New report highlights a greater need for diversity and inclusivity across toys and games

Family-focused marketing agency Kids Industries (Ki) has launched a new report today exploring the concept of diversity and inclusion amongst children and their parents – and what this looks like in the toys and games that they engage with.

The survey – carried out across 2,001 parents of children (aged 5-15) in the UK and USA – paints a picture of rising concerns among parents over screen time, yet also acknowledges how they appreciate the benefits of digital play. There is however a desire from parents for more inclusive toy and gaming attributes.

When it comes to the toys their children play with, parents are looking for skills support the most

What parents notice: Parents would like more opportunities to play as a family (38 per cent) and 35 per cent would like to see toys that focus on imagination. Another important observation was that parents are looking for toys made from materials that are better for the planet (33 per cent).

Key issue: Parents are busy people and 21 per cent say that they struggle to always find the time to play, watch, or do things with their child that they enjoy (rising to 27 per cent amongst US parents; 16 per cent in the UK). With that in mind, parents are keen to support their children’s skills development and 40 percent would like to see more toys that help with traditional education, such as maths, and the same number would like more toys that help with ‘soft’ education such as problem solving.

Moving forwards: In terms of representation, parents would like to see no differentiation between “girl” and “boy” toys (22 per cent) and an increase in positive role models (37 per cent).

More ethnically diverse toys were a desire for 22 per cent and 17 per cent wanted to see better disability representation. Better LGBTQ+ representation sat at nine per cent.

Parents want to be involved in children’s video games

What parents notice: 46 per cent of all parents feel that screen-based play is good for their children’s development (42 per cent of UK parents versus 49 per cent of US parents). 57 per cent of parents also recognise that digital play is relaxing for their child and 56 per cent say that it puts them in a good mood (rising to 62 per cent amongst US parents – UK sits at 51 per cent). They also feel that digital play expands the things their children are able to see and do (56 per cent). 52 per cent felt that it enables their children to be more creative or imaginative also.

Key issue: Over four out of five parents (84 per cent) feel that their children spend too much time in front of screens – consistent across all ages (5-7 – 83 per cent; 8-11 – 85 per cent; 12-15 – 84 per cent). They’re also concerned that screen-based play leads to less socialisation (42 per cent) and feel that it limits the things their children can see or do (17 per cent).

Moving forwards: Parents would like more opportunities to play as a family (37 per cent – 39 per cent in the US and 35 per cent in the UK) and 31 per cent are keen to see new and innovative ways to play and interact.

Again, there’s a strong desire among parents for more positive role models in the games their children play (41 per cent) along with support for games that provide soft’ education such as problem solving (37 per cent) and traditional education such as maths skills (31 per cent).

Having games that include better disability representation is of interest to 18 per cent of parents and 11 per cent would like to see better LGBTQ+ representation.

Gary Pope, CEO and Co-Founder at Kids Industries and Children’s Commissioner for Products of Change, commented: “Play underpins everything that our children will become – it is as Maria Montessori said: ‘The work of the child.’

“Our research indicates that 67 per cent of parents feel their children’s schools are good or excellent when it comes to their diversity and inclusion policies and approaches which shows there is much more work to be done. We must listen to children and parent voices and ensure their needs and wants are reflected in the toys and games that they consume.

“Nothing is more important than protecting and promoting a child’s right to play and making those play experiences the very best that they can be is essential and something that the industry needs to give serious consideration.”

Tuesday is go! The Light Fund English Channel Relay to take place tomorrow

At 21:30 this Tuesday the two teams taking part in this year’s Light Fund English Channel Relay fundraiser will meet their boat pilots at Dover marina and at 23:00 the first swimmers will step into the water and start swimming for France. It will be very dark, very cold and very lonely. Some 15 to 24-plus hours later – tides, currents and any other eventuality permitting – the final swimmer in each team will hopefully reach the French coast somewhere between Calais and Boulogne.

Yes, The Light Fund English Channel Relay Swim Race is ‘Go’ this Tuesday evening – two days earlier than anticipated – and it’s all down to a small weather window in an otherwise unsettled period.

After more than 18 months of relentless training, commitment and preparation, the swimmers are as ready as they can be. Final team selections have now also been made. Team Optimist comprises Ian Down (captain), Eion Wallace, Katie Price, Jason Goonery, Mark Bezodis, Kevin Langstaff and reserve Tasmyn Knight. Team High Hopes comprises Stephen Gould (captain), Mark Kingston, Rhys Fleming, Anna Hewitt, Anne Bradford, Simon Gresswell and reserve Terry Lamb.

The Light Fund has set up a WhatsApp group with an additional link to the boat tracker set up by the Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation (CS&PF), the governing body for English Channel swimming. This means you will not only be able to see and hear real-time action and film footage from the swim but also be able to encourage the swimmers with supportive messages.

Simply click on this link from your phone to automatically join free of charge. Your friends and colleagues involved in the swim be thrilled to know that you’re cheering them on. The GPS boat tracker can be found here:

And don’t forget – before, during and even after the swim there are still many opportunities to help The Light Fund reach its target of £250,000 for this fundraiser as well, of course, as chances for corporate sponsors to be namechecked in the challenge event film presentation at the 2022 Licensing Awards on 13 September at the Grosvenor on Park Lane.

You can find out more about corporate sponsorship options here. And individuals are very welcome to donate via the event’s Just Giving page, where you can also review the teams’ preparation for the big day. There are also an Instagram feed and a Facebook page containing team photos and updates.

Event challenge organiser Stephen Gould says: “Despite the demands of work and family, interruptions from stomach bugs and covid, everyday stuff like repetitive strain injury and even domestic accidents which means one swimmer with a burn-blistered hand, we have trained diligently for months and we’re as ready as we’re going to be. It won’t be easy reconciling the cold, dark, pollution, Channel traffic and seasickness with a cramped open-deck boat in this notorious stretch of water, but we’ll be buoyed up by the amazing support we have received and will no doubt continue to receive from our friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Thanks again and please remember that the best way to cheer us on in this arduous ordeal is to donate – no matter how seemingly small or insignificant the sum. As we battle through guaranteed stress and discomfort, there is no better motivation than an escalating fundraising figure on JustGiving!”

About the Light Fund

The Light (Licensing Industry Giving Help Together) Fund was born when a group of like-minded people from the UK licensing industry came up with the idea to form a committee to help those less fortunate than themselves. The Light Fund is a registered charity, which raises monies to fund worthwhile charity projects that help children, women and men. Since its inception, back in 2004, The Light Fund has raised over £1.7 million and funded hundreds of different charity projects.

New senior role for Steve Manners at Licensing International UK

Licensing International has announced that U.K. managing director Graham Saltmarsh will be leaving the organisation. LI’s current global marketing head Steve Manners will add U.K. managing director to his remit as Licensing International intensifies its focus on the U.K. 

“We are incredibly grateful to outgoing U.K. managing director Graham Saltmarsh for bringing back LEC live and in person, launching the retail programme and for all of his hard work throughout the pandemic, righting the ship and steering our U.K. members through Covid,” says Maura Regan, president, Licensing International.

Based in London, Manners will be responsible for supporting Licensing International’s UK members and expanding the U.K. membership through educational programmes, expanded retail initiatives, and the Young Professionals Network (YPN). He will continue to collaborate with Informa on joint initiatives including BLE and Licensing Expo, as well as overseeing Licensing International’s marketing. This role expansion will become effective on July 18.

“It has been a joy working with the Licensing International team and I am thrilled to continue those efforts with a focus on strengthening our strategy in the U.K., which is a key market for the global licensing community,” says Manners.

Manners first joined Licensing International in January, overseeing global marketing efforts for the trade organisation. He brings extensive industry experience to the role, having held senior management positions at leading companies including 20th Century Fox, Universal, Beanstalk and WildBrain CPLG. His expertise includes a deep understanding of all aspects of licensing, both from a licensor and agent perspective.

Anton Berezin appointed MD of Three Scoops

The Merchantwise Group has announced the appointment of event and licensing veteran Anton Berezin to the newly created role of Managing Director of its branding, creative and digital studio, Three Scoops

In his role as Managing Director of the studio – which includes Disneyland Paris and Jack Links in its client portfolio – Anton will focus on growing the Three Scoops division at a global level.  He will also expand the range of products and services offered by Three Scoops, including in the areas of experiences and brand activations.

Prior to his Three Scoops appointment, Anton was the founder of Entertainment Store/Life Like Touring, one of the world’s leading brand entertainment producers.

Anton boasts extensive experience in the fields of theatrical and experiential events within both the ticketed and non-ticketed event markets, having partnered with The Merchantwise’s Group licensing division, Merchantwise, a number of times. Anton’s tenure as Founder of Entertainment Store/Life Like Touring saw him develop long and distinguished relationships with leading IP owners including Warner Brothers, Viacom, Sony, Disney, Hasbro, and Mattel.

In 2016 he sold Entertainment Store/Life Like Touring to TEG and finished up as Managing Director in the three years following.

Over the course of his career, Anton has fostered enduring partnerships and friendships at the highest levels in the live entertainment, content creation, intellectual property licensing, retail, and franchise industry sectors.

“After 20 years of partnering with Merchantwise in the live event space, I’m absolutely delighted to join this bustling, bold and wonderfully creative organisation in the role of Three Scoops Managing Director,” Anton says. “The Three Scoops creative team is absolutely world class, and I’m excited to take the business in innovative and new directions.”

“We are thrilled to have Anton Berezin join our senior leadership team as Managing Director of Three Scoops,” says Merchantwise Group CEO Alan Schauder. “Anton is one of the industry’s most talented, trusted, and respected leaders, with an exceptional track record of innovation and growth. He has partnered with many of the world’s best entertainment brands to create amazing customer experiences. Anton will spearhead the evolution of Three Scoops, working with our world-class creative team to deliver unique brand experiences and creative services on a global scale.”

Mike Mahan appointed CEO of Fanatics Collectibles

Digital sports platform Fanatics has announced the appointment of Mike Mahan as CEO of Fanatics Collectibles, the company’s trading cards and collectibles business.

In this newly created role, Mahan will develop the overall vision and corporate strategy for Fanatics Collectibles and oversee its full portfolio of physical and digital collectibles brands, which includes Topps, the trading cards brand; Candy Digital, a next-gen digital collectibles company, and zerocool, a trading cards brand solely focused on pop culture, art and entertainment. Mahan, a long-time collector himself, will report directly to Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin.

Mahan joins Fanatics after running Dick Clark Productions, the world’s largest producer of television events including the Golden Globe Awards, American Music Awards and Billboard Music Awards, where he served as CEO. While there, he guided the company to seven consecutive years of record growth and profits and successfully drove large viewership across entertainment products, responsibilities that align with the broader collectibles market becoming a content engine driven by exceptional products. Overall, Mike has more than two decades of experience working at the intersection of digital media, content creation, influencer marketing, entertainment, and finance.

“Our collectibles business has seen tremendous growth since launching last year, and we couldn’t be more confident in bringing Mike on board to shape the bright future of this division and its alignment within our larger Fanatics digital sports platform,” says Rubin. “As a collector and passionate sports fan, Mike’s vision for both the trading cards hobby and emerging digital collectibles properties, driven by exceptional products, will further position Fanatics as a leader in these categories, creating incredible opportunities for fans, collectors, hobby shops, retailers and our partners.”

As the opportunities for collectors and fans to purchase and engage with physical and digital collectibles grows – fuelled by innovative content, social marketing, and influencer involvement – Mike’s experience and personal passion provides a strong background to lead the business, grow the overall industry and create new levels of participation for both existing and new collectors. His number one focus will be growing the total number of collectors globally across the category.

“I could not think of a more perfect next step in my career than to lead the incredibly talented teams within Fanatics Collectibles, where I’ll have the opportunity to combine my entrepreneurial passions that lie within sports, marketing, and content creation, with my love for trading cards and collectibles at large,” says Mahan. “The worlds of trading cards and digital collectibles have been forever reshaped over the past several years, and these new assets and the connections they create have the ability to bring fans and collectors closer than ever before to the players, teams and entertainers they love.”

In addition, Mike will be tasked with executing the global, exclusive rights and future rights that live within the Fanatics Collectibles portfolio, including preeminent players associations, sports leagues, professional and college teams, top student-athletes, brands and entertainment properties. The business will continue to serve fans, collectors and partners across all channels – direct-to-consumer, hobby shops, and retailers – while opening doors to new businesses for Fanatics Collectibles, such as breaking, secondary marketplaces, and more. He will leverage incredible relationships with top talent to align with one of Fanatics’ future collectibles strategies; working with the biggest names in sports and entertainment to promote the company’s physical and digital collectibles products.

Mike began his career as an investment banker for Bear Stearns and worked in private equity at CDP Capital Entertainment, a division of Caisse de Dépôt. A graduate of UCLA, where he studied business and economics, Mike is or has been an investor in several media, sports, gaming, and consumer properties, including Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), Oklahoma City Dodgers (Triple-A affiliate of the LA Dodgers), Axiomatic’s Team Liquid, Next VR and Aviation Gin.


Fanattik celebrates its 15th anniversary in blockbuster style

Fanattik, the award-winning gift and collectibles licensee, celebrated its 15th anniversary in style this week with a special screening of Jurassic World Dominion, a film for which the company is also a licensee.

Fanattik took over Art Deco cinema The Rex for the private screening. Attendees included fellow licensees, brands, retail buyers and influencers, who also enjoyed viewing various props from the franchise during the event. 

Explaining why the Jurassic World film was chosen for the event, Fanattik’s MD Anthony Marks says: “It was signing our licensing agreement with Universal Studios all those years ago for the Jurassic Park franchise that set Fanattik on the road to success, and I wanted to pay homage to the franchise at this, the first of our 15th anniversary events.”  

Fanattik supplies pop culture retailers throughout Europe, North America, Australasia and MENA territories via its own offices and network of distributors.

Not wanting to leave non-UK retailers out of the celebrations, the company sent Fanattik cakes to buying teams all over the world, including one of their furthest afield retailer partners, based almost 12,000 miles away from their UK head office in New Zealand.

The company is a licensee for some of the biggest film and video game studios in the entertainment world, including Konami, Hasbro, Universal Studios, Bethesda, Capcom, Paramount Studios, Microsoft, and many others. The company also creates exclusive product for retailers with DTR licenses as well as being a distributor for gift ranges featuring Star Wars and Marvel.

Before the film started, Anthony took to the stage to thank the entire Fanattik team, the colleagues who have helped the company grow from “a one-man enterprise working out of a spare bedroom to what is now a global player in the pop culture field”.

“We genuinely love what we do. The fans can see the effort we pour into each and every product we create and that is reflected in the sales we help generate for retailers,” says Melissa Tudor, Creative Director, Fanattik. “It also explains why so many of those retail buyers have turned up to help us celebrate our anniversary.”

Rubies promotes Graham Gardiner to Commercial Director

As part of its renewed strategy and continued business reinvigoration, costume specialist Rubies has announced that Graham Gardiner, a long-term and well-respected employee of the company, has been promoted to Commercial Director for the UK, Central and Northern Europe.

Graham will oversee new business, sales strategy and product life cycle, elements of which he is already keenly invested in through his current role as General Manager EMEA.

Since joining Rubies in 2006, Graham has been pivotal to business growth, retail relationship management and sales across the Middle East, Central and Eastern Europe, CIS and Asia. He is also responsible for warehousing expansions and B2B commercial opportunities.

With over 30 years of experience in the international toy industry and licensing, Graham has worked for some of the biggest names in the market, including Hasbro, Mattel and Kids2. His skills and responsibilities range from European Domestic to FOB business.

Mike O’Connell, Managing Director at Rubies, says: “Commercially, Rubies couldn’t be in better hands. With the combination of over 30 years of experience in the industry and 16 at Rubies, Graham understands the company direction and 365 business plans thoroughly. A natural evolution from his existing role as General Manager EMEA, the role of Commercial Director will be the driving force behind Rubies’ new forward-thinking vision whilst spearheading new trade initiatives.”


The Light Fund Channel Relay partners with the RNLI

There are many beneficiaries of this year’s Light Fund English Channel Relay fundraiser but, appropriately enough, a portion of the funds raised by the two teams’ swim to France will go to support the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and its work.

The RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat crews are well known. But the RNLI also supplies seasonal beach lifeguards and a Flood Rescue Team and offers educational outreach, all of which need funding to keep going. RNLI crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives since its inception in 1824 and The Light Fund is keen to support them as they continue their great work.

But there’s another, more personal link between the licensing industry and the RNLI. Kelvyn Gardner, founder of Asgard Media, died in January 2021. He was a much-loved and respected member of the licensing community and a long-term supporter of The Light Fund as well as a very active member of its committee.

As a mark of respect to a good friend and colleague, The Light Fund Swim team have asked the RNLI to include Kelvyn’s name on the RNLI’s soon to be launched new Wells-next-the-Sea Shannon Class Lifeboat. Kelvyn’s name will appear alongside a number of other people’s names on the boat as part of the RNLI’s Launch a Memory programme.

As a Light Fund supporter, Kelvyn would no doubt have been thrilled to hear of its latest fundraising effort, a swim to France scheduled to start between 30 June and 3 July, at around 2am on a day when conditions are optimal.

As the swim window gets closer, there are still many opportunities to sponsor the swim and help The Light Fund reach its target of £250,000 as well, of course, as being namechecked in the challenge event film presentation at the 2022 Licensing Awards in September.

You can find out more about corporate sponsorship options here. And individuals are very welcome to donate via the event’s Just Giving page, where you can also follow the teams preparing for the big day. There are also an Instagram feed and a Facebook page containing team photos and updates.

Team stalwart Mark Kingston says: The Light Fund supports a wide range of worthy causes, but, considering the theme of this year’s big fundraiser, helping one of the world’s oldest and best-known lifesaving organisations seems entirely appropriate. It’s also a great opportunity to offer a tribute to a valued friend and colleague. Kelvyn was a committed supporter of The Light Fund and this is a marvellous way to salute him.”

About the Light Fund

The Light (Licensing Industry Giving Help Together) Fund was born when a group of like-minded people from the UK licensing industry came up with the idea to form a committee to help those less fortunate than themselves. The Light Fund is a registered charity, which raises monies to fund worthwhile charity projects that help children, women and men. Since its inception, back in 2004, The Light Fund has raised over £1.7 million and funded hundreds of different charity projects.

Licensing International announces 2022 Accelerator Program participants

Licensing International has announced the six companies selected to participate in the 2022 Diversity & Inclusion Accelerator Program. They are:

  • Blmrbl (Baltimore, USA)
    Blmrbl (“Blue Marble”) is a social shopping platform enabling global pop culture fan communities to buy and sell officially licensed merchandise online. Blmrbl provides a wide range of diverse products for minority fan communities and grading authentication services for the preservation of pop culture collectibles.
  • FanBase Africa (Cape Town, South Africa)
    Fanbase Africa is a print-on-demand, direct-to-consumer eCommerce company that sells licensed music and sports merchandise to fans across the world. (
  • Happy Tottii (Funchal, Portugal)
    HappyTottii is a new emoji focused on love and happiness. Nature and the environment are also of great importance for this little ladybug whose aim is to make people happy while at the same time teaching core values of mindfullness and sustainability. HappyTottii embodies the co-existence of technology and nature, with its synergies and frictions. (
  • Katalyst MGMT (Los Angeles, USA)
    Katalyst MGMT is a creative licensing agency based in Los Angeles specializing in art direction, cannabis licensing, and strategic collaborations. Clients include High Times magazine, Snoop Dogg, Marathon OG, Cheech & Chong, and Santa Cruz Shredder. The agency also provides consulting for manufacturing smoking accessories, packaging, and distribution.
  • Knotting Hill Inc. (Fergus, Canada)
    Knotting Hill Inc. was born when consumers were stuck at home. With more time to observe the need for fresh products, founder Tania James decided to take matters into her own hands. Knotting Hill Inc. was established in 2021 with the goal of bringing innovative household products to market through licensing agreements with forward-thinking companies. (
  • Little River Co. (Toronto, Canada)
    Little River Co. was established in 2020 with the goal of highlighting fashion and anime as a form of artistic expression. Initially offering embroidered apparel, Little River has expanded its product offering to include rugs and collectible plush toys. Little River Co. creates pieces that have gothic and streetwear overtones while embracing anime and manga iconography. (

“The Accelerator Program is an important part of our work to help our members —and the broader licensing community — build diverse and inclusive workplaces,” says Maura Regan, president of Licensing International. “Licensing International is committed to supporting the global licensing industry as it works to attract, develop, and retain the best and brightest from all backgrounds.”

Each participating company will receive benefits valued at more than $100,000. These benefits include monthly mentoring meetings with industry leaders as well as a one-year Licensing International membership, including consultation services, networking resources, access to exclusive research, and business savings. Additionally, participating companies will be enrolled in Licensing International’s Coursework in Licensing Studies, an in-depth study of the business of licensing and the industry’s only training ground to become a Qualified Licensing Practitioner (QLP).

The Accelerator Program is sponsored by the NBPA, the NFLPA, Peanuts Worldwide LLC, Sony Pictures, and Amazon.


Graham Saltmarsh, MD of Licensing International UK, on building a post-pandemic retail and licensing strategy

Graham Saltmarsh is managing director of Licensing International UK. He is participating in a leaders’ panel at the next European edition of Brand & Licensing Innovation Summit, taking place 21 June 2022 at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

Graham will appear alongside Hasbro’s Marianne James, Jalil Ramen of Liberty, MDR Brand Management CEO Daniel Avener and Difuzed’s Sara Allwood to discuss the finer details of Building a Post-Pandemic Retail & Licensing Strategy.

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One of the panels you’re moderating focuses on building a post-pandemic licensing strategy. Why do brands and retailers need one? What’s so different now? 

It’s always good to have a plan in place and a plan B just in case! We learned a lot during the pandemic, it makes sense to diversify your manufacturing options in case there are further lockdowns. Have a look at your distribution networks and see how your online offer to your customers compares to your competitors’. Work with your partners and discuss what is needed and when… work back from here and allow plenty of wiggle room!

What are the challenges and opportunities your LI members are talking to you about – where are the pain points, and where can they be driving growth?  

Shipping costs are still a big issue and delays still seem to be quite a common occurrence but working these potential delays in to the schedule will help calm the nerves. We had the highest number of attendees at the Licensing Essentials Course recently with a very high number of retailers keen to get a better understanding of the licensing industry and the processes involved. There was a strong increase across the board in licensed products sold last year so it’s a very positive message to our members.

What do you think licensing will look like in 2-3 years from now? 

Wow, what a very tricky question… I think we are beginning to see an increase in brands rather than “entertainment properties”, particularly from museums and galleries. These teams have amazing portfolios, but you have to be very focused to find the hidden gems and then translate them into desirable products.

What’s the one thing that brands and retailers can’t ignore, if they are to continue being successful? 

Communicate, communicate, communicate – if you are a retailer speak to your licensees about what you need, when you need it and importantly why! Asking “why” will promote discussion and mean that you can make better informed decisions. Costs are also going to come into play hugely over the next few years and it will be impossible not to pass most of this onto the end consumer; this will be a challenging balancing act. Sustainability will also play a bigger part going forwards…. Sorry! I can never do ‘one’ thing!

Why are you looking forward to speaking at B&LIS? 

There are some amazing and talented speakers at B&LIS and it’s always fascinating to meet up and find out what’s going on. These discussions also help direct future panels and sessions.

What are you hoping delegates will take from your panels?

You always learn so much talking and listening to others within the industry, but I hope there will also be a lot of questions for our panel and also some fun along the way.

To order your ticket for B&LIS, click here