|Tony Lisanti, Editor-in-Chief|
Acquisitions, challenges at retail and global expansion all defined the major headlines for the brand licensing sector in 2013, and it will be much of the same this year. In fact, it's already begun.
Here are 14 trends to watch in 2014:
- Acquisitions–Whether it was WME's acquisition of IMG or Authentic Brands Group's acquisition of Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali, expect more of these deals in 2014. In particular, small to mid-size entertainment properties and struggling apparel brands are most vulnerable. For example, Cherokee acquired skateboarding brand Tony Hawk from Quiksilver in January.
- Boy toy battles–The cover story that begins on page 30 reveals Disney Consumer Products' toy strategy driven by four new boys' content initiatives, which will create even more competition for retail shelf space.
- Niche is nice–While every property can't be a mega deal around the globe, many properties have built a loyal fan base and a collection of fun products, such as The Office, Game of Thrones and Duck Dynasty.
- Super is still super–The superhero phenomenon, which many observers pontificated couldn't last, will continue as strong as ever with releases such as the next installment of Star Wars and the untitled Batman vs. Superman film slated for 2016.
- Box office bonanza–2013 was a record year at the box office, driven primarily by popular entertainment properties from Warner Bros., Disney, Marvel, Universal and Lionsgate. Total gross sales hit $10.9 billion (source: Box Office Mojo), and considering the lineup of films, 2014 is poised to be yet another record-breaking year.
- Appetite for apps–Simply view the list of top paid and free apps for Apple or Android devices and the realization is obvious: games dominate. Look for chart topper "Candy Crush" from King (represented by Striker Entertainment for licensing) to push product in 2014. Then there's EA's recent push behind "Titanfall."
- Kids fragmentation–The kids' entertainment business continues to evolve into a multi-platform, and thus fragmented, business that continues to challenge traditional kids' television and the popularity of a franchise. Look for traditional franchises to expand to other platforms, and for popular apps to explore TV and the big screen.
- Russia is real–With the winter Olympics taking place this month, there's a new level of interest and credibility for the region. Consider Viacom International Media Network's continued success with its brands in Russia (see License! Global's December 2013 issue), as well as other licensors including Rainbow with its Winx Club property.
- Brazil is big–As host of the FIFA World Cup this summer and the Olympics in 2016, along with a growing middle class with an interest in pop culture and a greater willingness to spend, Brazil is poised for continued growth.
- Making music–The rock and roll legends continue to tour, reality shows continue to produce new musical talent and country keeps on rocking, all to the beat of consumer products.
- Just a click away–E-commerce continues to set records in consumer purchasing, which bodes well for brand licensing fans of all types, and for niche properties in particular that don't have the propensity for retail shelf space.
- Celebrity brands–As Gwyneth Paltrow and Tracy Anderson noted during the keynote at Licensing Expo 2013, their foray into health and fitness licensing will kick-off in a big way in 2014–agency ITB360 has been appointed. Other celebrities continue to develop and expand product lines from Adam Levine at Kmart to Jessica Simpson, who has a new baby collection coming in this year.
- Retail risks–While no brand ever wants to make the dreaded list of "Ten Brands That will Disappear in 2014" (24/7 Wall St.) or another similar list, licensing executives need to be aware that JCPenney was No. 1. Add to that the negative chatter among analysts regarding Sears/Kmart, Barnes & Noble and Best Buy, and it's a red flag for brand licensing.
- New tech tips–From 3D printers to drone delivery and branded emojis, new technology has already impacted brand licensing and it will continue as these products become more accessible.