Spielwarenmesse: “The licensing business is far larger than most people realize.”

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Header Interview mit Maura Regan


“The licensing business is far larger than most people realize.”

from Spielwarenmesse eG

Maura Regan aims high to foster the growth and awareness of licensing globally. She is President of Licensing International, the trade association for the brand licensing industry. Prior to joining the association, she led strategic commercial initiatives at Sesame Workshop, where she enjoyed a 17-year tenure. Regan has also held executive roles at MTV Networks, Scholastic Entertainment and The Jim Henson Company. In the interview she provides insights into the association and the licensing industry.

Spielwarenmesse®: Maura, you started as President of LIMA “International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association” in 2018 and within the first year you and your team changed the name to Licensing International. Is it more than just a name change? What other changes do you see for the association?

Portrait photo Maura Regan
Maura Regan, President, Licensing International

Maura Regan: Our new identity as Licensing International is symbolic both of the changes that have occurred in the licensing business over the past three decades. On the one hand there is the rise of experiential and location-based licensing means that we’ve gone well beyond the word “Merchandising”. On the other hand the association will forge the future path on behalf of our members. It also emphasizes the global nature of the business; about 60% of our members are based outside the U.S., nearly half the global business is done in those markets, up from only 30% a few short years ago.

With a long career in licensing prior to joining the association in 2016, what qualities or experiences helped prepare you for your new role?

Awards Ceremony Licensing International Excellence Awards
Awards Ceremony for the Licensing International Excellence Awards

M. R.: What led me to this role was my love and respect for this amazing industry. I have a deep appreciation as well for the hard work and talent driving the industry. The achievements are awarded with the Licensing International Excellence Awards each year. It has been sheer good fortune to have gotten to work with and learn from incredible people over the years.

Licensing is not just about toys. What are the industries with vivid licensing activities? How would you characterize the differences among them?

M. R.: The licensing business is far larger than most people realize, accounting for US$280.3 billion of global retail sales and other revenue, according to Licensing International’s Annual Global Licensing Survey. It’s an extremely diverse business; toys are the second largest product segment (apparel is the largest), but account for only 13% of the total market, or US$34.5 Billion. The next largest merchandise categories are fashion accessories, software/videogames, home décor and food/beverage. Viewed by type of license, entertainment/character is the largest segment (44%), followed by corporate brands (22%), fashion (12%) and sports (10%).

There’s nuance to creating licensing deals each of those categories and property types that can be affected by such factors as the brand’s visibility, marketing support, category margin norms, and seasonality, among many others. Realistically, each licensing deal is unique, and the shape of the deal will also depend in part on both the brand owner and licensee having a clear idea of what they’re looking to accomplish. Is the brand owner interested in sheer revenue, or perhaps more in enhancing the brand’s visibility in support of its core business. From the licensee’s perspective, is the main goal to generate sales, or does a specific license open the door to a new distribution panel? It’s extremely important for the licensor and licensee to make sure their goals align.

Education is a big part of your member offerings with webinars, the Licensing University® and your CLS program. Why is this so important for the industry and what is unique about your programs?

Participants listening to a Licensing University® lecture
Licensing University® Theater at Licensing Expo

M. R.: Our educational goals are varied, but overall are geared toward keeping the licensing community informed about trends, and helping both seasoned professionals and newcomers to the business increase their knowledge of best practices and fundamentals of this constantly changing business. Licensing University® – the educational program that takes place in conjunction with Licensing Expo in Las Vegas each May – incorporates panel discussions, case study presentations and small group interaction on a wide variety of licensing, legal and marketing topics. CLS (Coursework in Licensing Studies) aims at career development. It’s a multiple-month webinar and project-based course of study designed to give those early in their licensing careers a broad grounding in a wide variety of facets of the business.

What is the evolution of toy licensing when you look over the past and future decades?

M. R.: Licensing within the toy industry reflects the many changes that we’ve all seen in the products themselves, as well as the sources of the children’s entertainment. In terms of the products, technology has impacted the business in many ways, from new kinds of “bells and whistles” to creating more developmental interactive experiences to more opportunities to personalization. Toy licensing also is guided by the different ways in which kids consume content. Books, television shows and theatrical films still launch big licensing programs, but that’s been supplemented by videogames, streaming platforms, YouTube, and even kid influencers. 

Do you have any recommendations you would like to share with the toy industry on licensing?

M. R.: Smart licensing can take a fantastic toy product and create an experience for a child that will stay with them their whole life.  Creating a licensed toy line is akin to creating a story at retail that is equally as compelling as a storybook or movie.      

Are there any socially relevant topics within the industry that Licensing International is focusing on?

Logo Licensing International

M. R.: Two major topics that very much are impacting our activities going forward are diversity and inclusion within the business, as well as sustainability of the products that the business produces.

Within the past several months, Licensing International has established a Board-level committee on diversity and inclusion. We’re looking at the issue from a variety of aspects – gender, race, and ethnicity, to be sure, but also from the perspective of broadening the diversity of thought that licensing professionals bring to the table. That can also include looking to people whose business and life experiences may make them less-than-obvious choices for positions that open up, but who can bring fresh ways of looking at challenges and opportunities within this business.

Similarly, we’re looking at ways that companies within the licensing industry can address the environmental impact of their businesses. Increasingly, licensing agreements incorporate language stipulating socially responsible manufacturing methods, and in some cases are addressing aspects such as creating sustainable packaging. It’s an ongoing process as consumers, retailers, and others in the supply chain work toward protecting the planets as they create products to meet consumers’ needs and desires.

Maura Regan, thank you for the licensing insights.

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Spielwarenmesse eG

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