August 10, 2020

Licensing’s Big Wave of Change

As forces continue to shift within the licensing ecosystem, we’ll dissect current key trends and what changes we expect throughout 2020.

The licensing industry is continuously shifting as internal and external forces start to affect how consumers are drawn towards products and brands. Licensing International’s 2019 Global Industry Report addresses past trends that caused these shifts and how they set global retail sales projections for upcoming years. We’ll expand on three key trends that had the most impact on the current licensing landscape and their future trajectory in 2020 and beyond.

eSports Driving Opportunities

From Kevin Durant starring in an ESPN hosted NBA-2K tournament to NASCAR’s nationally televised eSports series, the rise in online gaming has created a significant impact in global retail sales between the gaming and sports universe. Licensing International saw this pre-COVID-19 trend rise as a relatively new and fertile landscape gaining popularity within the licensing space. In 2019, the sudden growth in eSports encouraged brand owners to “adapt to the changes that seem to be coming more rapidly than ever” (pg. 8).

As people consume online information and entertainment at a rapid rate, the rise in eSports in 2020 has become a haven for large brands who had to cease their live operations temporarily. This industry has been able to withstand the pressures of the current pandemic. It has increasingly opened more opportunities for collaborations, as we’ve seen the number of professional sports leagues entering the video game industry at an all-time high.

Brand Awareness Curated By The Influencer

Throughout all social media platforms, the rise of influencer partnerships has been proven successful with an increase in lasting product promotions and brand collaborations in all types of industries. People can find out about new products and brands through this emerging type of “celebrity.”

According to Licensing International, licensees have been experiencing an increase in demand from influencers who want to enter the licensing industry. “It’s been a whirlwind of influencers coming up every day wanting to offer their services and get a slice of licensing pie…” (Licensee Quote, pg. 8). We expect a higher demand for influencer-based promotions in 2020, especially during a time where brick-and-mortar stores cannot offer first-hand product experience to consumers. These strategic alliances built between brands and influencers create a lasting impression that will drive sales and heighten brand awareness in the social space.

Social Media At The Height Of COVID-19

In Licensing International’s Global Annual Report, research has shown that online shopping on mobile phones has surpassed online shopping on computers for the first time ever. The repetitive product promotions consumers see on their feed catered to their personal preferences, and the increase in screen time throughout the day, has developed an inescapable route to sales made on this type of platform.

One comment answering Licensing International’s Survey reads, “Social media has been instrumental in engagement with customers with online forums dominating how you communicate to consumers. Online sales continue to climb as a result of this change” (pg. 8). Brands now have the responsibility to use social media in 2020 to its full potential as it is currently one of the only ways to communicate during the global pandemic actively.

In conclusion, these three trends have been solidifying their impact within the licensing community since the beginning of 2019. Licensing International’s Report not only addresses the importance of growing a brand’s online presence, but also reveals its spike in 2020. This big wave of change is something that will continue to hit the licensing space and force everyone to adapt and search for innovation within future trends. It’s time to find rising opportunities and make the most of what is quietly emerging in licensing, as it may become the next big wave within the community.


Annual Global Licensing Industry Survey 2019 Report. Licensing International, 2019, pp. 17–25, Annual Global Licensing Industry Survey 2019 Report.

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