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“Innovative IP will always find a way to retail”

We catch up with Travis Rutherford, president of licensing & retail at Evolution.

Firstly, how has your business been performing in general over the past 12 months?

Evolution has been in a growth phase of our business in the past 12 months. We have increased our team adding a VP of Licensing specialising in soft lines, and on-boarded new clients across multiple themed properties including Level 5 abby’s Yo-Kai Watch, Yoga Dogs and Yoga Cats, Sideshow Toy’s newly created IP Court of the Dead, Gaumont’s Narcos, and most recently a brand new client that we are premiering at the Licensing Expo – Sweety High, a Gen Z targeted lifestyle and media brand.

What have been your highlights?

A lot of licensing activity has come from launching the Yo-Kai Watch property in North America in late 2015/16. We have signed over 50 licensees already and now extending into long range classifications like food and beverage and packaged goods. Most of the product will premiere this Fall. Season 2 of the TV series premieres on Disney DXD on August 1, and we have 3 new video games and several new apps coming as well.

The brand has started to take significant hold across categories and retailers since the show premiered on Netflix this past April.

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What will be your main focuses at Licensing Expo this year?

Introducing the above new IP portfolio to licensees, retailers and promotional partners, seeking new clients and helping Level 5 to manage a global licensing summit for all our partners for Yo-Kai Watch on the Monday of the show.

How important is Licensing Expo is your overall business? What benefits do you get from exhibiting there?

It gives us the ability to see a great volume of potential partners in a very short time period, but these meetings are very top-line and almost like ‘IP speed dating’ – every 30 mins. The real value comes from the detailed follow up after the show to close deals and expand existing partnerships. This year unlike past years, we are also leaving some time available on our schedule on the Thursday to handle any walk in’s, which is where you sometimes find those hidden gem opportunities. We will be exhibiting at booth C204.

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How strong is the US licensing industry in general at the moment, do you think?

As reported in the industry trades, the entertainment licensing industry is up due to some significant major franchises, but this also poses challenges for smaller IPs in gaining retail shelf space.

I still believe that innovative IP driven by story and engaging characters, when positioned correctly, and supported in the marketplace with significant advertising and marketing efforts to drive awareness at the consumer level, will always find its way to the retail shelf and, ultimately, into consumers hands.

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Do you see any trends emerging?

Major franchises still seem to be significant this year, but I am seeing a lot more appetite for IP that is coming through non-traditional media channels like OTT or online sites. The traditional TV model is being pressured as kids move away from consuming content on the old linear platforms. We are excited about our IP portfolio, as it is not dependent on traditional TV broadcast support alone.

What’s the one thing that you are looking forward to most about Licensing Expo this year?

Premiering the new IP portfolio to the market, having very productive meetings and seeing some old friends from years past.

What would you most like to achieve at the show this year?

Driving new deal flow to maximise the ROI for ourselves and our clients.

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