Licensing Expo 2019: The sporting frontier

Jessica Blue, svp global licensing group, on the importance of sports licensing to the show.

Nothing has the miraculous ability to bring people and communities together quite like sports. No matter the pastime – baseball, football or American football – when fans come together, whether that be in a stadium, bar or cheering together in a living room, all differences are put aside as everyone roots for their favorite team. The love we have for sports impacts our society not only on a cultural level, but economically as well. According to a study by, consumers spend $56 billion on attending sports events annually.

Sports-related exhibitors and product manufacturers continue to increase their presence at Licensing Expo each year. In 2018, more than 14,000 searches were made for sports brands through Licensing Expo’s Matchmaking Service and more than 17,000 searches were made for sporting goods manufacturers. This year, Licensing Expo 2019 is excited to welcome an array of sports-related properties, including MLBPA (booth B182), New Japan Pro-Wrestling (booth O254a), NFLPA (booth B170), NASCAR (booth K84), WWE (booth H214), Dorna Sports (booth F114), and more.

As we all know, brand licensing generates vast revenue for the sports industry. In 2017, sales of sports licensed merchandise grew to more than $26.5 billion worldwide, according to the 2018 LIMA Annual Global Licensing Industry Survey. These licensing agreements serve as a large source of income for sports teams, leagues, athletes and product manufacturers.

For many years, teams and athletes have been leveraging their equity by expanding into the video games market. Games based on competitive sports have proved to be a very successful way for sports teams to extend their brand and reach consumers in new markets. As can be seen with the success of popular video games such as FIFA and Madden, the emersion of sports licensing within the gaming world allows fans to interact with their favourite teams and players in a meaningful, virtual way.

We see esports as the new frontier of sports licensing. Leagues have formed around popular video games franchises – including Call of Duty and Overwatch – and the focus on esports is reflected by exhibitors on the show floor this year including ESL (booth G156), Ubisoft (booth Q214), Activision Blizzard (booth U202) and Nintendo (booth A209). Addressing the meteoric rise within this market, this year’s official Licensing Expo party will take place at the eSports Arena in Las Vegas. The party will feature a video games tournament that will showcase the excitement and production of an eSports match.

This feature originally appeared in the summer 2019 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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