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John Wayne has been dead since 1979 and Led Zeppelin disbanded in 1980, yet both hope to find new life in Las Vegas beginning June 14.
That’s when the actor and the legendary band will be packaged and promoted with new product offerings, fresh merchandise and line extensions as part of the 31st Licensing International Expo, presented by Advanstar and the trade group LIMA.
They will be among more than 6,000 brands — from Barbie dolls to Paris Hilton to My Fair Wedding host David Tutera — that 400 exhibitors (including 150 first-timers) hope will appeal to retail and manufacturing executives from more than 90 countries who are part of the $187 billon global licensing industry.
John Wayne Enterprises, now run by the star’s 49-year-old son Ethan, will be there pitching a strategic campaign to extend the Duke’s brand worldwide with a range of products that include collectibles, books, gifts, novelties, food products and an upcoming auction of his personal and professional possessions.
“We had done things like guns, knives and saddles over the years,” says Ethan Wayne, “but now we are taking a new look at the John Wayne brand.”
Wayne loved beef jerky, so now there is a line of the stuff. There also are new deals with American Classics for T-shirts; with Powerhouse Books for a book of photos; and with Aria Multimedia Entertainment for a collector’s book costing about $300 a copy.
There is a line of John Wayne foods like franks & beans and trail chili coming that is a co-branded with Paramount, and a fashion line of clothing with Wayne-inspired images and famous quotes will show up this year at Fred Segal, Urban Outfitters, Neiman Marcus and other stores.
There also is a deal with Heritage Auctions for a sale of items like Wayne’s scripts, passport and 1929 prop man master card, which will be previewed during a road show in New York and Dallas before the Oct. 3 sale in Century City. A portion goes to the John Wayne Cancer Fund.
Plans to go global with Led Zeppelin include apparel (shirts, designer jeans, accessories), headphones, electronic products and a range of virtual world merchandise, according to Dell Furano, CEO of Live Nation Merchandise.
Furano, whose list of licensed bands includes the Beatles, Madonna and AC/DC, will also be pushing a major extension of the KISS brand that already includes condoms and caskets. “The band likes to say they get them coming and going,” Furano quipped.
Furano also will use the show to announce a new deal for KISS with Grab Games, which creates games for social media (similar to Farmville) in virtual worlds on interactive platforms. The deal was negotiated by WME.
Beanstalk, a global brand licensing agency, will be promoting clients including Tutera, who just signed a multiyear extension to continue doing My Fair Wedding for WeTV: and Hilton, whose reality show The World According to Paris premieres Wednesday night on Oxygen.
Tutera is expanding his Wedding-themed merchandise lines. He recently made a deal with Sears, which carries his line of jewelry and engagement rings. He does webisodes for Sears to explain how to pick just the right ring.
Daniel Levin, managing director of West Coast operations for Beanstalk, says Hilton has a “huge” deal with a Hong Kong manufacturer for a line of eyewear hitting in the fourth quarter across Asia and Australia.
Hilton will be seen working on developing her licensing business in an episode on Oxygen. “It shows her as a businesswoman and dispels the notion that Paris is just famous for being famous,” said Todd Kaufman, manager of brand management for Beanstalk.
Rosa Zeegers, Mattel’s senior vp global consumer products, said her company considers Licensing Expo the most important event of the year and will use it to share Mattel’s vision about the changing way kids spend leisure time.
“We want to create the future of play,” Zeegers said. “Playing with toys is now just one option. Licensing is now part of our core business.”
Mattel will be talking about the 50th anniversary of the Ken doll (Barbie celebrated her 50th last year). Barbie and Ken will continue to get makeovers from designers like Diane von Furstenberg and Karl Lagerfeld, and the new dolls will be showcased on runways in Sao Paulo, Frankfurt and elsewhere.
Mattel also will push extensions of the Hot Wheels line and a hot new product line of dolls, toys and accessories based on the Monster High books that Mattel commissioned.
Skechers will be pushing its line of 3,000 kinds of shoes, according to senior vp Paul Flett, and will have a second booth for entertainment products like Zevo-3, an animated Nicktoons series based on characters that first appeared in Skechers commercials, and Twinkle Toes, a movie that will get a DVD release in September.
Flett says they start by giving comic books to kids who buy shoes, and when the characters catch on, a show is developed. Skechers will announce brand extensions into watches, apparel and more.
“We use licensing as a tool to build brand equity,” Flett said. “We have gone from shoe biz to showbiz.”
Flett credits the cartoons for boosting sales of children’s shoes 36% in 2010.
Saban Brands, formed two years ago, will announce global expansion plans for the Power Rangers, the series reacquired from Disney about a year ago that airs on Nickelodeon.
Saban sends licensed characters to parades and events all over the world and has developed a program to empower children using the characters to provide pointers on physical fitness, diet and more.
“We’re finding that these new access points allow us to connect with fans as we never could before,” Saban Brands exec Elie Dekel said.
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