Despite FIFA's highest viewership of all time going on as I type and a global audience that simply can't get enough of World Cup play, the one place FIFA is nowhere to be seen this summer is International Licensing Expo, which began Tuesday in Las Vegas.
Well, that's not entirely true. FIFA is still present, just on mobile screens in the hands of exhibitors (especially those representing Brazilian brands). Granted, FIFA has a lot on its plate now, dealing with whispers of controversy, not to mention the World Cup. But FIFA was a no-show in 2013 as well, and its absence again this year is equally as curious, especially with early reports boasting a significant increase in licensing sales in comparison to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The licensing show is still providing a healthy dose of Brazil and soccer, however, just not together. Arsenal Football Club is making its debut as an exhibitor, alongside the Tottenham Hotspurs, which is here for its second year. Unlike American sports leagues, such as the NBA or NFL, each team within the English Premier League -- the world's most popular soccer league -- controls its own licensing program. And both Arsenal and Tottenham have decided that expanding their international licensing is essential for broadening global awareness of their brands, especially as popularity for their teams continues to grow outside of Europe. It's licensing as a way to capitalize on brand awareness, but also to extend that awareness in turn.
Meanwhile, Brazil's licensing presence continues to grow, with nearly 30 brands exhibiting this year across a number of categories. There's Isabella Fioentino, Brazilian supermodel; Boa Forma, a health and fitness magazine; as well as a number of entertainment properties such as Monsteel, Fishtronaught and Lottie Dottie Chicken.
Among the established licensing powers on hand, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg described in a keynote address his company's plans to expand its roster of characters and complement its popular "Shrek" and "Madagascar" businesses. It has acquired several "classic" characters, such as Felix the Cat, Waldo and Casper among many others it intends to dust off (there's a nostalgia theme running through the show in general). It's also letting some of its ancillary characters, namely the penguins of "Madagascar," have their time in the limelight. And it's moving aggressively into content development outside of feature films -- creating DreamWorks TV, which will be an online TV platform where many of its characters will be featured, as well as inking an exclusive deal with Netflix to produce 300 hours of original content. With a growing list of iconic characters and channels to deliver content, DreamWorks promises to kick its global licensing program into high gear, with emphasis on expansion into international markets, namely China.
Universal Pictures is also tapping ancillary characters, giving the popular minions of "Despicable Me" their chance at a feature film, which is slated for release in 2015. And those who grew up with "The Magic School Bus" in the early 1990's may be excited to hear that Scholastic is reviving the brand through a revamped series, "The Magic School Bus 360," in an exclusive 26-episode deal with Netflix. Attendees also learned that "Goosebumps" and the Peanuts gang are making returns, through full-length feature films no less.
Stay tuned for what Day Two at Licensing Expo has in store.