Consolidation, change and challenges define the state of the world's largest licensing agents.
The landscape of the Top Global Licensing Agents has changed dramatically over the past year as the big get bigger, established players continue to build their client rosters and others are re-defining global initiatives.
In June, Creative Arts Agency and Global Brands Group came together to form a joint venture that not only now creates the largest licensing agency in the world, but also creates huge potential for the CAA's client roster of sports figures and celebrities. Coupled with GBG's acquisition of The Licensing Company in January 2014, CAA-GBG reports almost $12 billion in retail sales of licensed merchandise worldwide for its clients. CAA-GBG now have a combined base of more than 100 clients comprised of sports and entertainment personalities and brands that will only continue to grow given the popularity of licensed merchandise around the globe and the heightened awareness among IP owners that licensing is a bona fide incremental source of revenue.
The world's second largest licensing agency, WME/IMG, which joined forces more than two years ago, reports $8.7 billion in retail sales of licensed merchandise worldwide.
Clearly, like in most other industry sectors, scale and size matter in this highly competitive global business of licensing and the field is open for additional acquisitions and consolidations–a very real possibility in the future.
Beanstalk, Equity Management and LMCA round out the Top 5, each reporting close to $6 billion in retail sales of licensed merchandise worldwide based on their active client rosters.
CPLG, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014 and has embarked on a major growth and re-branding strategy, continues to expand its U.S. operations as well as its presence around the world. The agency, owned by DHX Media, is No. 7 on the Top Global Licensing Agents list, reporting retails sales of $2.7 billion.
Several other established agencies continue to grow and expand their client rosters.
For example, Seltzer Licensing Group, which reported $700 million in retail sales of licensed merchandise reflecting the growth of its clients which include Unilever and Scott's Miracle-Gro, broke into the Top 20 this year at No. 19.
And while this report represents the Top 20, there are certainly other licensing agencies out there with potential to crack the list soon enough.
Another example is full-service agency Earthbound Brands, which continues to create innovative programs for its clients. (See story "Exploring Earthbound").
London-based The Specialist Brand Agency (self-described as the "industry's best kept secret") has added eight clients to its roster over the past several months including The British Museum, BabyTV, Kingfisher, AA (U.K.'s automobile association), F2 Freestylers, Gumball 3000, Iconic Images and TVR. These brands, together with its long-established relationship with Shell, give TSBA the edge to creep into the Top 20 in the near future.
The composition of the licensing agents sector is similar to that of the world's leading licensors, reflected in License! Global's annual Top Global Licensors report, in which several key companies are generating a significant portion of the retail sales revenue. But while a few agencies may dominate, numerous others continue to expand and innovate.