At last month’s Brand Licensing Europe (BLE), the trade show for the European licensing industry, it was encouraging to see the greater than ever presence of digital entertainment properties. Leading developer studios such as Ubisoft, SEGA and Nintendo, made a significant splash in the form of innovative booth designs, while Rovio Entertainment went to great lengths to promote its blockbuster consumer products programme for the upcoming Angry Birds film. Activision’s acquisition of Candy Crush creator, King, was yet to be revealed at the show; nevertheless the buzz surrounding the developer giant’s booth was difficult to miss, despite its relatively odd location in a remote back corner of the Olympia exhibition hall.
Overall, it is clear to me that new media properties, be they global video game franchises or up-and-coming apps, continue to infiltrate the licensing space; a phenomenon which is indisputably linked to significant changes in consumers’ entertainment preferences and habits. In fact, a recent OFCOM study indicated that while traditional TV viewing is by no means declining, digital media consumption continues to rapidly grow, suggesting that new media entertainment forms, such as video games, are to become even more powerful forces going forward(1). According to research firm Gartner, global video game sales are forecasted to reach $111.1 billion by the end of this year and as blockbuster titles such as Gears of War and Call of Duty increasingly make their ways into mainstream living rooms, they are effectively going toe to toe with Hollywood’s biggest movie franchises(2). While Warner Bros’ Harry Potter movie, ‘Order of the Phoenix’ achieved a staggering $140 million(3) in its first week alone, it still didn’t match revenues of first person shooter game, Halo 3, which reached an astounding $300 million(4) in the same seven-day period. In fact, the latest instalment in the series, Halo 5: Guardians, has already broken records as the fastest selling Xbox title to date, reporting over $400 million in global sales just a week after its October 27 launch(5). Perhaps it comes as no surprise then that digital entertainment plays a bigger than ever role in the licensing space: a reality which was undoubtedly mirrored on this year’s BLE exhibition floor.
I dedicated parts of my last column to the growing popularity of online personalities such as YouTube star PewDiePie, who has managed to turn his incredible success on social media into a prosperous offline brand. And while we are yet to see strategic, comprehensive consumer products programmes launch on the back of YouTube celebrities, their presence at this year’s BLE indicates significant interest from a curious, yet to some extent still bewildered, global licensing force. Fitness vlogger and social media entrepreneur, Cassey Ho, hosted a well-attended key note in the show’s Licensing Academy, discussing how she has managed to build her 2.6 billion subscriber ‘Blogilates’ channel to a successful apparel brand. Similarly, I personally hosted an interactive panel on the growing influence of online based communities, featuring YouTube gamer sensation, Vikkstar 123, who shared with us his thoughts on how online streaming services have led to increased visibility for brands. Despite the fact that some of these social media phenomena have dipped their toes into the sea of physical merchandise, I suspect that their high spot in terms of licensing is yet (and soon) to come. It’ll be interesting to see if any of these personalities decides to take out a stand at next year’s show.
The growing influence of digital entertainment is not a new occurrence, neither in the licensing space nor in the “outside” world. What is interesting, however, is that this form of new media keeps evolving in itself, with the creation and growth of new types of properties and ways to market products. The trends of last month’s BLE definitely show how social media and online streaming services, such as YouTube and Amazon equivalent Twitch, have come to play an increasingly important role both in the birth of new personality based brands and in the marketing of long-established properties. Online gaming channels, such as PewDiePie’s and StampyLongHead’s, indisputably help promote the franchises they feature, which in turn translates into an appetite for physical products. And as mentioned, some YouTube stars and bloggers have managed to build successful offline offers on the back of their online success. As the social media universe continues to expand and evolve, I look forward to seeing the effects on the licensing industry going forward.
Dan Amos is Head of New Media of Tinderbox, the dedicated digital division of leading global brand extension agency, Beanstalk.
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