By Gary Symons
and Allison Watkinson
The Licensing Expo is the world’s largest trade show and conference for the licensing industry, so it comes with a wide selection of great opportunities and equally great challenges.
On the bright side, new ideas, deals and educational opportunities for this complex and fascinating industry. On the more challenging side, aching feet, trying to cram 647 meetings into three days, and choosing what to see and do among the many offerings staged by Expo.
Have no fear, however; we have you covered with this guide to the events speakers, roundtable sessions, and events for Licensing Expo 2023.
The Spotlight is on Fashion
As you may have heard, the theme for this year’s Expo is on fashion licensing. Licensing Expo is promising to “bring fashion to life to spotlight the creativity and innovation in this space and its impact on the wider licensing industry” through a full roster of educational sessions, social networking, and experiential activations. You can see more on sessions below, but while on the floor, also make time to check out the Fashion Showrooms that will be located in and around the show floor.
Fashion, of course, is a major force in the licensing world. In fact, licensing deals generated more than $28 billion of the $300+ billion generated annually by the entire global licensing industry. The industry is also growing once more, following the downturn during the COVID-19 pandemic. You remember the pandemic; it was all ‘work from home in your Snuggly, spending your time alone, eating entire tubs of ice cream and then guilt-riding you Peloton for three hours’. Good times.
But fashion is back in a big way, so Licensing Expo aims to shine a light on this booming part of the market. Find inspiration this June on how to successfully leverage brands for their next fashion range.
The Fashion Showrooms, for example, will display the latest collaborations, and play host to two dedicated keynotes, and provide a venue to meet the brands that can bring your next big fashion idea to life.
This is also a good time to bring up … the keynote addresses.
Expo Keynotes to Focus on Fashion
If you’re interested in building your own fashion empire, or extending your existing brands, then you’ll want to set aside some time for the two keynote addresses staged by Licensing Expo this year.
The first will feature Sam Edelman and Robert D’Loren on Tuesday, June 13, 2023 for the Opening Keynote, as they share their experience and insights on the power of brand extension to build their fashion empire.
Edelman is considered a creative visionary and legend in the footwear industry, making an indelible impact on some of the most renowned contemporary footwear brands over the past 40 years. He has made significant contributions to companies such as Candies with an executive role as assistant to the president and as a co-founder of Kenneth Cole. With four retail stores across the U.S., in premiere locations including Soho and Beverly Hills, Edelman continues to expand its international presences, in cities from Hong Kong to Dubai.
Bob D’Loren’s visionary work among consumer products companies includes the recapitalization and restructure of Candie’s Shoes, Inc. and subsequent formation and rebranding into Iconix Brand Group, Inc. Some but not all of the Iconix Brand Group, Inc. brands include Candie’s, Bongo, Joe Boxer, Badgley Mischka, Rampage, MUDD and Mossimo.
D’Loren is also Chairman and CEO of Xcel Brands, which owns the Isaac Mizrahi, Judith Ripka, H Halston, C Wonder and Highline Collective brands, all companies featured regularly in the pages of TLL. Xcel Brands is a leading consumer products company with over $700 million in retail sales as its brands through an Omni-channel distribution platform that includes interactive TV, bricks and mortar and e-commerce.
The second keynote brings up the topic of fashion in the metaverse. While some pundits have prematurely signed a death warrant for the metaverse, people working in the licensing industry have put together many compelling collaborations that set the stage for rapid growth of this nascent technology.
Among the pioneers pushing forward into this new frontier are Federico San Martin, Head of Consumer Products for Minecraft, and Matias Infante, Vice President of Brand Partnerships, Collaborations & Licensing at Crocs. The two experts will discuss their journeys in brand development, their approach to licensing partnerships, and the licensing program they launched together, in a session on Wednesday, June 14 at 9:30 a.m., at the License Global Theater.
“As we continue to grow the Minecraft brand through category and territory expansion, the fashion space will continue to play an integral role,” insists San Martin. “Partnering with a powerhouse brand such as Crocs allows us to meet the demands of gamer and fashion fans alike, as well as tap into a broader potential fanbase.”
Infante also sees the metaverse as key to the future of fashion marketing, because popular platforms like Minecraft have literally millions of highly engaged users.
“At Crocs, we seek partners that truly connect and engage with their fans,” Infante explains. “It was only right that we partner with Minecraft, a leader in gaming with a loyal and energetic fanbase. We both understand the importance of connecting the digital and physical worlds, from shoes to the metaverse. Through a cohesive strategy, we brought together elevated product design, a worldwide gaming property and strong co-promotion. I am excited to share our collective learnings at the Licensing Expo”.
Opening Night Party With Ja Rule
All work and no play makes for some dull licensing folks, so don’t forget to have some fun at Expo!
Following up the successful Hip Hop extravaganza last year, Licensing Expo has booked rapper, singer and businessman Ja Rule to headline the 2023 Licensing Expo’s Opening Night Party.
Ja Rule, aka Jeffrey Bruce Atkins Sr., released his first solo album, Venni Vetti Vecci, in 1999. Since his initial solo debut, Ja Rule has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide, but he’s also a very savvy businessman who has completed several successful licensing deals. In other words, he gets us; he really gets us!
In addition to his musical ventures, Ja Rule is an active entrepeneur, businessman, and cultural influencer. In recent years, he has expanded the Ja Rule brand through collaborations with fashion designers, footwear manufacturers, accessories designers, liquor companies, and more. The Ja Rule brand is currently developing licensing deals for card games, board games and additional product categories.
“With Ja Rule’s expertise on IP and brand extension, as well as 2023 marking the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop, we could not think of a more perfect industry mover and sought-after icon to mark our first-ever event dedicated to fashion in licensing,” said Licensing Expo event director, Ella Haynes. “As a celebrated trendsetter and respected establisher of hip-hop and rap, Ja Rule brings bold energy and innovation to music, fashion, entertainment and brand identity. We cannot wait to have him perform to welcome our attendees and kick-off this year’s highly anticipated expo.”
The Licensing Expo opening night party will be held at the Daylight Beach Club on June 13, 2023. The Opening Night Entertainment was secured by the bi-coastal marketing and licensing agency, TreImage LLC, who will be represented at Licensing Expo in booth D114.
The Licensing Expo Character Parade
Tuesday, June 13, 11:00-11:30am | Wednesday, June 14, 11:00am-11:30am
The Entertainment & Character category is massive for licensing. In fact, many would say it is at the very heart of licensing, so the annual Character Parade is always a popular event as brands literally trot out their coolest and most adorable brands, from Batman to Bluey.
You don’t have to go anywhere special; just make sure you’re in the main Expo hall at the right time, at 11 a.m. on June 13-14, and keep your camera phone at the ready!
The Licensing Awards
Expo is also the site for the annual Licensing Excellence Awards, dedicated to recognizing outstanding achievements and innovation in the global brand licensing industry. It’s basically the Oscars of licensing, and why it’s not on TV for four hours is anybody’s guess.
The 2023 Excellence Awards feature 201 finalists in 30 categories, trimmed down from more than 850 submissions that were reviewed by a panel that includes 200 judges from 20 countries.
Several new categories were introduced this year, including the award for Most Impactful Service Provider, which honors companies that help the industry run more effectively, including accounting and law firms, brand protection and approval software companies, and design agencies. And the Best Sustainability Initiative award recognizes a licensed product or product range that is making measurable improvements in sustainability.
Licensing International members can vote for the Excellence Awards winners beginning on Monday, April 24, 2023. Each member company will receive one ballot to vote for each category and voting will end on Saturday, May 6, 2023.
The winners will be announced during the Licensing International Excellence Awards ahead of Licensing Expo. The ceremony will take place on Monday, June 12 at 5:00 pm PST at the HyperX Arena Las Vegas at the Luxor, a short walk or tram ride from the venue at Mandalay Bay.
Dedicated Retail Lounge
Licensing Expo has emphasized getting retailers to Licensing Expo this year, and recently announced more than 1,000 retailers are among those registered to attend the trade show.
Direct-to-Retail and goods licensed to retailers has become such a big deal, that Licensing Expo has worked hard to expand attendance for this category, with the result that 2022 saw a record number of retail-related attendees.
One innovation the Expo has launched is to provide a dedicated space to host meetings, take calls, check emails and take a break from the busy show floor.
As well, Expo’s Head of Retail Laura Freedman-Dagg is working almost as a show concierge for retailers, and will be on hand to support retailers with any questions and recommendations to improve their experience. You retail folks can get in touch with her at email@example.com
The list of retail attendees for this year includes top retailers from North America and Latin America, including TJX, Urban Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch and Tilly’s, while Hot Topic, Walmart, Target, Five Below, Aldo, Game Stop, Coppel, Liverpool and Pottery Barn are among the those returning from 2022.
From Europe, the list includes buyers from retailers Primark, H&M, Frasers Group, Asda George, Lidl, The Entertainer, El Corte Ingles and Toys R Us, as well as first time attendees B&M, Lush and TJ Morris.
“We’ve worked really hard to drive high quality local and international attendees to Licensing Expo through multi-channel marketing and one to one outreach,” saidFreedman-Dagg. “Brand Licensing Europe has built a great reputation for retail attendance but for those looking for global, US, Canadian, Latam or Asian partnerships, Licensing Expo is a must attend.
“I’m particularly excited to see the likes of Shein and Mr Price (which is massive in South Africa) have registered to attend – in fact, I’m delighted with all the registrations so far.”
Get Into the Swing With Topgolf
If you’re arriving in Las Vegas earlier, the event is staging ‘Topgolf at Expo’, a fun fundraiser on Sunday, June 11.
The event will be held between 5 and 7 p.m. at the Topgolf facility at 4627 Koval Lane, which is located right behind the MGM Grand. From Mandalay Bay, it’s easiest to take a cab or Uber, or take the tram to the Excalibur Hotel, and cross over to MGM from there.
The event is a networking fundraiser for the Licensing International Scholarship Program, with food, drink and the Topgolf experience all included.
You can buy your tickets at THIS LINK.
Find The Next Great Licensing Deal at the License This! Competition
Every time we’re at Expo we meet a lot of brilliant inventors, writers, designers, publishers and animators who just need that one break to take off.
That’s why Licensing Expo puts on the License This! competition, which gives those unheralded but inventive minds a chance to pitch their product or idea, and hopefully secure a new deal or even agency representation.
More Potential Licensing Opportunities With Ignite Brand Pitches
Open to all signed Licensing Expo exhibitors, the new Ignite Brand Pitches is providing five brand owners the opportunity to pitch their new and upcoming brands in front of a live audience at Licensing Expo. It’s a great opportunity for a first look at new licensing ideas or concepts, curated by an experienced team of licensing experts. The session is on Tuesday, 13 June15:30 at the License Global Theater, and is only 45 minutes long.
Licensing Expo Offers Expert Advice Through Round Table Sessions
Meet The Experts in Your Area of Licensing
One of the most important offerings from Licensing Expo is the Meet The Experts program. Anyone entering into a new area of licensing has a lot to learn, as each sector has its own rules, opportunities and challenges. The Meet the Experts sessions allow you to set up a short conversation with an expert in a particular category, where you can get solid answers to your questions.
You can register through the Licensing Expo site.
The Category Sessions: Tuesday, 13 June 13:30
Art & Design: J’net Smith, Licensing & Brand Manager, Zoonicorn
Corporate Brands: Todd Kaufman, VP, Strategy & Partnerships, Beanstalk, and Katie Cosgrove, Senior Licensing Director, Joester Loria Group
Food & Beverage: James Slifer, Managing Director, Joester Loria Group
Invention Services Industry: Robert Susa, President, InventHelp and Ronny Smith, Managing Director, InventHelp-Intromark
Legal Advisor: Jed Ferdinand, Senior Managing Member, Ferdinand IP Law Group
Location-Based Brand Extensions: David Hutchison, CEO, Path Entertainment Group, and Julia Posen, Director of Content, Path Entertainment Group
The Metaverse & Web 3.0: Leslie Hughes, President, Digital Media Licensing Association and Founder & CEO, iSPY Technologies, Inc. and Justin W. Hochberg, CEO, Virtual Brand Group
The Global Markets Sessions: Wednesday, 14 June 13:30
Asia: Masakazu Soeda, General Manager Global Business Division, Sanrio
Europe & the Treaty of Rome: Amadu Sowe, Senior Vice President Business Legal Affairs, Paramount
France: Laurent Taieb, Board Co-President – France, Licensing International
Latin America: Eric Johnson, Global Team Leader, Franchise Programs, U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service and Ivonne Feliciano, AVP, Business Development & Marketing, Beanstalk LATAM
United Kingdom: Steve Manners, Head of Global Marketing & UK Managing Director, Licensing International
More Sessions at the License Global Theater
Licensing Expo is always jam packed with content, but fitting it in among all the meetings and networking is always the challenge. Here’s a quick hit on other sessions you may want to take part in.