Licensing Expo 2024 Recap

Licensing Expo 2024 Recap


This year’s Licensing Expo showcased the latest trends and insights into how brands are leveraging gaming and digital platforms to reach and engage with audiences. With entertainment brands leading the charge, mature brands seeking innovative connections with younger fans, and the rise of anime and the “kidult” market, the landscape of licensing is evolving rapidly. New direct-to-consumer channels and the integration of Web 3.0 with Web 2.0 platforms are also playing significant roles in shaping the future of the industry. Here are some key takeaways from the expo, complete with relevant statistics to highlight the shifts and opportunities within the licensing world.

Gaming’s Dominance in Licensing

At the Licensing Expo, it was clear that gaming is now a major driver of licensing trends. Brands are targeting younger audiences on mobile platforms, Roblox, Fortnite Creative, YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. This engagement often involves either taking over an existing game or creating a new game experience. For instance, Roblox boasts over 230 million monthly active users, providing a vast audience for brands to tap into within their ecosystem.

The Power of Entertainment Brands

Entertainment brands, including games, movies, TV shows, anime, and manga, make up 55% of all licensing activities. This surpasses the combined total of food, fashion, and sports categories. The success of the Barbie film, which grossed over $1 billion worldwide, has inspired brand owners to explore new presentation methods. Upcoming projects include Hot Wheels and Barney the Purple Dinosaur movies, and Disney is allowing user-generated content in Fortnite, illustrating a shift toward more interactive and immersive brand experiences.

Engaging a New Generation

Mature brands and music entertainers are finding new ways to connect with younger audiences through mobile gaming, Roblox, Fortnite, YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. For example, Fortnite, with over 350 million registered users, offers a platform for artists like Travis Scott to host virtual concerts, drawing millions of viewers and creating new fan engagement opportunities.

Anime’s Global Rise

Anime’s global popularity is on the rise, significantly influencing the licensing market. In 2021, the global anime market was valued at approximately $24 billion and is expected to reach $43 billion by 2027. This surge has also led to the creation of western-style anime, such as “Blue Eye Samurai” and the reboot of “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” The increasing demand for anime content highlights its growing impact on global pop culture.

The Kidult Market Segment

The “kidult” market segment, which includes adults who enjoy collecting items traditionally marketed to younger audiences, is becoming more significant. This group represents a substantial spending power. For instance, the global toy market, heavily influenced by kidult spending, was valued at $104 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow to $141 billion by 2028. Their interest in gaming and collectibles is reshaping the licensing market.

Innovative Direct-to-Consumer Channels

Licensors are exploring new direct-to-consumer channels. A notable example is the partnership between Walmart and Roblox to create virtual shops selling real goods. Roblox’s user base, predominantly under 16 years old, presents an opportunity for brands to reach consumers directly in a virtual environment. This strategy aligns with the increasing trend of integrating physical and digital retail experiences.

Growing Fan Bases on New Platforms

New entertainment brands are rapidly building their fan bases on platforms like Twitch, Instagram, and YouTube. For example, Twitch has over 30 million daily active users, making it a crucial platform for fan engagement. Demonstrating strong fan interaction on these platforms is essential for establishing and maintaining a loyal audience, which is vital for successful licensing.

Web 3.0 and Web 2.0 Integration

Web 3.0 companies are working to extend or pivot their brands into the Web 2.0 space. This integration aims to leverage existing digital infrastructure to reach a wider audience. By combining the decentralized aspects of Web 3.0 with the established user base of Web 2.0 platforms, brands can enhance their digital presence and engagement.

This year’s Licensing Expo underscored the dynamic nature of the licensing industry, driven by gaming and digital platforms. As brands explore new ways to engage with younger audiences and leverage emerging technologies, the licensing landscape is evolving, offering new opportunities and challenges for the future.