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Licensing International UK Rising Star 2021 Nominees: James Barlow

We find out more about Rainbow Productions’ export manager.

James Barlow, export manager, Rainbow Productions

My route into the licensing industry went something like this…

It started one Saturday afternoon in December 2009, when I was asked to manage the appearances of Bart and Homer Simpson on a pedestrianised Oxford Street. It was a real honour to work with such a world-renowned brand, client and characters. It was my first hands on experience of seeing the power of a brand, and how excited Christmas shoppers are to get that Insta moment (although it was probably a Kodak moment back then)!

How long in the industry?

It would be coming up to 6 years now. Where did that last year go?

When I was growing up, I had no idea that ‘licensing’ was an industry, so I wanted to be…

An actor, which is probably why I enjoy working for a company that specialises in character performances!

Biggest inspiration in the licensing industry?

It goes without saying that I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my current md, Simon Foulkes, and the company’s recently retired md, David Scott, for giving me the opportunity to develop professionally and to create a network of international agents to grow the Rainbow brand. They have given me confidence within myself and are a constant source of knowledge and inspiration.

Best thing about your current role?

I am very fortunate to work with some amazing clients across such a wide variety of brands, industries and countries. Whether it’s an emerging children’s brand in Holland, a theme park in Malaysia or a professional football club in Brazil. I love where this current role takes me and will continue to take me in the years to come. Here’s to the future!

What are you most proud of within your licensing career to date?

In the last two years I have brokered deals between licensors and clients to bring licensed costume characters to location-based entertainment venues around the world. I have coordinated the manufacture and shipment of costume characters for Ice Age to Parc Du Futuroscope in France, Peppa Pig for Peppa Pig World of Play in Shanghai and Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom, Angry Birds, Peter Rabbit and Care Bears to Global Village in Dubai.

However my biggest achievement was to provide every football team in Saudi Arabian’s Professional League with a mascot; the significance of this is that it gives Rainbow a huge point of reference as we target a new international emerging market.

Licensed character you can most identify with (and why)?

Although both Simon and David have introduced me at exhibitions as Wurzel (thanks), and having been Deadpool here at Rainbow for costume fittings (same height as Ryan Reynolds FYI), I would have to go with Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s a brand I’ve grown up with, having played the games as a child, but I’m also honest, loyal and enjoy long distance running.

What were your first thoughts when you were revealed as a nominee for the Licensing International UK Rising Star Award?

It was an amazing surprise. It made me think how grateful I am to be supported by such an amazing team who I want to continue to make proud.

Biggest lesson that you’ve learnt this year?

The last year has been incredibly difficult for everyone. Despite feeling like it’s whizzed by with not a lot to show for it, a lot has happened for better and for worse. It has been an enormous learning curve for so many of us, both professionally and personally. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt over the last year is how much stronger we are together and that with each other’s support, loyalty and hard work we can get through the toughest of times.

The adage goes, once you enter the licensing industry, you never really leave… what are your short-term goals for your career in licensing?

I can’t wait to get back out there and connect with new clients and peers around the globe. With travel beginning to open up again and the first exhibitions going ahead, I’m looking forward to continuing to grow the Rainbow brand both internationally and at home. There is already a lot on the horizon, with our first exhibition in Saudi Arabia in two weeks and BLE two months later. Hopefully, the world is beginning to emerge from its brief pause. We have already seen that many clients are keen to re-establish connections between their visitors and consumers. I want to make sure Rainbow and myself continue to be at the forefront of helping them develop their existing brands and source new opportunities.

The Licensing International UK Rising Star award will be presented as part of The Licensing Awards 2021, which is taking place on Tuesday 14 September at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London.

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