Guest Post by Erin Weinger
It isn’t standard fare for a tradeshow to host animals on their exhibition floor. Apparently the Licensing International Expo 2011 was anything but standard.
SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, the Orlando, FL-based company that hosts roughly 23 million visitors throughout 10 U.S. parks each year, turned their booth into a venerable wildlife menagerie, with penguins, and exotic birds among the creatures on display.
Both LX11 exhibitors and attendees packed the company’s booth, and were treated to an up close and personal taste of SeaWorld’s brand at work; the company currently cares for nearly 60,000 animals, 18,000 of which are on the endangered species list.
And that offers licensees quite an extensive library of four-legged, winged and finned talent to choose from when creating their SeaWorld-stamped merchandise mixes.
On the eve of their second showing at Licensing International Expo, we spoke with John Walker, SeaWorld’s Senior Digital Marketing Manager, to find out how the company’s extensive, three year-old licensing program works — animals and all.
LX11 Blog: SeaWorld seems to have an extremely diverse set of goals when it comes to the types of products and opportunities being sought from a licensing standpoint. Can you break down the future of your program?
JW: Our goal is to continue to grow our global consumer products licensing program with corporate partners who share our core values of conservation and education and embrace the way we communicate those values through every product we take to market. SeaWorld works with the world’s leading designers, publishers, manufactures, and entertainment providers in order to produce products that are inspired by nature and represent our commitment to conservation. In the past six months we signed a publishing deal with Andrews McMeel Universal for books and calendars; Sleepy Giant: video games; UNCAS: jewelry; Creative Imaginations: Scrapbooking & Stickers; In Motion Entertainment: DVD’s & Music; and Fathead: Wall decals.
LX11: Growing up, we recall one of our favorite bath toys came courtesy of SeaWorld (true story). What are some specific products in your licensing portfolio that modern-day children seem to be gravitating toward?
JW: While they are all equally important, we are looking to focus establishing new product line focus areas such as apparel, educational products, publishing, gaming, and toys. We are also developing an entire new entity to focus on licensing our 50-year old library of video and imagery content.
LX11: Your booth at Licensing International Expo 2011 was pretty awesome to say the least, and the penguins and birds you had on display seemed to be an incredibly successful draw. Is this the first time you’ve brought animals to the show?
JW: This is our second time bringing our animals and our animal education ambassadors to the Licensing International Expo. However, this year we brought a much larger guest interaction element to our booth with live demonstrations featuring Julie Scardina, who appears for our company on major network talk shows with our animals.
LX11: How do you think having such an interactive booth strategy benefited the success of your show?
JW: Our mission is to celebrate, connect, and care for the natural world we share, through the power of entertainment. So to remain true to our core, bringing our animals – arguably our most valued part of our SeaWorld brand – to the Licensing International Expo is a huge benefit. It’s one thing to just showcase them. For us, we then bring our animal education ambassadors and trainers alongside to share more information to bring our mission statement to life.
LX11: Are you planning on bringing the animals back next year?
JW: Yes, we are planning on bringing our animal ambassadors back to the show next year, in a bigger, more impactful way. So you’ll have to come by next year to see what’s new!