Working with US Government to Grow the Licensing Industry

Posted by Jessica Blue on September 21, 2016

Getting the call from the International Buyer Program (IBP) administrators in Washington DC to tell me that we had been accepted into the IBP Select program was a joyous moment. It marked a three year journey of discovery for me.

The IBP Program is a joint government-industry effort that brings thousands of international buyers to the U.S. for business-to-business matchmaking with American firms exhibiting at major domestic industry trade shows. Every year, the IBP facilitates billions of dollars of new business between U.S. and international companies. The IBP Select program targets up to five markets that the show has identified as their priority markets, and specialists at those Posts recruits buyers to the show.

The International Trade Administration (ITA) has more than 100 export assistance offices domestically and over 70 Embassies or Consulates overseas with trade specialists dedicated to supporting U.S. exports. Through a rigorous application process, ITA’s Trade Promotion Program selects a limited number of trade shows to support with the IBP and IBP-Select programs each year.  If we could get accepted onto the program, they would recruit buyers across multiple licensing sectors from overseas and bring them to the show.

I was made aware of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s export promotion programs, when I moved to the US. The IBP form appeared on my desk with a comment from someone along the lines of – “it’s probably not worth applying as we never get considered”.  So, I decided to apply….and yes, we were rejected. I applied again the second year. Again, we were rejected. So, I started to make some calls to the DOC to try and find out how the program was structured and what they are looking for in an IBP show.

I spoke to lots of different people and I came to realize that our show wasn’t being rejected because it wasn’t ‘a good show’, it was because licensing just wasn’t on many people’s radar. The ITA (one of 12 agencies at the DOC) is structured by industry sector; and licensing is not an industry sector. There is no SIC code for licensing. Yes, it crosses over into many sectors but there isn’t a dedicated person focused on it as there is for toys, automotive, food etc. However, I found that the media and entertainment staff and the franchising people definitely understood what we were doing and had heard of the show. Those that had heard of it commented on what a great show they had heard it was. One or two of them had attended in the past.

Working with these new found contacts at the local LA office and Andrea DaSilva, Global Team Leader, Media & Entertainment Industries, in Washington, DC, we talked about ways to raise awareness of licensing. I hosted a meeting of officials at the UBM office and we talked about licensing and the impact it has on the US economy. We organized some webinars for international staff to educate them about the importance of the licensing industry, and I completely changed my approach to the IBP application, making it much more about licensing than Licensing Expo.

The hard work is just beginning. Andrea and Licensing Expo’s IBP project manager Kent Campbell will be working with our team to promote Licensing Expo to all the overseas posts in the international markets that we have identified.  The overseas posts will be recruiting the attendees from their local markets and we have started to develop marketing materials in several languages and a series of Webinars are planned for October. We are excited to build this new relationship and to bring new opportunities to our exhibitors at Licensing Expo 2017.  Visit the Licensing Expo website for details and watch this space for more info!

Jessica Blue is UBM’s Senior Vice President – Licensing, handling the leadership responsibilities of the global UBM licensing portfolio. In this role, Blue is responsible for steering the strategy and growth of the UBM Licensing brands and teams including Licensing Expo, Brand Licensing Europe (BLE) and License! Global magazine.