Best in show…it’s the Licensing Blog!

As a new week dawns, the licensing community is heading back to work after last week’s highly successful BLE show. Following the unforeseen events of the past few weeks, which certainly threw a curveball or three into the mix for exhibitors and attendees (not to mention the poor show organisers), the great news was that the show was back to its best.

To be fair, the fact that the organisers were able to put on any kind of show at all last year was little short of miraculous; lest we forget, BLE was the only major licensing show to be able to go ahead in 2021, after the Vegas Licensing Expo had fallen victim to the prevailing Covid situation. The 2021 event is a dim and distant memory now, but it was unavoidably more focused around UK attendees than its traditional Europe-wide audience. In hindsight, it also felt more tentative than usual, lacking a degree of the enthusiasm and vibrancy traditionally associated with the show.

However, fast forward a year and this year’s event was far more akin to the kind of show we all know and love. International visitors were back in force – not just from EMEA, but from the USA and other parts of the globe too – and most importantly, the buzz was back. The licensing community is never short of optimism and positivity, and this was much in evidence from start to finish. As the old adage goes, ‘promises were up’, but I have to say that the vast majority of the meetings we held last week felt positive and the signs for 2023 are encouraging. It feels like the licensing community has got its collective mojo back, after what was -for some- a tricky couple of years.

Thanks to all of those people who made kind comments about the relaunch of Licensing.biz – yes, the acquisition did make a lot of sense for us, and healthy competition is generally a good thing. There is lots more to come from us as we head into 2023; last week’s conversations have given us confidence that we are back on the right track and developing Licensing.biz into a website that is once again relevant and informative.

Back to BLE – it was a three-day show, and while the final day was inevitably quieter than the first two, it still felt busier than the final day tends to be in Vegas – the people who remained weren’t just wandering around, they had appointments and wanted to make the most of the time available. I was interested to see a post on LinkedIn from Paramount’s Simon Leslie, who summed it up quite nicely: “Thursday is an underrated day. It’s a shame so many people disappear, as with a bit more time and space we can have better quality conversations – and I did.” That has always been our experience – the final day is a little less frantic, and arguably less likely to be derailed by meetings getting cancelled or curtailed because a major licensee / retailer has just turned up unexpectedly, or late for a meeting.

There were a few notable absentees over the course of the week, particularly from the toy community, with the LA Toy Fair (even though I don’t like referring to it like that, as it isn’t really a ‘Fair’ in the traditional sense of the word) still in full swing. Some retailers chose to divide and conquer – well done to the Entertainer team – but inevitably a few others had a hard choice to make. Although I did hear that some supermarket buying teams were offering to take notes and pass them on to their absent toy colleagues, so that was a nice touch.

Clashes with other major global shows weren’t the only hurdle for attendees: a few companies had stands and samples stuck in customs – on behalf of the UK, my heartfelt apologies to our European brethren for the epic fiasco that is Brexit – while guests at the nearby Novotel had the novel experience of being awoken at 4.30 on the opening morning of the show by a fire alarm and full evacuation of the premises. There was also a flood in the hall for the organisers to deal with (it was all sounding a bit biblical at one point), and a sprinkling of rail chaos on Tuesday; the video of Paddington Bear arriving at the show shared by the organisers was charming, but if he had been faced with the journey I had that morning, I suspect the famous hard stare would have been deployed on more than one occasion. I did, however, get very positive reports from those who travelled on the new Elizabeth Line, so that is going to be a big help to all shows taking place at ExCeL moving forward.

Despite all of this, just about everyone I spoke to was delighted with the week’s proceedings, and I am sure the licensing community will already be diving into the mountain of follow up which comes from a successful show. Well done to Anna Knight and the team for whipping adversity’s butt on more than one occasion last week: I imagine they will be hoping for a really boring year next year, with no major complications to address – much like the rest of us.

For those people who like to be hyper-organised, next year’s BLE dates are 4th – 6th October; a slightly different configuration (Wednesday-Friday rather than Tuesday-Thursday), to help avoid a direct clash with the (new) New York Toy Fair dates, as that show will be moving from its traditional February timeslot to the end of September for the first time next year.

Licences feature heavily in Argos Top Toys for Christmas

The list of 15 toys, which features a variety of film- and TV-licensed products, has been announced by Argos as attention turns to Christmas gifting. 

Pictured – Lego Icons Optimus Prime Transformers Robot Model Set, Paw Patrol Big Truck Pups, Bluey S7 School Playset and Adventure Bus Bundle, Gabby’s Purrfect Dollhouse, Lego Harry Potter Ministry of Magic Modular Set, and Barbie Cutie Reveal Snowflake Sparkle Husky

With Christmas fast approaching, Argos has announced its highly anticipated compilation of the top toys that are set to dominate Christmas wish lists in 2022. The list of 15 toys includes toys at a range of prices to suit all budgets.

This year’s list sees traditional film franchises such as Harry Potter and Transformers continue to influence the most popular toys, with the Harry Potter Ministry of Magic Lego set and the Lego Transformers Optimus Prime figure making the cut – and providing fans with an enviable model for their collection. For collectors of Pokémon, a Pokémon Card Tin makes it way onto the list, complete with a code to unlock the Pokémon TCG online cards.

Ahead of the hotly anticipated Barbie film release next year, the latest iteration of the brand, the Barbie Cutie Reveal Snowflake Sparkle Husky has been chosen as a top toy this year by Argos.

Elsewhere, the list is heavily influenced by the small screen, with toys from the worlds of Bluey, Paw Patrol and Gabby’s Dollhouse. Giving children the chance to engage with their favourite shows and characters, The Bluey School Playset and Adventure Bus Bundle, Paw Patrol Big Truck Pups and Gabby’s Purrfect Dollhouse make perfect gifts.

Fay Williams, head of Toy Buying at Argos, said: “This year’s top toy list is a great mixture of classic and much-loved toys such as Lego as well as newer brands like Squishmallows which have quickly become wish-list staples. It’s clear digital entertainment and some of the biggest and most loved film and TV franchises continue to have a massive influence on the most in-demand toys. It’s great to see classic franchises like Harry Potter, Transformers and Pokémon continue to prove popular amongst children in 2022, alongside the newer ones with cult followings such as Bluey and Paw Patrol.”

Fay added: “We offer a wide range of toys, top toys and beyond, ensuring there is something for every child, regardless of their interests or passions.”

Argos’ Top 15 Toys for Christmas 2022, in price order (lowest-highest) are as follows:

  • Chad Valley Dinosaur Waterfall Bath Toy (Argos) – £10
  • Paw Patrol Big Truck Pups (Spin Master) – £18
  • Squishmallows plush (Jazwares) – £18
  • Nerf Elite 2.0 Ranger PD-5 Blaster (Hasbro) – £18
  • Pokémon TCG Tin (The Pokémon Company) – £19
  • Sink N’ Sand Game (Spin Master) – £20
  • Jiggly Pets Giraffe (Character Options) – £30
  • Barbie Cutie Reveal Snowflake Sparkle Husky (Mattel) – £33
  • Fisher-Price DJ Bouncin’ Beats Musical Toy (Mattel) – £45
  • Hot Wheels Action Spiral Speed Crash Track Set (Mattel) – £65
  • Bluey S7 School Playset and Adventure Bus Bundle (Moose Toys) – £75
  • Gabby’s Purrfect Dollhouse (Spin Master) – £89
  • Lego Harry Potter Ministry of Magic Modular Set (The Lego Group) – £90
  • Lego Icons Optimus Prime Transformers Robot Model Set (The Lego Group) – £160
  • Lego Technic McLaren Formula 1 Race Car Model Set (The Lego Group) – £170

Industry stalwart Mark Kingston explores new opportunity

An accomplished and dedicated senior level licensing executive, Mark Kingston has a proven track record of achievements.

After over 11 years at Viacom/ViacomCBS/Paramount, Mark has announced that he has taken the opportunity to step away from his role as SVP International.

Describing his time at Paramount as “incredible and rewarding”, Mark posted on LinkedIn: “After a summer of decompressing, swimming the English channel for charity and taking time out with family and friends, I’m now in a position to start exploring the next route/step and appropriate opportunities for the future.”

Well known throughout the licensing community, Mark is a results-oriented leader whose numbers amongst his skills the ability to develop innovative and sophisticated solutions to meet and exceed very specific needs, resulting in higher revenues, business growth, streamlined operations, strategic focus and team development.

As an effective communicator, he is also able to build cohesive and productive working relationships with people at all corporate levels both internally and externally.

Mark has experience across the areas of Business Development, Franchise Sales, Profit & Loss, Licensing & Publishing, Restructuring, International expertise, Staff Training & Motivation, Product Distribution and Start-Up Operations.

Prior to working as SVP International Consumer Products Paramount Global, Mark held the role of general manager & senior vice president EMEA & International Promotions & Consumer Packaged Goods at Viacom, as well as several other senior roles at the company.

He worked as Business Unit director at Tesco, and has also held high profile roles at The Walt Disney Company and BBC Worldwide.

Mark has invited contacts to get in touch to connect or re-connect or discuss suitable future projects. He can be reached via LinkedIn or on Kingston.ma@icloud.com.

Carrera teams up with Hot Wheels

Vehicles in two classic Hot Wheels designs will be available for the Carrera Go racetrack in what Mattel and Carrera describe as a perfect partnership.

The Carrera brand is synonymous with cross-generational motorsport fun and inspires young and old alike. Now the company has teamed up with Mattel to bring Hot Wheels vehicles to the Carrera Go racetrack. Together, the brands present the best of the racing and car worlds, with vehicles in two classic Hot Wheels designs that can whizz through the loops as slot cars before reaching the ski jump to jump through the ring of fire; a childhood dream for Hot Wheels fans.

“We are very proud that Mattel and Hot Wheels make up an impressive combination with one of the strongest licences in the children’s segment,” said Stefan Krings, CEO, Carrera Revell Group. “Carrera has been one of the greatest joys of young and old racers in Europe for almost 60 years, as has Hot Wheels. In this cooperation, what fits together perfectly comes together.”

Ruth Henriquez, head of Consumer Products Mattel EMEA, added: “We are thrilled to be partnering with Carrera on this exciting cross-generational new line with the iconic Hot Wheels brand. As automotive legends, this collaboration is the perfect match, combining Hot Wheels challenger spirit with the motorsport fun of Carrera, guaranteed to thrill fans of all ages.”

Carrera Go sets Hot Wheels, Hot Wheels 4.9 and Hot Wheels 6.4 with different track lengths will be available, as well as individual vehicles Hot Wheels Night Shifter and Hot Wheels HW50 Concept. Unlike the Hot Wheels originals, the vehicles are controlled by a hand controller with turbo button to navigate the racetrack. The partnership will be supported by joint marketing activities for the new products within the EMEA market.

Further information on all racetracks can be found at www.carrera-toys.com/de.

Blue Zoo opens new Digital and Licensing divisions

The new divisions will power up Blue Zoo’s original IP which includes Numberblocks, Big Tree City and Millie and Lou.

London-based animation studio Blue Zoo has announced a new chapter in the studio’s journey of exponential growth by opening new digital and licensing divisions, to pioneer the studio’s new and original IP, headed up by industry experts.

Blue Zoo is a multi-BAFTA-winning, B Corp certified production company that has grown to become one of the UK’s leading & largest animation studios. The studio is responsible for hit TV shows such as Emmy-winning The Adventures of Paddington and Pip and Posy, as well as original IP including Numberblocks, Big Tree City and Millie and Lou.

The studio’s vision is to build an animation studio with heart, creating quality content that helps make the world a better place. For example, the Numberblocks pre-school show has been developed in-house, in collaboration with Alphablocks Ltd, garnering over 5m subscribers on YouTube and changing the way pre-schoolers think about maths.

Joining the studio as Digital director is Stephanie Gauld, previously head of Digital at Acamar, head of Disney Online Studios EMEA and Digital publisher at Egmont UK. Her former experience includes setting up and leading CBeebies Interactive. Already, the new in-house digital team at Blue Zoo has launched new multi-platform and cohesive content plans across Apps, YouTube, online and social media.

Karen McNally joins as Licensing director to head up the new licensing division within the studio. Karen has returned from a few years in Africa prior to which she held the position of Commercial director at CLPG. She is looking to appoint a team to manage and exploit existing and third party IP both in the UK and internationally.

Alison Warner, previously MD of Rights at Blue Zoo, has been promoted to head of Original Content and will work with Stephanie, Karen and head of Developments, Helen Arntsen. She will be steering the strategy for all Blue Zoo original content.

Stephanie said: “Blue Zoo is a company that stands out both in terms of its excellent production quality and also its corporate values. It’s a highly-driven and positive place to work. I’m excited to be part of this and continue to grow the digital offering around existing and new IP. We’re taking a data and user-driven approach, combined with the creativity that the industry has come to expect from Blue Zoo to drive engagement and revenue for Blue Zoo and its partners.”

Karen commented: “To be given the opportunity to set up the licensing team and be instrumental in the growth of the consumer product offering is a huge privilege and a challenge and an opportunity that I shall relish.”

Alison added: “With Karen and Steph joining the team at Blue Zoo, we have strengthened our position to develop, produce and exploit world class animation. Numberblocks is already a global phenomenon and we are excited to add fantastic shows such as Millie and Lou and Big Tree City to our portfolio.”

And the winner is ….it’s the Licensing Blog!

What can you say about the Licensing Awards which hasn’t been said before? It is always an entertaining night – the licensing community loves a party and as a networking event, you could argue that it is peerless. As much as any industry I have ever worked in, licensing revolves around relationships; perhaps even more so, as licensors are often selling an idea, a dream, a promise that something not as yet fully formed is going to evolve into something beautiful – and successful. To do that, a huge amount of trust is needed on both sides of the partnership – and those bonds of trust are often forged and deepened at events like this.

The audience comprises a mix of leading licensors, licensees and retailers, along with many other people who have business that revolves around the world of licensing. The big hitters from all sides of the fence are there, making it a place to see and be seen. In short, for one night every September, it’s the place to be if you are a licensing mover and shaker. A whopping 1200 people were in attendance this year – so if you missed seeing a few industry friends and colleagues over the course of the evening, it is perhaps no great surprise (I haven’t actually been to the event for around six years, as it nearly always clashes with my wedding anniversary – although if I had said to people “I was there, but I didn’t see you”, I bet no-one would have been any the wiser).

Once the initial – and all too brief – air kissing, hugging and champagne quaffing reception finished, guests took their seats and observed a minute’s silence in honour of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, before settling in for what is traditionally the longest award ceremony any of us is likely to attend all year – and last night was no exception. For over four hours (two and a half football matches!), we sat at our tables while a seemingly never-ending list of winners headed to the stage to collect their awards. It made the Oscars feel like the half time entertainment at the Superbowl – although thank goodness there were no speeches, or we would probably still be there now, with people waking up as Tom Allen announced the award for the best licensed tissue box or something equally thrilling. Sometimes, it felt like the entire team or company went up to collect their trophy; on the one hand that’s nice, as it shows just how delighted they were to be recognised, but unfortunately it doesn’t do anything for the length of proceedings.

Around halfway through the awards – approximately two hours in according to the notes scribbled in my programme – it was evident that the crowd was starting to get restless, and poor host Tom Allen began to lose the audience. Eventually, he had to resort to bellowing “Shut up! Be quiet!” in a vain attempt to stop the crowd from talking and ignoring what was happening on stage – and Tom is very funny, engaging and extremely good at what he does, so you’ve got to feel for him. But in the end, it doesn’t matter what I say – financial considerations (probably £10k+ sponsorship and ticket sales for each extra award) mean that all those in attendance have little choice but to buckle up and strap in for the long haul.

By the time the awards finally drew to a close (approaching midnight), many people had to leave shortly afterwards – when what they would really love to have done would be to mix and mingle with their peers for an hour or two, congratulating the winners, commiserating with the nominees who didn’t come up trumps this time, catching up on all the latest news and gossip and enjoying all of the entertainment that had been laid on for the rest of the evening. It’s just a shame so many had to miss that.

Before the awards were handed out, there was a great video presentation celebrating the incredible achievements of the Light Fund Channel swimmers – it really brought home how difficult conditions were. Fittingly, the man who came up with and drove the whole amazing caper – Stephen Gould – was given the Honorary Achievement Award for his contributions to the Light Fund over many years – a fantastic and well-deserved accolade.

As for the awards themselves, many were greeted with nods of approval, while others were met with surprise and occasionally even incredulity – just like most award ceremonies, there is always going to be the odd curveball or random winner that few saw coming. To be fair, the winners aren’t always based on commercial success, which undoubtedly throws a few people who are used to more traditional award ceremonies which are heavily predicated around sales performance.

But gripes about the length of proceedings aside, you can’t deny that it is a remarkable achievement to pull an event of that magnitude together. To all the winners, congratulations. And to all the nominees who didn’t get lucky this time round, there is always next year (and who knows, maybe half a dozen new categories to chance your arm in).

Finally, in case you missed the announcement earlier this week, there have been some important revisions to the build-up timetable and opening hours for BLE next week. Credit to organiser Anna Knight and the whole Informa team for taking swift and decisive action to react to the timing of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral on Monday. The show will now open its doors at 12.00 on opening day, but the boulevard will be available all morning for meetings – I hope Costa Coffee and the other restaurants thank Informa for the extra business that will no doubt be coming their way for the first few hours. The Licensing.biz team is looking forward to seeing you all at ExCeL and here’s hoping for another well-attended, vibrant, successful BLE event.

Moonbug continues expansion with senior appointments

Three new faces will join the expanding Moonbug Licensing and Merchandising team in newly created senior roles.

Suzanne Larkin

Moonbug Entertainment, a Candle Media Company, has announced the appointment of Suzanne Larkin to lead Softlines EMEA and Australia New Zealand, Samar Selby to lead FMCG in EMEA and ANZ, whilst Duncan Hamilton is appointed to lead Publishing and New Business Development EMEA and ANZ.

These three newly created roles come as a result of Moonbug’s Licensing and Merchandising team’s expansion. All roles report to Francesca Romana Gianesin, head of Consumer Products EMEA & ANZ and are based in the UK.

In her new role, Suzanne Larkin is responsible for building the Fashion & Home Licensing business in EMEA & ANZ. Prior to Moonbug, she held various senior positions at The Walt Disney Company. Most recently, Suzanne was director, Product Design and Development EMEA Softlines, where she oversaw the EMEA fashion and home design development team, following a role as director, Softlines Category EMEA.

Samar Selby

Samar Selby joins Moonbug to build the FMCG licensing and merchandise business. This will include developing strategic plans, identifying new business opportunities across the brand portfolio and building relationships with FMCG partners in EMEA & ANZ. Samar brings a wealth of knowledge to the role with over a decade of experience in licensed consumer products. Prior to Moonbug, she was part of the FMCG EMEA team at The Walt Disney Company, and also held the position of commercial manager, Toys and Stationary, UK and Eire.

Duncan Hamilton will lead and develop the EMEA & ANZ publishing business, bringing the collaboration with current and new licensees to the next level, focusing on geographical scale, new channels and format innovation. He will also be responsible for New Business Development in the region. Prior to Moonbug, Duncan was senior director, International Business Development and Publishing at Paramount, where he led the international and business development, as well as the publishing teams in the EMEA and APAC regions.

Duncan Hamilton

Francesca Romana Gianesin, head of Consumer Products EMEA & ANZ at Moonbug Entertainment, commented: “Our consumer products business is growing rapidly and these new roles are key for our continued expansion across Europe, Middle East and Africa, also expanding Australia & New Zealand L&M business. Together, Suzanne, Samar and Duncan are great leaders who bring a wealth of experience and expertise and I am looking forward to working with them all. Exciting times at Moonbug!”

For more information on Moonbug, visit www.moonbug.com.

Toy World interviewed Moonbug Entertainment‘s managing director Global Consumer Products, Simon Philips, along with Francesca Romana Gianesin, in the Licensing section of September’s Toy World, ahead of the team’s debut BLE appearance. To read about the company’s CP strategy, growth plans and much more, click here.

Exclusive: Pre-BLE licensing Touching Base

As BLE approaches, the great and the good in the field of Licensing share the latest news and look ahead to upcoming developments for their properties.

Andrew Carley, director of Global Licensing, BBC Studios believes the licensing landscape changed about three to four years ago. “The challenge for us now is working with partners and stakeholders to offer a more diverse experience than simply going shopping to buy a product, or going to a theme park, or going to the cinema,” he explains. “All these elements have merged, so we’re trying to create combined experiences.”

Emma Russell, senior Licensing manager at the Natural History Museum is looking forward to meeting both existing and potential licensees at this year’s BLE. “There are significant opportunities within the toy sector,” she explains. “One of my new favourite things to do in the Museum is to walk through the halls on a standard busy day. It’s a joy to see your consumer interact with and immerse themselves in the brand; for our end consumer, there’s value and respectability behind the NHM name.”

There’s much more from a whole host of contributors which, as well as Andrew and Emma, include Julian Moon of Warner Bros. Consumer Products EMEA, Lisa Macdonald of Silvergate Media, Pindy O’Brien of Walker Books, David Sprei of Penguin Ventures,
Frankie Lisle of Lisle Licensing, Aidan Taylor-Gooby of Magic Light Pictures, Rachel Clarke of Copyrights Group, Mathieu Galante of The Pokémon Company International, Venetia Davie of Paramount, Vanessa Andreis of Beano Studios, Emmanuelle Cadet of Boat Rocker, Marianne James of Hasbro, Bethan Garton of The Point.1888, Paul Bufton of NBCUniversal, Duncan Tate of Moonbug Entertainment and Rob Goodchild of Aardman.

All our respondents remain upbeat about the challenges facing the Licensing industry. Paul Bufton sums it up: “Tough times are often a spur to innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. Retail is undoubtedly in a difficult spot, but the optimist in me believes the opportunities are greater than the challenges we’re facing. If previous recessions and the pandemic taught us anything, it’s how to deal with the unexpected.”

To read the full article, which appeared in the Licensing section of September’s Toy World, click here.

BLE issues statement regarding plans for the show

BLE organisers have pledged to keep attendees fully updated on any alterations to arrangements for the event taking place this September.

 

 

Please see an update to the below story here.

Following the death of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the UK has entered a period of national mourning that will continue until the end of the State Funeral. The date for this has yet to be announced at the time of writing, but is expected to be within the next two weeks.

Brand Licensing Europe (BLE), the leading European event for licensing and brand extension, is scheduled to take place from Tuesday 20th to Thursday 22nd September at ExCeL London, and visitors can register for free online.

In the light of the situation, the organisers have issued the following statement:

“All of us at Brand Licensing Europe are heartbroken to hear the news of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing at Balmoral. We join our colleagues around the world in grieving the loss of a beloved leader. As we await further detail on the United Kingdom’s plans to memorialise Her Majesty, and any resulting impact on Brand Licensing Europe, our promise is to communicate as early and often as possible with you. Thank you for your patience and support”.

Licensing.biz will, of course, keep readers updated with any further news or statements as we have them. (update – see here).

Anderson Entertainment US online store is go!

Classic TV series such as Space: 1999 and Thunderbirds will now have a presence in the US thanks to the opening of the Gerry Anderson Store.

Space:1999, UFO, Thunderbirds, Fireball XL5 and Captain Scarlet have touched down in the United States. The series, all created by British producer Gerry Anderson, will now have a presence in the US thanks to the opening of the Gerry Anderson online store.

Anderson Entertainment, the company founded by Gerry Anderson, has launched a US-specific version of their online store so that US residents can have themed merchandise and publications from the cult British shows shipped direct from the company’s Ohio warehouse.

This latest development expands the company’s US presence which already included a partnership with Amazon and Merch by Amazon. It will feed the growing US fanbase, many of whom grew up watching Fireball XL5 and Space: 1999, filling a vacuum which has existed for several years.

Jamie Anderson MD of Anderson Entertainment, commented: “Since we began to source a wide range of products and established our publishing imprint, the Gerry Anderson store has grown massively.  We have a large US fanbase for Space:1999 and we found that being based solely in the UK was holding back our international growth. So, we bit the bullet, opened a warehouse with our existing distribution partner and built a bespoke store front for the US market. The feedback so far has been fantastic – so much so, that we’re sending out 300% more inventory than expected in the first six months alone. We’re clearly feeding a need here, and I’m thrilled that US fans get to benefit from this localised presence”.

Products on sale including T- shirts, cosplay, books and graphic novels, audio and gifts are available now from the US store here,  with all other territories still served by shop.gerryanderson.com.