Interview I Talking strategy with MGM’s Robert Marick

Home to Bond, Rocky and The Pink Panther, MGM is a powerhouse of a studio. We asked Robert Marick, Executive Vice President Global Consumer Products & Experiences, to tell us about developing licensing strategies for some of the most iconic properties in entertainment, and how his stints at Disney, Mattel, Twentieth Century Fox and Discovery have shaped his approach to global brand management.

A lot has been said about how people returned to familiar, “comforting” brands during the Pandemic. Do you think the landscape is now almost back to its pre-Pandemic state, or will nostalgia brands keep on having a moment?

The Pandemic affected companies and people in so many different ways, but I think one of the things that was ultimately a positive for consumers is that they were able to connect with brands, and foods, and time with family – let’s call these things “comfort opportunities” – like never before. And that definitely had an impact in terms of how consumers reacted to our properties. Whether it was the Pink Panther or, in particular, Rocky or Creed, there was a real connection there.

Particularly with Rocky, fans connected with some of the core themes of the DNA of that property: the underdog, the perseverance, how you can find something within yourself that enables you to push boundaries… Those things became more important than ever during that time period, and we saw in the news how consumers would look at properties like Rocky and say, “That is my inspiration.” What we noticed over the past 18 months was a definite resurgence of engagement with our catalogue titles.

Can you give us an outline of your role and responsibilities at MGM?

In essence I’m a global brand manager; my job is to build and grow our properties. We look at them more as franchises now, and less as a catalogue, title or a new release. If you take the example of The Addams Family, which has been around for 75 years, we recently supported it with a new CGI film, and now we’re going to be releasing Wednesday on Netflix. Or in the case of Rocky, which I mentioned earlier, we released Creed I and II, and Creed III is out next year. Vikings is now being supported with a new Netflix series, Vikings: Valhalla. All these franchises have a foundation that fans around the world appreciate in one form or another, and we’re fortunate now to be able to build off that base, and release new content across the board.

There’s also Pink Panther, which will be celebrating its 60th anniversary shortly; we have a new film in development. What you see there is our company really investing in new ways to build out these global franchises.

With some of your IPs having such a long history, how do you market them to the entire fanbase? Presumably younger audiences require a different approach to Boomers?

Without a doubt, Gen Zs and millennials require a different approach to older consumers when it comes to promotional activities. So, how do we do that? If you look at what’s on my radar at the moment – The Addams Family, Vikings, Rocky/Creed, and also Legally Blonde, which is celebrating its anniversary, plus there’s a new film in the works ­–  we have new content coming out that is really supporting the core property. But we can also look at supporting the core properties by genre; so, this year, there was a focus on horror [with the release of Candyman], 2022 is all about sci-fi, and 2023 will be about laughter.

We’re also going to be looking at upcoming anniversaries. Legally Blonde, for example, is turning 21, so that’s going to be a big initiative for us. We also market by decade, so fans of, say, the 80s, or 90s or 2000s, can really buy in to our brands and properties. When you have 4,000 movies in your library, you need to find the common connections that consumers have to your IP.

By taking different approaches we’re able to find connections with our audience, whether they’re genre fans, anniversary fans, or a fan of a particular IP. Research shows that Gen Zs and Millennials tend to get their first source of content from a video game, while Gen Xs and Baby Boomers still get their content from new films or television in development. Our video game business is growing exponentially and that is an opportunity for us to be able to drive awareness in new areas. One example is that we’re developing a Robocop game on console. Bond is another case in point; we’re driving interest in the IP through video games.

MGM has an amazing library of IPs to draw upon – but entertainment is a crowded market. What do you think MGM’s particular strengths are when it comes to licensing?

I think it really comes down to four things – what I call “the DNA” of MGM. First off, it’s about the lion logo. It’s such an iconic trademark. It represents the Hollywood of yesteryear, but it’s also about today. Another thing that makes MGM different is that when launched, it was all about the latest technology and different ways of working, and artists and directors would come to MGM to be able to try new things. And that still continues today.

The third aspect is quality; we’re immensely proud of the quality of the work that we do, it’s evident in all our shows. And I think the fourth point is storytelling. Everything that we do is about the story that’s being told. In particular, I think that’s what helps us not only in traditional licencing, but in terms of video games, and in location-based entertainment.

I am very selective about where I spend my time and energy; it’s not just a case of pushing the latest release. What’s almost more important is creating a programme during “bridge” years”. For instance, with The Addams Family, we had a CGI film in 2019, we had The Addams Family 2 in 2021, now we’ve got the Wednesday TV series coming in 22. I’ll ask myself, in the “gaps”, what does the programme look like? And that’s where video games come in, that’s where experiential comes in…

You’ve worked for some of the biggest companies in the entertainment sector. How has that wide experience coalesced to influence your licensing strategy at MGM?

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some very significant companies. Each one has provided me with a different lens or perspective that allows me to do the job that I do. Having worked at Mattel for many years, I really understand the idea of product development, and marketing a product. That led into my time at Disney, which was all about how you manage a brand, looking at its different elements to see how they might apply to music, or toys, or film or apparel.

With anything that I look at from a brand franchise perspective, I always ask myself, what’s the DNA of the property? Once I’ve established that, it’s “What can merchandise help amplify? What can video games help amplify? What can location-based entertainment help amplify?” The recent campaign we ran for Rocky’s 45th anniversary is a good example of how we look to create an experience around a property, where you have multiple disciplines [including athletic runs, gaming collaborations, concerts and apparel collections] that come together to create a consumer experience.

Ultimately, I’m hoping that once you’ve done the Rocky Run, or you’ve experienced some new merchandise, you’re going to come back and want to watch the film, or the next film or the third film within the franchise. My job is really about expanding the media experience, and that’s three-fold: first, you watch it. Then you buy it – whether it’s a pencil, a t shirt or a video game. And then you’re going to want to live it, which is where experiential comes in. And by living it, you’re going to want to go back to the original media and watch it again. So the whole thing is cyclical.

Vikings: Valhalla and Wednesday are expected to air in 2022. Creed III is scheduled to premiere in cinemas in November next year.




MGM lines up champion licensing programme to celebrate 45 years of “Rocky”

MGM has announced the kick-off of iconic movie Rocky‘s 45th anniversary celebration with a robust line-up of live events, gaming, and merchandise.

The Rocky franchise has remained a global phenomenon thanks to its universally relatable themes: ambition, passion, determination and giving it your all to be a champion, even when the odds are against you. MGM’s Rocky and Creed films have generated more than $1.3 billion in worldwide box-office sales, three Academy Awards, and ten nominations.

To celebrate the 45th anniversary, a number of live events and activations have been planned for the end of 2021 through 2022, including Rocky-themed athletic runs, in-theatre events, as well as merchandise and new gaming collaborations. The Rocky licensing programme features 70 licensees covering the following categories of goods: Apparel, Accessories, Collectibles, Toy, Gaming, Gift & Novelty, Home, Interactive (console and AR/VR), Costumes/Cos-Play, Events, Publishing, and Stationery. Products will be available throughout North America, Latin and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

The festivities kicked off in Philadelphia on Thursday with a special screening event of Sylvester Stallone’s ROCKY VS. DRAGO: THE ULTIMATE DIRECTOR’S CUT, and next up is the “Rocky Run,” a 5K, 10 mile, and 13.1 mile run scheduled for 13 November. For fans who can’t make it to Rocky’s hometown, ROCKY V. DRAGO has also been released in other select cinemas nationwide in partnership with Fathom Events, and is available on demand and digitally everywhere from today. Fans can also participate in a virtual “Rocky Run” called the “Rocky Challenge” through 31 December.

Beyond these events, MGM is collaborating with a number of partners including Foot Locker x Diodora, Olympia Le-Tan, Fanattik, and Funko to bring an extensive line-up of merchandise to fans of all ages.  The programme includes:

Fashion collaborations:

  • Foot Locker x Diodora: for the sneaker obsessed! Inspired by characters in the Rocky franchise, Foot Locker, Inc. and Diadora are launching an exclusive new sneaker collection–and you can only find it at the Foot Locker, Inc., family of brands starting this November.
  • Olympia Le-Tan: a brand new, stylish clutch from the celebrated designer featuring the re-imagined iconic poster art of the Rocky film.
  • Contenders: stylish Rocky hoodies and tees featuring the art of the film.

Video Game:

  • Creed: Big Rumble Boxing: a brand-new console/pc game.  Fight as Adonis Creed, Rocky Balboa, and a complete roster of legends from the Creed and Rocky franchise, including Apollo Creed, Ivan & Viktor Drago, and Clubber Lang.  Live out classic Creed and Rocky training moments in thematic mini games.


  • Funko: to celebrate the 45th anniversary, Funko is releasing Pop figures based on Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed.  The figures depict Rocky and Apollo as they appeared in their heavyweight bout–Apollo in his star-spangled trunks and Rocky sporting his white trunks and swollen eye that inspired the famous line “Cut Me, Mick.”  Pre-orders are available at Entertainment Earth and the figures will release in January.
  • Rocky Limited Editions 24K Gold Plated Bicentennial Superfight Ticket: from Fanattik, fans can score an individually numbered ticket to Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed at the Philadephia Spectrum.

Additional Live Activations:

  • Rocky in Concert: launching with TCG Entertainment in 2022, the Rocky in Concert series will include six musical events for each of six films in the original franchise, beginning with Rocky.  Audiences will be able to hear the iconic music from the films performed live by a full orchestra, while watching the movies on larger-than-life Screens.
  • Bounce app: Fans of the franchise will also be able to download the all-new “Rocky Tour Experience” on the Bounce app, an immersive and unique submersion into the city of Philadelphia offering first-hand experiences at key landmarks from Rocky’s own hometown. Available Nov. 21, Rocky fans can test their trivia knowledge, see behind-the-scenes details and enjoy the City of Brotherly Love through a user-friendly, engaging and fun app companion.

Robert Marick, MGM’s Executive Vice President Global Consumer Products and Experiences, says: “Rocky is a timeless property that continues to appeal to new generations of fans with its inspirational message.  We are excited to celebrate the 45th anniversary with a stellar line up of partners that we are sure will delight devotees of the franchise young and old, and invite new fans to discover the stories of this iconic franchise.”

The Rocky 45th anniversary celebration will continue through 2022 with additional partnerships rolling out through end of year and into next year.

Amazon reaches agreement to acquire MGM Studios in $8.45bn deal

Amazon has reached a deal to acquire MGM Studios for $8.45 billion, the second largest acquisition ever for the online goliath and one that sees Amazon take up MGM’s vast catalogue of some 4,000 films and blockbuster franchises, including James Bond.

The deal represents a major milestone in the tech giant’s push into the entertainment space, significantly strengthening the company’s portfolio of films and content, adding to the library that Amazon has already built through its own movie studio.

It is the latest acquisition to take place amid the ongoing battle for eyeballs among streaming giants like Netflix,  Disney, and the resultant streaming platform to launch following WarnerMedia’s acquisition of Discovery’s earlier this month. Other tech giants such as Apple and Netflix had reportedly eyes an MGM takeover, but passed on the chance.

The $8.45 billion deal marks the second largest acquisition made by Amazon to date, behind its $13.7 billion Whole Foods deal. It now gives Amazon access to MGM’s vast catalog of classic Hollywood films like Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in the Rain, Rocky, Silence of the Lambs, and Pink Panther.

MGM also shares the film rights of the James Bond franchise with Eon Productions – a holding company owned by the Wilson/Broccoli family – which will retain creative control over the spy film series.

The announcement notes that the deal will be completed after “regulatory approvals.”

“MGM has a vast catalog with more than 4,000 films. . . that have collectively won more than 180 Academy Awards and 100 Emmys,” said Mike Hopkins, Amazon’s senior vice president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios. “The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of IP in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team. It’s very exciting and provides so many opportunities for high-quality storytelling.”

“It has been an honor to have been a part of the incredible transformation of Metro Goldwyn Mayer. To get here took immensely talented people with a true belief in one vision. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank the MGM team who have helped us arrive at this historic day,” said Kevin Ulrich, chairman of the board of directors of MGM.

“I am very proud that MGM’s Lion, which has long evoked the Golden Age of Hollywood, will continue its storied history, and the idea born from the creation of United Artists lives on in a way the founders originally intended, driven by the talent and their vision. The opportunity to align MGM’s storied history with Amazon is an inspiring combination.”

Amazon’s decision to acquire MGM comes hot on the heels of another major Hollywood tie-up in which AT&T agreed to spin off its media division WarnerMedia and merge it with Discovery in a $43 billion deal. That deal aims to create a global streaming giant to rival the likes of Amazon, Disney and Netflix.

Fanattik steps into the ring with Rocky as the iconic film franchise celebrates 45 years

The pop culture specialist, Fanattik, has signed a pan-European gift and homewares partnership with MGM for the iconic Rocky franchise in a deal brokered by the studio’s local UK agent, Rocket Licensing.

The new collection, spanning home decor, glassware, barware, gifts, and collectables, will debut later this year in time to mark the 45th anniversary of the original Rocky film starring Sylvester Stallone.

The new deal with the UK gifting company includes image rights, which means products featuring Mr T – who plays Clubber Lang – Dolph Lundgren as Drago, and Sylvester Stallone as Rocky will be heabily featured on product and packaging.

The Rocky and Creed franchise has remained a global phenomenon because it presents moviegoers with universally relatable themes that they can identify with – ambition, passion, determination and giving it your all to be a champion, even when the odds are against you. MGM’s Rocky and Creed films have generated more than $1.3 billion in worldwide box-office sales, three Academy Awards, and 10 nominations.

“Fanattik is licensed by many of the major film and video game studios and Rocky is a big hitter I have had my eye on for some time. Our initial discussions with European gift retailers have leaned towards Rocky product for Father’s Day and Christmas promotions but of course it’s suitable for fans all year round,” said Anthony Marks, M.D. Fanattik.

“Fanattik has seen phenomenal growth over the past three years with even more retailers coming on-board since the beginning of the Covid pandemic. With no new film releases, our focus on iconic, evergreen titles has been proven to be the right strategy. Retailers are looking for licensed product with multi-generational appeal and an existing fan base who are looking for gifts that remind them of happier pre-Covid times.”

Charlie Donaldson, joint MD, Rocket Licensing, added: “We are delighted to have Fanattik on board for the 45th anniversary of this ultimate champion’s franchise. The range of celebratory giftware and collectibles will be a fantastic addition to the broad licensed offering planned for 2021 and will encourage fans to tap into their inner champion.”

The Fanattik range will form part of a year-long celebratory marketing and product campaign to mark this milestone anniversary.

Rising Up: MGM Studios on how 45 years later the Rocky franchise is still packing a punch

The trumpets, the grey tracksuit, the run up the stairs and the timeless story of David vs Goliath, the underdog with the eye of the tiger; there’s very little about the Rocky franchise that isn’t iconic. It’s difficult to believe that it’s been… [checks notes]… 45 years since Sylvester Stallone first stepped into the ring as Rocky, and not so difficult to believe that over the course of four and a half decades, he has emerged as a staple image of popular culture.

The sentimental affinity that the world shares with the message and storyline of Rocky aside for a moment, the statistics alone for the franchise are as impressive as Rocky’s boxing career. This is a franchise that has accrued $1.3Billion at the box office; three academy awards and 10 nominations, two golden globes across six films, and has given rise to two spin offs in the form of the more recent Creed films. 

If ever there was a case of life imitating art, suggests Robert Marick, executive vice president of global consumer products and experiences at MGM, the rights holders and studio behind the franchise, Rocky is surely it.

News of MGM’s partnership with TCG Entertainment to bring live Rocky concerts to the global stage as part of the 45th anniversary celebrations of the Rocky franchise has already fired up the engines of its core audience base across the world; so word that this is just a part of the wider plans to celebrate the global cinematic, pop culture, and even sporting culture icon that is Rocky Balboa is certain to send it into fever pitch.

Here, talks with MGM’s Robert Marick to discuss a cultural icon, learn more about those 45th anniversary plans, and discover what kind of potential a brand that spans not only cinema, but pop culture, sport culture, lifestyle and more, has within the ever evolving licensing space.

People talk about iconic brands a lot in licensing, but Rocky without doubt is a true icon – of cinema, pop culture, and beyond – from the soundtrack, style, iconic film scenes, the script its story, and even the acting. Handling the licensing programme for something embedded in culture must be an exciting prospect?

To be honest, it’s a privilege. While everything you’ve mentioned is accurate, Rocky is so much more. From underdog to champion, there is so much depth to the franchise that appeals to its core audience. Because of the multi-dimensional nature of the franchise, it allows us to re-interpret the licensing program in so many ways.   

How do you begin to look at the licensing strategy for something so well revered the world over?

The Rocky franchise provides a multi-dimensional view and therefore a complimentary licensing strategy. In 2021, we’ve rallied around the theme “Champion”. As we developed the Rocky 45th licensing plan, we provided three opportunities. Train like a champion; Look like a champion; and Feel like a champion.

Each opportunity allows for unique product segmentation of licensed product. If you want to “look like a champion”, apparel and accessories is a natural fit. For those that want to “train like a champion”, gym equipment and interactive games such as VR games, workout systems allow fans to train like Rocky; If fans want to “feel like a champion” and show their fandom, publishing, collectibles and replicas will deliver on that aspiration.

In support of this strategy, we developed a bespoke style guide celebrating the 45th anniversary. Our licensing program is focused to rally the “everyday Rocky” to tap into their inner champion, celebrate champions in his or her community, and give fans new ways to show their love for the Rocky franchise all year long.

 You recently detailed the TCG Entertainment partnership, which seems to have fans really excited for the 45th celebrations. What other plans have you got for the anniversary? What aspects of licensing will the plans span? 

While the full roll out plans are still being finalized, I can tell you that we are planning a year-long celebration which will include new and exciting merchandise, interactive games, licensed advertising and location-based entertainment activations.  One example is the Rocky Run. In its seventh year, the Rocky Run unites fans from all over the world to Philadelphia, with like-minded fans, and for a day, step into Rocky’s footsteps where they are able to train, look and feel like a champion leading all the way up those famous stairs.

How much will the current global situation influence the plans and licensing roll out? How do you think it has shaped innovation within licensing, and will you guys be tapping into any of the trends here?

We don’t want to capitalize on this global situation and proactively push the point. Instead we want to focus on the future and getting through it by having Rocky fans express their own Rocky moment and using Rocky to motivate and inspire them to persevere and go the distance. It needs to be and should be organic. 

Can you talk us through the new partners you’ve got lined up for the brand, what categories will you be spanning? What of the current partnerships will you be expanding upon?

Boxing/Athleisure has been identified as a new Fashion Trend. Boxing remains mainstream, trendy and relevant for men and women and Rocky’s signature grey hoodie has made a major comeback. We are looking for key collaborations that can bring together two powerful brands. As for new categories to explore, we are looking at pet, jewelry accessories and location based and live entertainment.

Rocky and Creed are in a unique position that they cover both pop culture and sporting markets, you’ve mentioned the Rocky themed running events in the works – how far will you be taking the sports and entertainment crossover? What potential does this offer?

A great example of this cross over is the Rocky / Creed Rise to Glory VR game by Survios. It’s become an evergreen title, that – similar to the Rocky Run – gives fans a chance to step in the ring and train and feel like a champion. I am excited to share that the hit, Creed: Rise to Glory VR game will be available on console platforms in time for the 45th anniversary. Other opportunities in this area are vast and we are currently exploring our gym and fitness equipment.

Why do you think Rocky continues to resonate with fans across the globe? 

The Rocky franchise is a global phenomenon! The story has so many themes such as ambition, determination, courage, being the underdog and rising to the top etc., and that all translates across generations, demographics and cultures around the world. Everyday people can relate to Rocky in some shape, way or form. Today, more than ever, Rocky is beacon of hope and inspiration around the world. 

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 45 years since fans saw Rocky hit enter the ring for the first time. Looking back over the years, it’s amazing what Sylvester Stallone accomplished. Just like the Rocky character, the franchise and Sylvester Stallone, beat all the odds at the time as an up-and-coming writer, director and actor. 

The statistics are staggering. $1.3Billion at the box office; three academy awards and 10 nominations; two golden globes across six films and two spin offs with the Creed films. In this case, lifeimitatesart. What a champion!

MGM to bring Rocky and Legally Blonde to live concerts with TCG Entertainment

The film, television, and entertainment production unit, MGM has partnered with TCG Entertainment, a leading producer of touring live productions, to launch a new live Films in Concert Series featuring Rocky and Legally Blonde.

Set for a summer 2021 launch, the partnership will mark the first time that audiences around the world will be able to experience the anthems of Rocky as well as fan-favourite tunes from Legally Blonde, as performed live by a full symphony orchestra and played in sync to the films.

The new partnership with TCG Entertainment is part of MGM’s overall strategy to grow its portfolio of live events and immersive experiences that let fans enjoy and engage with their favourite films and characters beyond the big screen.

The Rocky in Concert series will include six musical events for each of the six films in the original franchise, beginning with Rocky. Audiences will be able to hear the iconic music from the films performed live by a full orchestra, while watching the movies on larger than life screens.

The concert will aim to take the audiences along for the emotional ride of Rocky’s transformation from underdog to champion to his fight in Russia to the finale Rocky Balboa. Each of the events will also feature interactive experiences along with pop-up retails kiosks and exclusive merchandise.

Meanwhile, Legally Blonde in Concert will get fans amped up and inspired as they relive the adventures of Elle Woods while listening to orchestrations of their favorite songs from the soundtrack. Fans will also be able to enjoy pop-up retail kiosks and interactive experiences on site.

Both events are currently scheduled to tour through North America, Europe, and Australia, with additional markets to be added. The concerts are planned to begin in July 2021 and run through the end of June 2024.

Robert Marick, MGM’s executive vice president, global consumer products and experiences, said: “MGM is looking to create additional ways that fans can interact with and enjoy their favorite stories and characters well beyond the end credits of the film.

“The concert events for both Rocky and Legally Blonde are part of our strategy of developing meaningful experiences that fans will love. TCG are true experts in this space and we couldn’t have asked for better partners as we kick off this brand-new initiative.”

Stephen Cook, president of TCG Entertainment, added: “We are excited to be working with MGM on bringing the iconic Rocky film series and Legally Blonde to the concert hall. Both Rocky and Legally Blonde are fantastic films with great music.  These shows will perform in symphony halls, theaters and performing arts centers around the world.”

MGM’s Rocky and Creed spinoff films have generated more than $1.3 billion in worldwide box-office sales, three Academy Awards, and 10 nominations, while the box office smash, Legally Blondecontinues to resonate with new generations of audiences. It was recently announced that Mindy Kaling and Dan Goor have signed on to co-write the script for the film’s third iteration, Legally Blonde 3, which will see Reese Witherspoon reprise her role as Elle Woods.