10 Minutes With … King Features Syndicate on Growing Legendary Brands

Ahead of Licensing Expo, Carla Silva, senior vice president, general manager, global head, licensing, King Features, talks about strategic development of iconic brands.

Jane Neal, Content Editor

May 9, 2024

6 Min Read
Carla Silva, King Features Syndicate
Carla SilvaKing Features Syndicate

License Global: You've recently been promoted to senior vice president, general manager and head of global licensing. How has the company evolved since you started?

Carla Silva: King Features has been a pioneer in the licensing industry, and the previous team achieved great results in consumer products. I came on board to reimagine and re-invigorate the brands in our portfolio while looking for hidden income sources, overlooked profit opportunities and underperforming categories the business had been sitting on for years. More importantly, I've been laser-focused on how to mine, monetize, maximize and extend recurring income streams for the brands we own and represent.  

My expertise lies in igniting change through strategic business development for classic brands, and together with my team, we've launched a massive action plan (MAP) for our portfolio – securing several strategic partnerships and targeting new audiences in new territories. At the heart of this tactical approach are the 3 Ps: purpose, people and plan. First, my team aligned on our team values, collaboratively defining our group as one that encourages creativity and productivity while also setting forth expectations around communications and best practices. Next, as the team evolved, we identified skill gaps in our structure and led targeted searches to fill them, enlisting specialists and agencies as needed to ensure our success. Finally, we develop unique licensing programs that are authentic to each property and capture each brand's essence. This is done with the support of a terrific brand marketing team I enlisted shortly after joining. They are the linchpin in our business, from creating consistent brand stories and sales tools for our properties that increase our brands' footprints and help us sell, to developing fresh creative annually that ensures our portfolio's relevancy in the market. Together, we are transforming challenges into opportunities.

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You're celebrating Popeye's 95th anniversary this year. Do you have anything special going on around that?

Popeye is a true American icon, as our celebration this year demonstrates. Popeye furthered his iconic legacy on January 17 with an inaugural National Popeye the Sailor Man Day being officially declared by the official National Day Calendar committee. National #PopeyetheSailorManDay is one of fewer than 20 new holidays added to the 2024 calendar out of over 20,000 proposed additions. 

 Icons also eat their greens. In honor of his lifelong commitment to nutritious eating and his focus on fitness, Good Housekeeping's Nutrition Lab awarded Popeye the Good Housekeeping Nutritionist Approved Emblem in their January/February 2024 issue. The emblem celebrates Popeye's milestone anniversary and recognizes his decades-long commitment to healthy eating and fitness and his efforts in ocean conservation. Popeye is the first "person" to receive this honor. Good Housekeeping also published a list of easy spinach recipes that make Popeye proud. 

 And we've more exciting announcements to come later this year, including some great new products around the globe, an anniversary book, further charitable and sea cleaning alignments, plus a show-stopping event memorializing Popeye's iconic and influential status on American culture this fall.  Also, the announcement of Popeye's new feature film with Chernin Entertainment seems to have been a birthday gift from Popeye to fans. More than 2.2 billion media-generated impressions and positive fan responses reinforced our belief that Popeye is timeless and always in demand. Fans have been waiting for this moment, and we're excited to deliver.

Popeye 95th logo

King Features will celebrate its 110th year in 2025. What plans are in the works to mark that milestone? 

At King Features, we never stop striving for excellence or exploring new opportunities. Our motto is "Legends are Made by the Legendary," we are determined to continue delivering on that promise. As our next anniversary approaches, we seek to be bigger, bolder and braver than ever. To be recognized across the industry as the licensor who transforms legacy brands into legends.

What IPs will you be showcasing at Licensing Expo this year?

We are showcasing our fully owned brands. Popeye is celebrating 95 years, Olive Oyl is soon launching her first HBA collection, The Phantom has video games and a TV series in development, Flash Gordon is celebrating 90, and the launch of a new publishing program with Mad Cave and Mandrake the Magician recently launched gaming and publishing produced. We have represented brands as well. Cuphead  is dropping three new publishing titles later this year, Rebel Girls' first doll collection launched in U.S. via Charisma Brands Adora line and Crazy Frog is taking YouTube by storm. Romero Britto now offers expanded categories for the signature art brand. We are especially excited to be representing the beloved children's brand Moomin, now available at Barnes & Noble, ahead of its 80th birthday in 2025, forging U.S. licensing and retail partnerships that are bringing the magic and wonder of this classic to American audiences for the first time. 

Popeye Facer

Why are events like Licensing Expo so important?

Connection is important. I speak with our international agents regularly, but meeting in person strengthens our bond. The Expo also provides more opportunities to get business done, even if they are chance meetings. You can work for months trying to find time to meet with a partner at your desk, but at Licensing Expo, when everyone is focused, it's so much easier to find that time and have those productive conversations. It's also exciting to see meetings from last year's show transform into product on shelf, such as our deal with Facer for Popeye digital watch faces expected to hit the market in Q2 and the launch of Olive Oyl's first HBA line, makeup as skincare, coming in June from Rude Cosmetics, both which began as conversations during Licensing Expo 2023.

What can we expect from KFS for the remainder of 2024 and into 2025? 

One of my favorite quotes is, "Where focus goes, energy flows." We are currently focusing on the continued development of our fully owned brands across growing categories like publishing, digital/gaming, location-based entertainment, promotions, food and beverage and fashion collaborations. We also want to deliver new opportunities for our represented brands with key drivers, like Moomin, Rebel Girls and Crazy Frog. We will have several exciting announcements for our brands throughout May and June.

I'm excited for the future. Together with my awesome team, we will continue to leverage opportunities within the video gaming industry, which can significantly enhance our brands' visibility and drive engagement with a broad audience. I am incredibly proud of our team's work to open new categories and territories as we work to super-serve fans of our properties across the globe. As we grow our team with some of the industry's leading experts in their categories, I am confident that our legendary brands are truly limitless. This is just the beginning.

King Features Syndicate will be at Licensing Expo at booth E128.

Register for Licensing Expo 2024.

About the Author(s)

Jane Neal

Content Editor, License Global

Jane Neal is a Content Editor for License Global. Working remotely in the great state of Wisconsin, Jane specializes in retail and pop-culture trends.

She has worked extensively in the communication field as a managing editor, advertising copywriter, technical writer and journalist. She detoured for several years into academia where she taught journalism, English and humanities at the college level.

A complete Marvel nerd, she enjoys food, films, fishing, friends and family … and alliteration.

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