grown every year -- but the percentage of non-U.S. attendees has risen faster, with 85 countries represented, per DeMoulin. 

Also this year, auto and racing properties have a big footprint at the show. Shell is sponsoring a first-ever automotive/motorsports zone featuring, among other things, NASCAR and Hendricks Motorsports drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.

"This is a big opportunity for Shell," says DeMoulin. "It helps their brand equity and helps others see that this kind of sponsorship would be a great opportunity for them. It's the first time they have done something on this scale. in addition to a branded Shell cafe, the zone includes Formula One, National Hot Rod Association, and NASCAR race cars; Ferraris; other high-end sports cars; Polaris products; and motorcycle brands like Ducati.

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