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Licensing International: The Licensing Industry is Livening Things Up

by Elizabeth Foster

It’s been over two years since the world rst came to a standstill in the face of Covid-19. A er all those months stuck at home, consumers are ready to leave the couch behind, kick their sweatpants to the curb, and return to beloved location-based experiences like live shows, retail popups, and theme parks.

While consumers are excited to do something—anything—outside of the house, there is still a signi cant amount of strategy that goes into nding the location-based o ering that’s best for your brand. Smaller extensions like pop-ups provide more exibility, for example, while larger e orts like a live show see consumers spending more time with your property. ere may be endless options as to how IP owners and licensing partners choose to move forward in this post-pandemic resurgence of location-based entertainment, but several trends stand out.

Museums and Galleries Draw in Crowds

Museums are a major focus moving forward, for example. is is thanks in part to timed ticketing, which helps museums control the size of crowds or o er exible pricing models for low-tra c time periods. Fred Rogers Productions is planning more museum stops this year than it made in either 2020 or 2021. Fred Rogers has an ongoing relationship with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and those types of museum partnerships will drive the organization’s ongoing Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Grr-i c Exhibit as it continues to tour throughout this year.

In addition to family-friendly brands like Fred Rogers Productions partnering with the educational institutions to launch branded experiences, museums are also expanding their own licensing e orts. e Metropolitan Museum of Art, for one, extended its partnership with global licensing agency Beanstalk in October 2021 to bring the Met’s collections and educational content to the U.K., Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (Beanstalk was appointed as the museum’s licensing agency for the U.S. and Japan in July 2020.) e Met’s recent licensing partners include Olympia Le Tan (handbags), Ann Gish (bedding and home accessories), Abner Henry (case furniture), Lingo (educational games), Pura (home fragrance), Scalamandré (textiles, wallpaper, and trim), and CASETiFY (phone cases).

e Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), previously inked an agreement with Vans to launch footwear and apparel inspired by artists like Jackson Pollock and Salvador Dalí. Earlier this year, MoMA also partnered with

Nordstrom on a collection of more than 200 home décor products available in 10 U.S. cities.

And the Brooklyn Museum tapped ARTiSTORY as its master licensing agency last fall, charged with inking agreements for its collection of 1.5 million works of art, cra , design, and artifacts. ARTiSTORY also recently added Madrid’s yssen-Bornemisza National Museum, along with its 1,600 paintings, to the company’s client list.

Jim Pressman (middle) with his wife Donna (right) and daughter Kate (le ).

IP Owners Go to the Great Outdoors

Museums aren’t the only institutions bene tting from this year’s location-based entertainment renaissance, however. Zoos and walking trails around the world are partnering with beloved brands to create licensed experiences for fans of all ages. ese e orts are bene tting from operating outdoors, as consumers’ comfort levels vary widely, and many people prefer to return to crowds in an open setting before committing to indoor o erings. is is especially true as new Covid variants continue to emerge, and governments are forced to adjust mandates accordingly. ese outdoor activities also bene t from the fact that masks aren’t a requirement, creating Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. Acamar Films, for example, recently teamed up with ZSL London Zoo to launch activities themed around the preschool series Bing. emed activities included interactive story time sessions, a self-led activity trail featuring a series of clues for kids to solve, and a photo opportunity alongside Bing and his best friends.

Warner Bros. Entertainment Group, meanwhile, partnered with inkwell to bow Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience in Cheshire, U.K. in October. e experience sees fans of all ages make their way through a one-mile woodland trail featuring 20 experiential moments and six interactive experiences. Visitors have the opportunity to see fan-favorite creatures from the books and lms, including centaurs, unicorns, and a hippogri .

Hotels and Resorts Look into the Long Term

Smaller experiences that limit crowd size and outdoor activities with plenty of space are the perfect t for consumers shi ing to a post-pandemic mindset, but big plans are already in place for a future that sees us travelling and gathering at pre-Covid rates. Hotels and resorts around the world are preparing for larger crowds and looking to licensing in an e ort to create unique experiences that will draw consumers in. e all-inclusive Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya opened its doors in August 2021. Nickelodeon’s fan-favorite characters and world-famous slime are incorporated into everything from dining experiences to a water park to the rooms themselves, which include tributes to everything from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to SpongeBob SquarePants. e Barbie Staycation at the Grand Hyatt, Kuala Lumpur launched late last year with 14 fully themed rooms inspired by the beloved doll brand. In addition to heading to the Barbie Café for a ernoon tea or throwing a Barbie-themed birthday party, guests are greeted in the lobby by a Barbie ambassador and escorted to elevators designed to look like the boxes the dolls are packaged in.

“It’s a rst-of-its-kind, fully immersive Barbie hotel experience that appeals to fans of all ages. We are committed to expanding our IPs to o er our consumers various unique and authentic touchpoints to our beloved brands,” said Julie Freeland, senior director of global location-based entertainment for Mattel.

“Post-COVID, we know that experiences will be more important than ever to our fans. And consumers will have more choices than ever in the live space. To create exceptional experiences, they must be authentic and genuinely deliver on brand value and purpose. We are focused on building our LBE footprint globally with many rsts planned to launch in the coming year, including our largest project to date, set to open next year—Mattel Adventure Park in Glendale, Arizona.”

Considering how hard-hit the category was by lockdowns and closures these past two years, it’s thrilling to see the location-based experiences business bounce back with so much innovation and creativity. During the worst of the pandemic, so many companies had to focus simply on surviving. Now, there are opportunities to thrive as IP owners and their partners reconnect with consumers in person and take advantage of the incredible engagement location-based experiences provide while also planning for the future.

With more brands than ever expanding into this area of licensing and extending their storytelling e orts into new and unique formats, it’s hard to imagine anyone complaining about waiting in line any time soon.

Elizabeth Foster is director of content and communications for Licensing International. She leads editorial planning and development for the organization along with media relations and social media strategy. Based in Toronto, she has more than a decade of experience in journalism, starting her career in newspapers before making the move to magazines.