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Licensing Expo Keynote To Focus On Experiential Entertainment

By Gary Symons

TLL Editor in Chief

After two years of isolation during the pandemic, it’s hard to say if Licensing Expo’s theme on experiential licensing is ironic, or a sign of rising hope.

After all, it’s been two years since the Expo was able to hold a live, in-person event, but on the other hand, May 24 will see the triumphant return of hand shaking and face-to-face meetings.

Either way, given the theme this year it should come as no surprise the keynote event at the 2022 Licensing Expo keynote will focus on the power of brand licensing for location-based entertainment.

Entitled From Dream to Reality: The Power of Brand Licensing for Location-Based Entertainment, the panel will include senior executives from Falcon’s Beyond, Robert L. Ward, and Moonbug. The panel will be moderated by Bay Laurel Advisors, and will bring together some of the most respected visionaries and leaders in the segment.

Keynote presenters include, clockwise from top left, Falcon’s Beyond CEO Cecil D. Magpuri; Susan Vargo, Head of Live Events and Location-based Experiences, Moonbug; Robert L. Ward, President and Chief Executive Officer, Robert L. Ward, Inc.; and George Wade, President, Bay Laurel Advisors (moderator).

“We could not be more excited to share the first 2022 Keynote details with the Licensing Expo community,” said organizer Anna Knight, SVP of Licensing with Informa Markets. “Keynotes are a cornerstone of Licensing Expo; our expert-led presentations bring to light new ways of doing business in a way that taps into consumer trends and arms the audience with inspiring ideas that will drive business forward in a meaningful way.”

The keynote will be held on the Expo main floor in the Licensing U Theatre from noon to 12:45 p.m. on May 25, the second day of the Expo, and the event is free to all attendees. The panelists and moderator include:

  • Cecil D. Magpuri, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Falcon’s Beyond
  • Robert L. Ward, President and Chief Executive Officer, Robert L. Ward, Inc.
  • Susan Vargo, Head of Live Events and Location-based Experiences, Moonbug
  • George Wade, President, Bay Laurel Advisors (moderator)

All three of the panelists bring deep experience and a unique perspective to the topic of licensing in location-based entertainment settings. Magpuri’s company Falcon’s Beyond, for example, is a developer of IP-based theme parks and resorts. In addition to its existing Katmandu park in Spain, Falcon’s Beyond just announced a major new theme park and resort being developed in partnership with Mélia Resorts in the Dominican Republic.

Ward is a legend in the industry having spent 20-plus years with Universal Studios Parks & Resorts, where he was a Co-Founder and key executive of Universal’s creative think tank development team. Ward was instrumental in the creative development of the Universal Studios Tour from its beginnings in Hollywood as a film and TV business “industrial tour” into a new and pioneering theme park brand.

Vargo is an executive producer and licensing consultant with expertise in content and brand development services, business management and licensing for entertainment and media companies including giants like Nickelodeon, Disney and Paramount, among others. She recently moved to Moonbug where she is now Head of Live Events and Location-Based Entertainment (LBE).

“It will be an honor to join my esteemed peers on-stage at Licensing Expo as a keynote moderator speaking to a topic that I’m incredibly passionate about,” said George Wade, President, Bay Laurel Advisors and keynote moderator. “LBE tells stories through experiences and has the unique ability to bring people together, transcending generations and fanbases. It’s really a remarkable and expressive way for brands to build long-lasting relationships with their audience and reach new consumers.

“I hope the panel ignites new ideas and spurs continued innovation!” Wade added. “I look forward to the keynote and reconnecting with the licensing community this May for much needed face-to-face conversation.”

The Expo organizers said this keynote panel brings together the brightest and most respected names in the business to help attendees understand all the many things you must consider when developing and executing an LBE deal, including how best to protect brand integrity.

“With the shift to experiential marketing and society looking to be a part of something bigger as people step back into the world after lockdown, there is a burgeoning and unmissable opportunity for brands to tap into Location-Based Entertainment to engage with their audience on a deeper level which will be reflected through this year’s LBE theme,” said Knight. “More details on this will be revealed next week and will complement the keynote perfectly.”

Knight also said the keynote for Day One on May 24 will also be announced soon.

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