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Adapting for the New Normal

Adapting for the New Normal

At the start of the pandemic, the licensing industry quickly realised it had to adapt to wildly different circumstances. The industry is noted for its relationships and business taking place face to face. It was evident from the beginning, as the first factories and retail outlets began to close began to close, that the financial losses would be vast, and that this would affect every area of the industry. Chiefly among the concerns were all the upcoming trade shows and events that were set to take place over 2020. Nearly all of the shows were postponed or cancelled altogether with many of them choosing something they had never done before – a completely virtual platform for what in 2019 had been a physical show. While these have been incredibly difficult calls for the event corporations involved, there has been a definite need for the industry to still come together in some capacity – and to lay the groundwork for a financially optimistic 2021.

Licensing Expo 2020 rebranded as Licensing Week Virtual, and saw enthusiasm and participation from an industry that has excelled in adaption.

The event saw over 32,000 unique content views and 2,900 digital meetings took place across the five-day online event. Organized by the Global Licensing Group in partnership with industry trade association Licensing International, took place June 15-19. The virtual conference and exhibition secured 4,477 attendees globally from the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, among more. Furthermore, 2,933 virtual meetings were scheduled throughout the five-day period and on average, attendees spent 23 hours + on the event platform. The virtual event showcased the immense and timely need for developing new and nurturing existing industry connections, as well as future-looking and educational sessions for the licensing industry, which generated $292.8 billion in global sales of license goods and services in 2019, according to the Licensing International 6th Annual Global Licensing Survey.
Most attendees engaged with seven pieces of content. Each day of the event featured content mirroring the experiences and content commonly found at Licensing Expo and Brand Licensing Europe and was organized into the following categories: Brands & Lifestyle, Character & Entertainment, Art & Design, and Emerging Categories.

Several of the Licensing Week Virtual’s 30 sponsors represented the most popular sectors from the 6th Annual Global Licensing Survey from Licensing International which included the entertainment/character (44 percent of total global licensing market) and corporate brands (21 percent). Licensing Week Virtual sponsors in those categories included ViacomCBS, Neopets, Peanuts, and The Smurfs.

It was announced shortly before going to press that, after much deliberation and consultation with customers, attendees and industry partners, Brand Licensing Europe 2020 will transition to an all-virtual event. In its place, the Global Licensing Group at Informa Markets, the organisers behind BLE, are introducing Festival of Licensing, a never-before-seen celebration of the business of brand licensing, in partnership with industry trade association Licensing International.

Running from 6-29 October 2020, Festival of Licensing is a four-week, large-scale virtual gathering bringing together the licensing industry to connect, learn, strike deals and do business on an international stage. It will be the most inclusive global licensing event to-date and builds off of the momentum of the Global Licensing Group’s Licensing Week Virtual event, which exceeded expectations in its inaugural launch in June.

Festival of Licensing will comprise of four regionally tailored events in key licensing territories.

The festival will conclude with Licensing Leadership Summit taking place 28-29 October. Originally scheduled as an in-person, senior-level, global gathering of the industry’s C-Suite and thought-leaders from brands, agents, manufacturing and retail, the new virtual offering will draw on key learnings from the previous three weeks and future-looking topics that will facilitate debate and shape the future of the global licensing industry.

The Children’s Media Conference (CMC) was re-invented as a week-long online conference of children’s and youth content, with webinars spaced at convenient intervals so that lock-down life could still go on.

Online content will remain accessible to registered delegates until 30 September.

The CMC Keynote Panel considered the ongoing implications of the Black Lives Matter campaign on the children’s and youth audience, and on our industry that serves them. Key figures in the campaign joined this important discussion to open CMC 2020: Sonita Alleyne OBE, Master of Jesus College Cambridge; Miranda Wayland, Head of Creative Diversity at the BBC; Prof. Kevin Clark Founding Director of the Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity at George Mason University (US); Adam Campbell, Director of Product at Azoomee/ Da Vinci Media; Larissa Kennedy, NUS President.

Children’s Laureate and celebrated author Cressida Cowell (How To Train Your Dragon) was the creative keynote for virtual conference, which ran with the uniting theme of Still Here Right Now. CMC Editorial Director Greg Childs said: “Our industry, and our world, is going through a period of intense disruption and reckoning – and it is more important than ever to gather together (virtually) to discuss how we respond to and grow from this as a community. We are delighted to be welcoming an opening keynote panel of dynamic speakers who will unpack how the Black Lives Matter movement impacts both our industry and the vitally important young audiences we collectively serve, as well as an incredible mix of activists, educators, creatives, changemakers and researchers who will be speaking across the event. We look forward to galvanising our delegates for the year ahead with the same blend of camaraderie, insight, home truths and inspiration they’ve come to expect from the CMC.”
CMC re-interpreted its 2020 theme from ‘Right Here Right Now’ to ‘STILL Here Right Now’. Now more than ever kids and young people need their media-makers to come together to consider how they are being served, what the future holds, what works and what doesn’t, how to improve the diversity, commitment and engagement of kids’ media content and to have some fun exploring creative and business innovation.

As a reflection on conversations between Hyve, the organiser of Autumn Fair and planned exhibitors and visitors, the decision has been made that Autumn Fair 2020 will not take place this year and will return as an in-person event in 2021.

Autumn Fair is now working closely with partners and clients to deliver a virtual forum open to all exhibitors and visitors this September with exclusive seminar content and practical advice designed to educate and inform participants. More information on the virtual forum will be available on the website in due course.

Fuelling retail whilst bringing people together is at the heart of what we do. Spring Fair will be taking place 7-11 February 2021 as the next buying opportunity, and Autumn Fair 2021 returns 5-8 September 2021. The Toy Association has teamed up with Clamour, producers of the largest annual industry summit for professional online video influencers, for the first-ever Toy Fair Everywhere Influencer Choice List.

Open exclusively to exhibitors of the Association’s Toy Fair Everywhere series of digital market weeks, the Influencer Choice List will recognize the top toys and games from Toy Fair Everywhere as voted on by a select panel of leading family and toy influencers in the Clamour network. The picks will be revealed as the industry gears up for fourth quarter in an announcement tied to the Toy Fair Everywhere market week in September.

“Social media marketing has become a powerful tool in connecting with today’s generation of kids,” said Marian Bossard, executive vice president of global market events at The Toy Association. “Thanks to this partnership with Clamour, we are helping exhibitors get their product in front of top-tier digital content creators from platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, while also recognizing the passion and innovation toymakers bring to our industry.”

“With audiences stuck at home depending on YouTube to entertain the family, the impact of influencers has never been more important,” said Jonathan Katz, co-founder and CEO of Clamour. “That’s why Clamour is so proud to partner with The Toy Association to launch the Influencer Choice List, where influencers voices elevate the products that most resonate with them and their audiences.”

And of course it is not just trade events which have suffered and then adapted – Museums across the globe that announced temporary closures, included the Louvre, the Vatican Museums, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Museums, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Korea’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. However, under the Instagram hashtag #MuseumFromHome, cultural institutions have shared several informative posts about their collections and other artworks in an effort to continue to share knowledge and culture with the public, despite the closings.

About The Author

Rebecca Ash

Rebecca is the Editorial Director at Total Licensing Ltd. She can be reached at

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