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Hollywood to the high street: MGM on its expanding global licensing programme

The iconic movie studio, best known for properties like James Bond, Rocky, and Pink Panther has got some pretty big plans for the global licensing space this year and beyond. Licensing.biz sits down with MGM’s executive vice president of global consumer products, Robert Marick to learn more…

How have the past 12 months been for MGM in the licensing space, what growth have you guys seen in this area and what have been the key drivers?

This is a great time to be associated with MGM. Our production output on both the film and TV side is firing on all cylinders and in part it’s why I joined MGM, to help augment its current consumer products business.

On the film side we are in the midst of developing a comprehensive merchandise program around the beloved classic franchise, Addams Family. This CGI re-imagination will appeal to all ages and the programme will launch just in time for the Halloween selling season. It will be anchored around our costumes and apparel and then rounded out with collectable figurines, toys, publishing, mobile gaming apps and much more. We have over 30 licensee signed up.

On the TV side, I am excited about Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? In its previous run, the brand generated over $175M in retail sales. The new show has been re-imagined and will be bigger and better than ever with its new host in John Cena, new network in Nickelodeon, and more focus on kids, interaction, and fun. We expect this show to drive solid merchandise opportunities in games, publishing, educational products and more.

How has this all set you up for the year ahead – how will you continue your current success and momentum in the licensing space?

Our plan is to focus on bigger, quality collaborations, across our key franchises.  MGM is fortunate to have a portfolio of some amazing franchise properties including James Bond, Pink Panther and Rocky. When you overlay those brands with the new properties I mentioned earlier, coupled with some new film releases next year from some of our other franchises such as Legally Blonde 3, we expect to have our hands full. It’s all about focus and giving those core fans the right products, services and experiences that resonate for years to come.

With that portfolio rich in heritage, and spanning the likes of Rocky, James Bond, Pink Panther and contemporaries such as Vikings – how do you strike the right balance in the way you license these?

Each property has its own unique DNA and the consumer appeal and the right type of merchandise organically rises to the top. For instance, with Vikings, we have a very strong international following and that audience is very interested in various types of apparel and accessories from upscale, mid-tier and mass products.

Something like James Bond has been around for over 55 years and ranked one of the top franchise brands of all time. It’s corresponding audience is massive and one that cuts across multiple generations. At NATPE in January, Parrot Analytics, named Vikings one of the top two “The Most In-Demand Series Overall” in the world and we are hopeful that it will see the same long-term success that Bond has enjoyed.

Can you talk us through the latest developments from you guys in terms of retail partnerships, co-branded fashion launches and location-based experiences?

Pink Panther is another brand that been around for over 50 years and it also has a huge fan base. Retail partnerships and co-branded collaborations are core to our merchandise strategy. From a retail perspective we have built a strong relationship with Zara, H&M and most recently with Miniso.

Miniso, launched its Pink Panther programme across its 1,800 branded stores in 2018 and has since extended its Pink Panther line globally. In fact, Miniso won best licensee of the year for Pink Panther – Licensing Expo China.

As for collaborations, they are too numerous to mention them all. The ones I am most proud of include Iceberg, Mimi Wade, and Huff.

Location Based experiences is a newer business for MGM and one that I will be focused on in the future. There are several projects in development. We live in an experience economy and the consumer wants to “live” their favourite brands in new and unique ways. It’s a natural evolution and brand extension.

We want to create consumer product experiences that allow our guest to “watch it”, “buy it” and now “live it” My job will be to expand MGM licensing business across all those touch points.  to do that, we are investing in research, watching trends and listening to what our core fans want.

How have you seen the licensing space evolve over the last number of years, and how do you work to maintain MGM‘s place as a leader in the changing space?

Consumer watching habits are changing, so we need to find innovative ways for them the immerse themselves in the brands they love. LBE is a natural. This is an organic opportunity for our guest to relive the moment; present them with merchandise they love; and remind them of the favourite film or TV show and inspire them to watch it again.

How are you now building the global licensing activity around the IP portfolio?

There are a few core pillars. 1) international expansion, 2) focus on bigger, quality collaborations, 3) expand our interactive games portfolio and 4) build out a location based entertainment portfolio. Our global franchises should be woven into all those strategic pillars.

Can you talk us through the licensing plans for Pink Panther and Vikings – what categories are you looking to take them into?

Pink Panther is a multi-pronged approach. We want to target our core adult consumer and build on our apparel programme; expand into infant and toddler categories and look to expand into home, publishing and other secondary categories.

We also want to focus on building the brand in Asia and Latin America. Vikings is more focused on international expansion across apparel, gift and novelty and other categories.

How are they resonating with audiences and how is this informing where you take the properties next?

Both properties share a similar focus on international expansion. While Pink Panther targets slightly older adult males and females, Vikings has a slightly younger adult and teen audience. Pink Panther has a huge opportunity with kids and teens and we are currently looking at opportunities to target them in unique and compelling ways.

As for Vikings, the storyline is going in a very interesting direction this season and it is our job to give the fans what they want.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of Licensing.biz and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent some six years with both ToyNews and Licensing.biz, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@bizmedia.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobHutchins3 if ranting is your thing...

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