Coca-Cola makes encore appearance at Licensing Expo

At its second year back at the annual Licensing Expo, Coca-Cola is looking for a repeat. Last year the company deemed its presence at the trade show successful after a seven-year hiatus, so it returned this week to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center for more.

In the last three years Coca-Cola has doubled its licensing business from both a revenue and profit standpoint, so there’s even more reason to be at the show.

“For licensing in general, we look at it as a brand-building tool,” Kate Dwyer, group director of worldwide licensing for Coca-Cola, said.

Last year, the industry-only conference attracted 14,000 attendees, and this year’s registrations are tracking ahead of that. Produced by Advanstar Global Licensing Group, the expo has 405 exhibitors representing 5,000 brands. Licensors, licensing agents and licensees attend the expo in categories such as animation, apparel, characters, and food and beverage.

Aside from the show floor, Licensing offers educational sessions and keynotes, including one Tuesday morning featuring executives from major national brands discussing the state of the industry.

Henry Stupp, CEO of the Cherokee Group said companies have had to be more directly involved in all aspects of licensing recently to be successful.

Josh Silverman, executive vice president, global licensing, Disney Consumer Products agreed.

“Communication is absolutely critical,” he said. “The consumer has to be at the center of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

In a separate interview, Dwyer said, “Usually by the time the research says it’s cool, it’s no longer cool.”

At Warner Bros. licensing opportunities are discussed almost before a movie starts production, said Brad Globe, president of Warner Bros. Consumer Products.

“I’m excited about the digital landscape, but the challenge is how do you rise above all that clutter?” Globe asked.

Silverman said successful products often are driven by character and storytelling, which is what catches on with the public.

“There’s a story arc to it that sets it apart,” he said.

And with today’s fast-moving, technical life, there’s very little room for error.

Globe said Warner Bros. has worked hard to extend the brand outside of retail into theme parks and other opportunities, such as the Harry Potter theme park, which is a “tremendous revenue generator.”

Slot machines, too, have created additional revenue streams for the company.

Stupp said today’s market can be more challenging because consumers are talking to each other online and thereby affecting sales and trends. If a customer posts rave reviews of herself in a Cherokee dress, for example, then there could be a run on that particular item.

At Coca-Cola, the company looks at its target demographics and focuses in from there. Teenagers are a huge connection point for them, so look for increases in Coca-Cola branded apparel and technology as a result, including items from the just-released Ekocycle line, a partnership with multiple international lines such as Beats by Dre, Levi’s and Adidas.

Holiday, too, represents a huge branding opportunity for Coca-Cola, and the company has partnered with German plush toy company, Steiff, to make stuffed polar bears for the season.

Sugar Shoes is the brand’s largest licensee, and will be releasing Coca-Cola flip flops for the summer. Fashion represents 60 percent of the company’s licensees.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.