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“Licensing Expo is our Super Bowl”

Sean Gorman, president of American Greetings Entertainment talks Care Bears and why Vegas is so important.

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

It’s been fantastic and we are only getting warmed up having re-launched the new Care Bears to the world just last year.

From a content point of view, in only the last 7 months we have launched two seasons of the brand-new Netflix Original TV series, Care Bears and Cousins in 23 languages and in more than 190 countries. That, along with our other Care Bears series and movies in distribution on other TV platforms brings Care Bears to more than 500 million households all over the world. This is in addition to the 42 million minutes of content watched on YouTube in the last year or so.

The Care Bears has also enjoyed significant success across multiple product lines with growth in new markets and product categories. Care Bears currently has more than 200 licensees worldwide spanning several different demographics, including preschool, tween, teen and young adult with brand-new, best-in-class partners in all key categories including publishing, apparel, sleepwear, toys and apps.

At the core of Care Bears’ consumer products program is a line of toys from Just Play. The line includes many styles of plush and have greatly exceeded all forecasts. Their 2015 blind bag program has continually sold out in major retailers nationwide, selling up to 17,000 units per week and amassing more than 60 million+ YouTube views of Care Bears blind bag openings. Finally their retailer exclusives, such as last Christmas’s Black Friday giant Cheer Bear had massive sell-thru in the US.

Care Bears has also seen significant growth in the digital market in the last 12 months. Downloads from top partners like Ubisoft, Plumzi, Budge, Ruckus, and Playdate Digital grew to 22 million+ and several more apps that we’ll be announcing soon will be joining the mix for the balance of 2016 and into 2017.

Finally, Care Bears have also seen tremendous social growth with hundreds of thousands of new fans across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest and a coordinated public relations program with more than 2.5 billion impressions over the last two years via stories online, in print and on television, with placement ranging from The Today Show to USA Today to ABC Nightly News and GOOD Magazine.

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What will be your main focuses at Licensing Expo?

For one, in 2017, we are celebrating Care Bears 35th year as a worldwide pop culture phenomenon by embarking on a year-long celebration for the huggable friends. We already have what we feel is an insanely impressive line-up of specialty retail, apparel, and promotional partners signed up and maybe more exciting is that we’re going to introduce a special new Care Bear unlike any seen before.

Next, we’ll be talking about Madballs, our iconic 1980’s gross-out brand. We completely redeveloped and revamped the look and feel, and are taking it back out into the marketplace for young fans today. We’ve already got partners on board across major categories including toys, digital apps and much more. But even bigger is that we’ve got brand-new animated content currently in production to support the program.

Lastly, we’ll be introducing people to our new Netflix Original series Buddy Thunderstruck, a modern day action-comedy. The show has a ton of racing, trucks and humor and it follows the ridiculous adventures of a semi-truck driving dog named Buddy and his ferret mechanic, Darnell.

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

It’s our Super Bowl. We get to share announcements on exciting brand developments, connect with current partners and meet new ones and really get to know the people with whom we are doing business in a personal, face-to-face way since these are our partners in whom we trust and want to succeed beyond their own expectations.

As the trade show has grown in stature globally, it’s also increasingly becoming an effective and efficient way to see many of our international agents and licensee partners.

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How strong is the US licensing industry in general at the moment, do you think? Do you see any trends emerging?

Stronger than I’ve seen in years. Entertainment licensing is back which is fantastic and classic/retro brands appear to have a real lasting advantage with retailers and consumers which is great for brands like Care Bears and Madballs.

I also think that there is a related renaissance of strong content due to emerging platforms like SVOD and AVOD which has really raised the bar. It’s also given new brands like Buddy Thunderstruck a chance at success. The great thing about these new emerging distribution channels is that if you have killer content, you have the ability to really drive business like never before.

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

Our cocktail party (but not because of the drinks!). It’s a chance to share some really exciting developments and new partnerships our entire team has been working very hard to successfully deliver in the last year, and to do it in a fun way with our fantastic partners and friends will be a real pleasure.

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

Keep the momentum going. In the last 12 months we’ve completely relaunched Care Bears with new content, toys, ancillary merchandise, promotional partners, TV placement, apps social media; plus we’d like to start building the excitement for the 35th anniversary. Further tee-up next year’s relaunch of Madballs and share the buzz of Buddy Thunderstruck currently in development.

We changed the name of our division from American Greetings Properties to American Greetings Entertainment. I don’t think that we could have accomplished all this if our small crew weren’t so talented and passionate about these brands.

Essentially, we owe it to ourselves, and our brands to make sure we continue to seek out those best-in-class partners at the show who think outside of the box like we do, and are committed to helping us grow and evolve for our consumerbase now and in the future.

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