Last Word: IMG Has Big Plans

Bruno Maglione, president, licensing IMG, and executive vice president, WME/IMG, shares what IMG has been up to and what's on the lineup for 2017.

Bruno Maglione, president, licensing, IMG, and executive vice president, WME/IMG

WME/IMG, which reported $8.5 billion in retail sales of licensed merchandise in 2015, is always creating new opportunities for its clients. Bruno Maglione, president, licensing, IMG, and executive vice president, WME/IMG, shares what IMG has been up to and what's on the lineup for 2017.

What has IMG been working on over the past several months?

I think one thing that's interesting and impressive about our organization is that we do every type of licensing possible and imaginable across such a large diversity of brands and talent. For example, we just launched Chris Craft-branded bicycles.

We've been managing the resurgence of the Tacchini brand and have really brought it back in a big way, including in places like Italy, France and Germany.

We opened the first Harper's Bazaar Café in Dubai two months ago, and we have three more on-stream in the months ahead.

We introduced the first "The Simpsons" stores and branded concessions in China.

And we also revealed the first Cosmo special edition car at the Cosmo Fan Fest, which I thought was interesting since the car was literally unveiled on a fashion catwalk surrounded by models. I think Hearst was very pleased with it all.

We've also recently partnered with a Slovenian company that makes refrigerators. These refrigerators are inspired by Volkswagen's iconic vehicle designs, particularly the 1950 camper van. It's getting a lot of attention in design magazines because the designs are very elegant.

What about new initiatives?

Well, we're bringing on new clients all the time. We're really proud to have launched the Football Greats Alliance in the U.S. We're responsible for managing the collective IP rights for all retired NFL players, and it's a pretty hot ticket.

And then, of course, there is the UFC acquisition.

We also began our campaign to sign partners for Dylan's Candy Bar, which is creating enormous interest, both in the U.S. as well as abroad.

What's on the lineup for your celebrity and lifestyle clients?

We're doing plenty of work in that area. We're going to be introducing a new mobile game with Cam Newton, who is one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the NFL right now. There's also a Claudia Schiffer cosmetic range that will be introduced in a couple of months.

With so many moving parts, how is IMG handling the retail marketplace?

Of course, it's case by case; however, you have three major variables: what's happening in the country, what's the context or deal of the brand and what are the categories. All of those things come into play in each situation, therefore each one has to be taken individually.

But in every market, as long as you've got the right brand in a category that makes sense with the right licensing partner who is clued in and able to secure distribution themselves, you can have success. For example, I was looking at some concepts and sales for a licensee we have doing National Geographic-branded bags and luggage and we have great numbers in Greece. But at the end of the day, it is all about the specifics and I think one of our advantages as an agency is that we are truly global and we have people in all of these markets, and that makes a big difference.

What are you looking forward to in 2017?

I don't want to pick favorites because we work hard on every brand. However, I am really excited about the UFC acquisition. The brand is wildly popular, cool and young people love it. It's expanding rapidly on a global basis and the spontaneous requests we've received from people who would like to do something–anything, actually–with UFC, because that's how strong the interest is–that is really pleasing to see. I'm very excited about that.