Maurizio Distefano the evolution of Licensing: interview to Maurizio Distefano

Maurizio Distefano the evolution of Licensing is Italy’s leading licensing agency, a strong and balanced licensing portfolio that includes iconic children’s animation brands – including Masha and The Bear, Bing, ALVINNN!!! and the Chipmunks – life-style brands, Music and Sport

by Giulia Rastelli

Foto Maurizio DistefanoOne of the competitive advantages of Maurizio Distefano Licensing is the innovative and exclusive proposal based on a 360° approach that allows to analyze and respond to the specific business needs of each licensee, also carrying out marketing activities in support of individual projects and brand visibility.

Licensing Italia, representative office of Licensing International, interviewed Maurizio Distefano, CEO of the Agency.

L.I. In less than five years from the birth of your agency you have rapidly grown and become one of the major Licensing Agencies in Italy and in the world. What was your strategy?

Maurizio Distefano: From the very beginning we have identified a gap in the market, that’s why we have added the phrase “The evolution of Licensing” to our logo. The agency works constantly to make implement this claim by pushing towards an evolution that brings new business opportunities. Market dynamics change rapidly and now more than ever people are aware of it. Therefore, in order to live and produce margins for all actors, the world of Licensing must evolve day after day. This continuous evolution is very demanding, it requires constant efforts and investments and above all a very high level of professionalism.

When Licensors offer a budget to a Licensing program, they must have reasonable assurance of the adequate ROI, that’s why the success of the property or the brand is so important. Our agency supports licensees in all stages of creation, development, and launching of the Licensing project, through a Tailor-Made service made for each licensee. This is why we have a highly qualified Team, with diversified and specific expertise, to support all the different people in the companies that acquire a new license.

We are Problem Solving oriented, one of our goals is to mediate correctly between the needs of the Licensors and those of the Licensees for a win-win situation of all parties.

L.I. Which licensing acquisition criteria do you follow?

M.D. Our agency is independent giving us the liberty to make an accurate selection of the animated series and the brands that work in the market and that have the potential of becoming a success without any foreclosure or obligation to sell only what is in the catalog from the parent company.

Therefore, our property selection system is very careful and based on concrete and objective elements. We always try to introduce something new that has never been in the Italian market or that has never been managed by a direct representative in the territory. In addition, it is also essential to see a preview of the investments that Licensors have planned for the next 3-5 years in order to guarantee Licensees the security that once signed the license agreement and launched the products, there is no lack of support for new productions, marketing and retail activities.

Our goal is to offer licensees a selection of licenses in the main areas: Cartoons, Brands, Music and Fashion.

The Cartoons area is the first one from where we started and is in continuous evolution in fact after having successfully launched Masha and Orso, Bing, ALVINNN!!! and the Chipmunks, the new entries are Gigantosaurus and LEO&TIG that are already showing great potential.

L.I. GUINNESS, BAILEYS, ISA/NASA and La Gazzetta dello Sport are some of your most recent acquisitions: can you describe these new international collaborations? What target do they address to, their adaptability etc…

M.D. BAILEYS and GUINNESS are two Diageo brands that give the opportunity to explore strategic brand extensions starting with Brand Food. BAILEYS and GUINNESS offer multiple possibilities to create products that are suitable for the Italian market in product categories such as Food & Beverage, Apparel and Gift & Novelties. Baileys in particular also allows you to create new Food products where the unique taste of Baileys blends perfectly. Finally, also Italian companies have the opportunity to offer to their consumers new products with high added value.

ISA-International Space Archives is the International Space Archive, another recent acquisition designed to create products for all targets (children, adults, men and women). A complete digital library from which to select the most beautiful images, short clips, videos and symbols of the exploration of the universe by different countries: USA, China, EU, Russia, Japan, etc.. Among the different sources there is also NASA that offers the additional possibility to use the NASA logo. Our agency supports licensees in all phases of project creation, image/video selection, product creation, approval and market launch. This property has the strength to be perfectly declinable in all product categories and to be an unmissable novelty. 

LIFE is the brand that identifies the most famous illustrated photojournalism magazine in the world. The beautiful and vast photographic archive with worldwide recognition, is now also available to Italian companies. The use of these timeless and iconic images, gives Italian licensees the opportunity to create products with high perceived value that push to impulse buying, through the LIFE Brand and a sophisticated photographic art. 

For the Sport dedicated area, we have selected for our portfolio La Gazzetta dello Sport which is the most widely read sports newspaper in Italy and is followed worldwide. All sports are represented: soccer, cycling, basketball, volleyball, swimming, etc.. This allows us to create extensive collections that meet the interests of all consumers. Clothing, accessories, Food & Beverage, promotions are only some of the categories in which this Brand offers unmissable licensing opportunities, because the sport world has always had a dominant role among the Italian public.

L.I. How does your agency meet the needs of Licensees and Licensors?

M.D. It’s easy to work with us because we mediate in a smart and easy way the needs of Licensees with the requirements of Licensors. We also have excellent relationships with the main Broadcasters in the territory with whom we collaborate with strong synergies.

Our Team is highly qualified and trained to give a concrete support and added value to both Licensees and Licensors. We believe that the human capital is of great importance and is at the base of a successful business, that’s why we dedicate so much time and resources in order to always have prepared and enthusiastic people. We have two main departments that coexist in our agency. The Sales team deals with the sale of licenses, the direct relationship with our customers and the contractual aspect of our agreements. The marketing and communication department deals with the organization of marketing activities dedicated to our brands, which include both in-store and digital activities, and the communication of our news and previews for the trade press. We’ve always took on people designated to follow our clients in the product development, which is a very important part in the success of collections of consumer products.

All activities are always agreed and in synergy with Licensors strategies.

L.I. What are the strategies behind the continuous the growth of the properties you represent?

M.D. First of all, it is important to have selected the right property to become part of our portfolio, making sure it is on air among the leading Broadcasters with a wide audience. Moreover, before starting to propose it to Italian Licensees, we share with the Licensor a path of growth and development that supports the Licensor’s strategies and investments in the territory. Everything is strategically planned, shared and implemented in very precise stages. Nothing is left to chance or “fortune”.

We always work with long-term projects and this criterion is adopted both in the selection of new properties for our portfolio and in the agreements and relationships with licensees. We strive to ensure that our brands and properties are consistently successful, to develop long-lasting licensing programs that give us the ability to activate new and innovative synergies.

This is the case of Masha and the Bear and Bing in particular, whose licensing program has been carefully designed and planned from the beginning by our agency in a very detailed way and with a high-level strategic approach that now sees both properties at the top of all rankings. The same goes for ALVINNN!!! and the Chipmunks in the top 6 in Italy among the favorite cartoons.

L.I. What do you think is the main strength of MDL compared to other players operating in the licensing market?

M.D. Our strength lies in the combination of an accurate selection of properties and an active support that lasts throughout the whole duration of the licensing contract. In fact, the careful selection of brands and properties for our portfolio is our winning strategy, a system that we can carry out to the exclusive benefit of our licensors because we are an independent agency, not to mention the elevated level of service we constantly offer to our licensors and licensees. The whole team, Michela and I are available at all time for all needs. During the lockdown the whole agency was active and supportive and it was possible to create new activities, close new license agreements, sign mandates, etc..

We create specific strategies for each individual Brand to maximize its strengths and exclusivity. For each licensee we create a tailored project based on positioning, offer, competitive landscape, distribution channel, etc.. The goal is to create an immersive experience for the consumer, supporting the brand also with physical and digital marketing activities.


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