10 Minutes With … Pan Am on Honoring the Pan Am Legacy Through Licensing

Ahead of Licensing Expo, Brice Cooper, creative director and vice president, brand strategy and business development, Pan Am, speaks with License Global about how the Pan Am brand continues to exist long after the Pan Am airline ceased to exist.

Ian Hart, Senior Digital Editor U.K. & EMEA

May 13, 2024

9 Min Read
Brice Cooper, Pan Am
Brice CooperPan Am

License Global: How would you describe the Pan Am licensing program and what are some of the key collaborations that have defined the Pan Am approach to licensing over the years?

Brice Cooper: Overall, I think we pride ourselves on leveraging the goodwill and heritage of the world’s most trusted name in travel since 1927 in the air, on the ground and beyond. It’s future-facing, heritage brand licensing.

At Pan Am, we look for collaborations and licensing opportunities that look back to our past as an airline during the golden age of aviation to guide us into future endeavors. Using an internal system to evaluate new opportunities, they must fall within our identified pillars of “Quality, Style, Service and Innovation.”

Some prime examples for these collaborations are our past deals and collaborations with companies such as Breitling, Marc Jacobs, Mattel, Mizuno and Paul Frank, as well as a robust streetwear collection of apparel and accessories in South Korea consisting of nearly 20 mono-branded store concepts. We have grown tremendously from one of our first (and still active) licensees, Malibu Shirts, 15 years ago, with just T-shirts to a healthy roster of licensees covering almost every market segment imaginable.

Believe it or not, one of the most successful offerings we have to date can be found in an analog strategy-themed Pan Am board game by Funko. The game was an instant hit in retail when it launched in 2020 and has since been translated into multiple languages where it continues to be successful in each of these new markets. It proves that as we blaze digital paths day in and day out, looking to the next best thing in tech, sometimes that tactile old-school quality is what is missing. We look to both genres to make sure we are not stuck in the past but honor it going forward.

Related:10 Minutes With … Licensing Expo on What’s New in 2024 and How to Make the Most of the Show

Pan Am Board Game, Funko

It’s been over 30 years since the Pan Am airline ceased to exist. What challenges and opportunities does that present when creating licensed collaborations today and how mindful do you need to be in terms of maintaining the heritage of the brand?

Honoring the past is a huge part of what we do. The legacy of Pan Am was created by adventurous, trail-blazing and professional men and women who defined service, style and innovation for the world. We are heavily involved in supporting alumni associations such as the Pan Am Museum Foundation, the Pan Am Historical Foundation, The Clipper Pioneers and World Wings International, consisting of thousands of members that once worked for the brand during our aviation days. There is a strong community for those who served under the Pan Am brand, and they are proud of it. You don’t see this with other brands like you do with Pan Am. We keep the men and women who came before us top-of-mind when we look at new licensing opportunities.

Related:10 Minutes With … Laura Freedman-Dagg on What Retailers Can Expect at Licensing Expo 2024

Most licensors in the licensing business generally have a “primary driver” attached to their corporate brand. Take John Deere for instance; they make tractors. Of course, they make many other things, but tractors drive their revenue for the most part. They use licensing as a brand extension.

We are solely a licensing company and no longer have our primary offering as an air carrier driving our revenue. In the beginning of our licensing program a decade ago, my colleague, Stacy Beck, senior vice president, licensing, and I would have meeting after meeting with old-school industry manufacturers saying things like, “Aren’t you that dead airline?” As flattering as that was, we were also rewarded with quite a few licensees and contemporaries in the industry that believed in us and saw the potential in offering the values of what the Pan Am brand stood for in the golden age of aviation.

Luckily, there were some great drivers over the years such as “Catch Me if You Can” with Leonardo DiCaprio and our own television show entitled “Pan Am,” with Margot Robbie, long before she became Barbie.

The challenges of being associated with a former airline are, at times, also our greatest gifts. We do not have to be defined by what we were. We can now pave the path to we want to be, with every new market offering. We still, at our core, are a transportation company, but we transport travelers and consumers in different ways. Sometimes it’s going back in time for a night, reliving the glory days of aviation, at The Pan Am Experience in Los Angeles. Sometimes it is about allowing the consumer to travel in style on their daily journey, with comfortable and stylish apparel and accessories. The point is that we didn’t lose your luggage yesterday. You didn’t miss your family vacation because we had a delay in the air. We are not an airline brand. We are the brand that a licensee looks to when they want to harness the power of aviation and the golden age of travel for instant credibility across the globe.

ecom Vintage Tee with Pan Am logo

From your perspective, why does the Pan Am brand and its associated licensed products resonate with consumers at retail?

Not only does Pan Am scream nostalgia with its clean and universally recognized logo, but in the minds of many it speaks to a simpler time where a brand could be trusted to offer congruent products in the market. Having trusted brand partners is still important to consumers.

We really try to make sure that at every price point in the market, we are presenting great value to the consumer. Whether it be a Timex wristwatch for a couple hundred dollars, a Zodiac for a couple thousand dollars, or a bespoke luxury jeweled timepiece for an obscene amount of money, we still make sure each offering is providing something unique and reliable for the consumer to feel good about their purchase and brand association.

Timex Brown Mens Chronograph Watch Pan Am Chrono

What is trending in the luxury lifestyle brand category at the moment?

Luxury is a funny beast. It changes year after year. One year it’s a Ferrari; the next year it’s Hermes or some streetwear brand that will be here for a season offering a thousand-dollar hoodie. I think what all these offerings have in common is the perception that there was effort made to create a unique product offering that is worthy of commanding a higher price point versus the common offering in the market.

In this case, I think attainable and affordable luxury is hot and can be defined by unique offerings designed and manufactured to high standards in their category, while still presenting value. For us travel is still a primary focus, and we like to define Pan Am as being exclusive without excluding. We want people to experience our brand at a price point that allows them to take pride in becoming part of the brand’s legacy. As for trends on the horizon, I think branded real-estate offerings such as luxury condos, themed boutique hotel offerings and a concierge’s approach to things such as travel bookings are on the rise. We aim to be a part of the conversation.

What will be your core focus at Licensing Expo in May this year, what can visitors expect to see on your booth and who are you looking to meet at the show?

At Licensing Expo this year, we are focused on new innovative partnerships with non-traditional licensing opportunities such as hotel and hospitality, travel tour operators, food and beverage, digital gaming, lottery, immersive experiences as well as some traditional categories such as vintage-inspired collectible toys and commemorative coins. We are also looking to create a roster of licensees eager to take advantage of our upcoming 100th year anniversary.

Pan Am Sweatshirt

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

Currently, with our new ownership group’s enthusiastic approach to driving revenue in new corners of the market, there is a growing list of long-leading opportunities that are on the horizon. We are developing some very exciting brick-and-mortar offerings in the travel lounge space, as well as working diligently on re-opening The Pan Am Experience in Los Angeles to allow consumers to experience what 20,000 square feet of time-travel looks like via a fully immersive trip back to 1970 aboard a Pan Am B747, without ever leaving the ground. It is a truly amazing experience.

In addition to these in-house ventures, we are supporting our existing licensees and agents by developing new artistic assets and looking at possible territory expansion for some others as well.

Pan Am Lounge

As we go forward with some more traditional licensing opportunities such as apparel and accessories, we are paving the way with our own e-commerce site at Panam.com to develop a full lineup of Pan Am branded offerings for travelers in the U.S. market.

All of this is laying the groundwork for a big celebration of our 100th anniversary, centered in Miami in 2027. There are already conversations with city officials and local business in preparation for the thousands of attendees expected to join these events. We want to make sure our licensees have ample time to develop commemorative offerings for this momentous occasion.

There is one final thing, which I would love to get on record here. The licensing community has been incredible. We would not be here today without the guidance and help we continue to receive from some very seasoned colleagues and friends in this industry. The list is long, but our agents, friends, colleagues and even service providers are what make this industry so damned wonderful to be a part of. This is a nod to them for helping us continue the legacy our beloved brand, since 1927.

Find Pan Am at booth B142-1 at Licensing Expo, which takes place May 21-23 at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Register for Licensing Expo 2024.

About the Author(s)

Ian Hart

Senior Digital Editor U.K. & EMEA, License Global

Ian joined the License Global editorial team in May 2022 as digital editor for the U.K. and EMEA, becoming Senior Digital Editor in April 2023.

Ian is a huge fan of sports and entertainment brands and, as a father, toys and kids' brands are a large part of his life!

He has been at Informa (formerly UBM) since 2018, where he was previously the editor of SHP, a B2B digital publication aimed at health & safety professionals.

Ian studied journalism at university before spending seven years in online fantasy gaming. Prior to moving to Informa, Ian worked in B2B trade print media, in the automotive sector, working on various publications aimed at independent automotive technicians and parts distributors.

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