A Storied Past: License! Global Celebrates 15 Years


Since its launch in February 1998, License! Global has been an indispensable source of news and intelligence for retail and brand licensing executives. Now, 15 years later, the editors take a look back at some of the stories and trends that have shaped brand licensing and the publication that has chronicled it.

In the late 1990s, licensing was just beginning to emerge as a business strategy in its own right, so when the prototype issue of License! Global was presented at the Licensing Expo in 1997, the positive reaction was immediate. As the dimensions of the licensing world expanded, License! Global quickly became its voice.



Since its genesis, License! Global has been closely tied to the Licensing Expo as its official publication; both are part of parent company, Advanstar, along with Brand Licensing Europe.



Here's a look at some of the moments from the last 15 years that have helped transform brand licensing into a sophisticated, bona fide business that drives retail sales worldwide.





From the beginning, License! Global packed a punch, with a debut cover that depicted Madonna and Michael Jordan battling it out for licensing supremacy. While the celebrities have changed over the last decade-and-a-half, the power of celebrity brands has not, with new celebrities entering the scene every year, touting products ranging from dolls to fragrances.


In 2000, Britney Spears dolls from Play Along Toys were "flying off the shelves." Fast forward 12 years and Spears has long since been replaced in toy stores by new brands like the teen band One Direction, which created a frenzy at the 2012 Licensing Expo when they launched their doll line with Hasbro.



While fresh new faces drive celebrity licensing every year, there is a small echelon of stars that manage to build a lasting brand, including License! Global's first cover girl Madonna, who, following the success of her first Material Girl collection, launched a second lifestyle brand last year.




Other successful celebrity brands include Spears' contemporary, Jessica Simpson, who has parlayed her musical fame into a thriving fashion brand that expanded in 2012 to include a maternity line, her 23rd category; former supermodel Kathy Ireland, who celebrated the 20th anniversary of her lifestyle brand by delivering the keynote at the 2012 Licensing Expo and appearing on the cover of License! Global; and despite years of scandal, the merchandising craze that followed the death of Michael Jackson in 2009 proved that his legacy and brand have remained strong.


Another big story in the first year of the magazine was the delayed response toTitanic–not at the box office of course, but on shelves. After the film broke all records, licensees were forced to play catch-up with a licensing program that had largely been an afterthought. That mistake was not to be repeated with future blockbusters such as the Harry Potter series, the teen phenomenon Twilight, and James Cameron's other blockbuster, Avatar, which broke records in both ticket sales and licensing (two months before the film's release, Fox had already introduced 125 products at retail). A sequel is now in the works.