Las Vegas Licensing Expo 2018: Steven Ekstract’s interview

Las Vegas Licensing Expo (22th-24th May ) is organized by UBM (Las Vegas Licensing Expo organizer) in cooperation with the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA), the world’s leading trade organization for the global licensing industry.

Licensing Italia, LIMA Representative in Italy, interviewed Steven Ekstract, Brand Director, Global Licensing Group UBM, about the Expo.


L.I. What are the basic elements of the enduring success of Las Vegas Licensing Expo?

S.E. Understanding the trends of brand licensing and commerce, continuously striving to improve the Expo experience, and providing opportunities for networking and business development.

We go back to the drawing board each year to refresh aspects of Licensing Expo to deliver relevant content in this ever-changing industry and ensure its continued success. We have a fabulous team that is not only dedicated to our events and publications, but to the industry as whole. After every show, we ask our clients through our post-show survey what worked, where we can improve, and what they are looking for. We never stay complacent and strive to change and adapt with the trends and innovations within the market.

Licensing Expo 2017 was one of the most successful to date with the debut of Licensing Week, a brand-new initiative where we incorporated all events surrounding Licensing Expo into one streamlined week of licensing industry happenings. We’ve combined our networking events, Licensing University, the Opening Night Party, and studio showcases into a cohesive schedule for 2018 as well. We also regularly add diverse new exhibitors that reflect the changing market trends, which enhances the vitality of our show floor.

L.I. What are the most important features and the main goals of Las Vegas Licensing Expo?

S.E. The Global Licensing Group is committed to fostering business development and growth within our vibrant industry. As the world becomes more digital, meaningful human interaction becomes more valuable. Our goal is to facilitate new business and networking within our industry in the best ways possible. Every year we find new ways to improve the trade show experience and business development opportunities for both of our exhibitors and attendees alike. When our customers achieve success, we achieve success.

The most important feature is our show floor, featuring over 5,000 of the world’s most popular and beloved brands and properties.  As retail sales of brand licensed products increase, we welcome more and more brands on the how floor. This year we’ve seen an increase in sports, video games and fashion.

We’re also doubling down on Licensing Week, adding more networking and educational events while continuing to improve the overall experience. Some notable highlights include:

  • Opening keynote delivered by Nicholas Denissen, vice president, Amazon, will discuss how Amazon is capitalizing on e-commerce to better anticipate customer appetite for unique content and larger selection.
  • Addition of the Global Licensing Group Theater on the floor to host networking events
  • A “Taste of Licensing University” – complimentary Licensing University sessions held within the Global Licensing Group Theater
  • Reformatting the Opening Night Party to address the wishes of our attendees & exhibitors – we’re bringing it back to Mandalay Bay and it will feature a new format that will foster more networking
  • VIBE from InventHelp. A virtual browsing experience that will allow visitors to browse new, innovative products before they hit the market

Additionally, one of our most popular services, Matchmaking Service, will return this year. It is the official one-to-one business networking tool for exhibitors and attendees at Licensing Expo that allows potential partners to schedule meetings before they get to the show. Matchmaking was a huge success in 2017, with more than 3,800 meetings scheduled prior to Licensing Expo, an increase of more than 1,200 meetings from 2016.

L.I. Which are the most important novelties that distinguished the 2018 Las Vegas Licensing Expo?

S.E. One of our biggest changes this year is that we’re adding the Global Licensing Group theater to the show floor to host Licensing Week events. Licensing University, produced by LIMA, will also provide complimentary sessions within the new theater, offering a glimpse into their comprehensive educational program. 

New to Licensing Expo 2018 is VIBE from InventHelp, the Virtual Invention Browsing Experience. This interactive experience connects enterprise brand owners and manufacturers with forward-thinking inventors bringing innovative products to market. Using a state-of-the-art virtual viewing station, it allows companies to privately view ideas from InventHelp clients on large, interactive 3-D touchscreens. InventHelp will also offer their services to attendees who might have inventions themselves. VIBE will be available to exhibitors on Monday, before the show opens, so they can utilize the service. Attendees will have access to VIBE Tuesday through Thursday.

Based on feedback from our attendees, we’ve implemented changes to make the Opening Night Party better than ever before. This year, we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of License Global magazine, so attendees should be ready to party like it’s 1998! The party will feature smaller activations and entertainment, which will pave the way for easier conversations and better connections. We’re also switching up the location and hosting the Opening Night Party at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, immediately following the LIMA Awards.

L.I. Which growing categories are nowadays particularly active in the Licensing industry?

S.E. The growth of our show floor often follows the growth of the licensing industry. We have a diverse new roster of new exhibitors that have signed on for Licensing Expo 2018 including the Country Music Association, Gearbox, Members Only, Penguin Random House, Swissbrand World, Spin Master, Tetris, Tokidoki, Toho (Godzilla), U.S. Marine Corps Trademark Licensing, Van Gogh Museum and Warner Music Artist Services…just to name a few.

In regards to properties, sports licensing continues to grow. Our show floor reflects this trend with the continued formation of the Major Sports Player’s Associations that are tapping into licensed consumer products for the players. Joining the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) at Licensing Expo for the first time this year is the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), Women’s National Team Players Association, and the Women’s National Basketball Player Association. eSports is also a trending category that’s growing stronger and stronger and we foresee continued growth in this category.  

Licensing Expo has also become more international over the past four years and we’ve seen substantial international attendee growth including an 87 percent increase in attendees from South Korea and a 23 percent increase in attendees from Japan. Product categories that have realized growth at the Expo, in line with global trends, include: consumer electronics, home/housewares, pet products, and video games/apps.

L.I. How can licensing help companies to reposition themselves in the current international scenario characterized by a continuous change?

S.E. Licensing is a great opportunity for companies looking to expand within international markets. One of the biggest benefits is that licensing can help companies protect and maintain their brand within international territories by dominating the market with their presence and authentic goods.

Most importantly, there are sales to be made. While the U.S. still remains the largest market for brand-licensed products, Asia is the fastest growing market, according to LIMA’s 2017 Annual Global Licensing Industry Survey. The sheer size of the market coupled with rapid consumer economic growth, makes Asia one of the most important markets for brand licensing. Thus, it’s no surprise the Global Licensing Group at UBM launched Licensing Expo China and Licensing Expo Japan in 2017.

Overall, the licensing industry maintains its trend of increasing sales. Western Europe still remains the second largest licensing market, anchored by Brand Licensing Europe in October. As the world becomes smaller via the digital climate, intellectual properties know no boundaries. Consumers hold affinity for brands, wherever they may be, and they’re willing to show their support and appreciation.

Licensing Expo has always been an international show, with 30% of attendees coming from 67 different countries. International brands are crossing oceans to collaborate and offer exclusives for their fans. This year we’re proud to host international pavilions from China, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea – who are bringing a varied roster of brands and properties to the licensing industry’s biggest stage.

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