Licensing Expo 2022 Wraps, License This! Winners Announced

Last week’s Licensing Expo, organized in partnership with industry trade association Licensing International, drew thousands of attendees from the world’s most reputable retailers and licensees. The number of retailers in attendance rose 42% from the 2019 event, marking record growth for Licensing Expo.

Notable attending companies include TargetHot TopicWalmartFanaticsFive BelowZulilyCentric BrandsPrimark, Burlington Stores, CVS, Forever 21, El Corte Ingles, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Hybrid Apparel, Mad Engine, ASOS, Inditex, Hallmark CardsJakks PacificPacSun, H&M, Crocs, and Bioworld Merchandising, with many bringing large teams to span multiple product categories.

Held live at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas from May 24-26, the event’s in-person return was highly anticipated by the $292 billion global licensing industry, indicated by the nearly 5,500 meetings held on the show floor, with many more expected on the online platform, standing room-only keynote sessions and well-attended educational and networking seminars.

The vibrant show floor hosted more than 250 exhibitors spanning the widest cross selection of categories to date – Characters & Entertainment, Art & Design, Gaming & eSports, Music, Agents, Corporate Brands, Location-Based Entertainment, and more – all benefiting from 10,000+ unique attendees in search of new partners, brands, products, and trends to introduce to consumers.

“We’re still reeling from last week’s remarkable event – everything from the engagement, education, to the dazzling booths surpassed everyone’s expectations,” said Anna Knight, SVP of the Global Licensing Group, organizers of Licensing Expo. “All we heard for three days was the incredible quality of attendees, underscoring the pent-up demand for an in-person event after three years apart. Thank you to everyone who collectively made the event the astounding success that it was.”

Knight continued, “Each year, Licensing Expo serves as a springboard for new trends that will excite consumers that tap into societal behaviors, and this year did not disappoint. From Gary Vaynerchuk and Pam Kaufman addressing the cross selection of entertainment and NFTs on the keynote stage to the many immersive offerings that show the power of location-based experiences, which was our theme for the year, the show was the meeting place to discover how the most recognizable and up-and-coming brands are shaping and bringing new spins to the hottest trends.”

Licensing Expo was held both in-person and online for the first time, opening the digital platform in advance of the live get-together for attendees to discover licensable IPs and schedule meetings for a productive on-site experience. Additionally, the online platform remains open from May 27 to June 3 to facilitate follow-up appointments and enable guests the opportunity to engage with content on-demand at a convenient time.

“It was wonderful to be back in person; the show exceeded all our expectations,” commented Warren Schorr, SVP of Business Development & Global Licensing at Crayola. “While the show is always great for pre-booked meetings with traditional licensing industry partners, first-time attendees in Location-Based Entertainment, interactive, and traditional categories brought a fresh perspective and energy to the show. Decision-makers came looking for opportunities. Based on how our booth and the booths around us were packed, I expect most attendees came away with a robust pipeline for future new business.”

In addition to discovering trend-driven IPs, registered guests had access to three days of expert-led education. Throughout the show, the Licensing U Theater drew thousands of guests for sustainability education, insights on entering the licensing industry, trend predictions, and much more.

Steven Heller, President & Founder of The Brand Liaison, added,“It was so great to be back live and in-person; the energy at Licensing Expo 2022 was beyond incredible. The show was crowded; everyone was excited about new licensing deals, bringing new products to market, and new brands. Can’t wait till 2023.”


The License This! Competition was another well-attended program that drew a strong audience for the live finale, where six finalists competed for the grand prize package in front of an expert judging panel. Kieche Meleson O’Connell, designer of Catoms: Atoms with Attitude, was selected as the winner of the Character & Animation category, and Stef “Sharky” Shultz won the Brand & Design category with Hunnie Bumble and Friends. Each winner walked away with the following:

  • Free-of-charge 100 square foot booth at Licensing Expo 2023 worth $2,500
  • One-year Licensing International membership worth $1,000 for a small business
  • One-year Products of Change membership, worth up to $450 for a small business
  • One-to-one consultation with License This! judges

“Congratulations to our winners,” Knight offered. “It’s new creators and out-of-the-box thinkers like Kieche and Stef that keep our dynamic industry fresh and imaginative. Each of the finalists brought amazing ideas to the table and will be the next IPs to watch over the coming years.”

The judging panel consisted of nine senior executives representing industry-leading brands” License Global magazine, FlowhavenLicensing InternationalGlobal Licensing AdvisorsBoat Rocker StudioPowerStation StudiosRedbubbleLisa Mark Associates, and Product Counsel. Following each on-stage presentation, judges asked questions and shared actionable feedback to help the designers, animators, and creators hone their designs and ideas as they bring products to market. Feedback spanned how to pin down their core audience to working with retailers.

hunnie bumble
hunnie bumble

Character & Animation

  • Catoms: Atoms with Attitude – Kieche Meleson O’Connell
    I took the periodic table and made each element into a cat that represents its unique scientific qualities in the form of coat patterns, superpowers, and personalities. The Catoms universe offers fun stories where the characters take you through the mysterious and often invisible world of chemistry but from the Catom’s point of view. Catoms are essentially edutainment. The characters and stories are engaging but based on scientific fact, so they are indirectly teaching real science.

Brand & Design

  • Hunnie Bumble and Friends – Stef “Sharky” Schultz
    Hunnie Bumble is a whimsical queen bee who lives in a colorful world comfortably far from our own reality – along with her husband “Hubbie Bumble” and all of their friends. Buzzing with adorable antics, absurdly zany humor, and with new friends being introduced all the time, Hunnie Bumble and Friends will always keep it cute, adventurous, and zany on the countless adventures to be had – from cooking and hide-and-go-seek, all the way to skydiving, rock climbing, spelunking… and whatever else they feel like in the next five minutes!
catoms person
Kieche Meleson O’Connell

“I am speechless,” commented O’Connell. “I was not expecting it, to be honest; I am a chemist by trade and have been trying to switch into this creative world. When I first came to Licensing Expo, even though I was super excited, I did feel like a fish out of water, so it’s nice to see that people recognize Catoms: Atoms with Attitude as a good project.”

“I’m so incredibly honored to win – it was a pleasure and such a great opportunity,” said Schultz. “I’m very thankful and want to use this brand to bring change to the world. There’s a niche that Hunnie Bunnie and Friends supports, bringing awareness to how we recycle and that there is such a division in care. I want everyone to have access to good things; I want people to have opportunities to have access to and afford sustainable things and drive up the demand for sustainable recycled materials. Hunnie Bunnie and Friends is this catalyst!”

hun bum person
Sharky Schultz

Other finalists in the License This! competition that presented on-stage at Licensing Expo include:

Character & Animation

  • I want to be a baller-ina – Finalist Cherie Mays
  • Sunny The Apathetic Bunny – Finalist Claire Schechinger

Brand & Design

  • Game Toy – Finalist Alexandre Silva
  • Monsters & Martians – Finalist Ken Reil

Register here to engage with the event’s online platform, and save the date for next year’s Licensing Expo, returning from May 23-25, 2023, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.




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