People Profile: Elan Freedman, EVP of Surge Licensing
The global licensing community is powered by an incredible group of professionals whose diverse backgrounds and creative energy drive innovation and excellence. Each week we’re profiling one of these professionals in this ongoing series.
How did you get into licensing (or how did licensing find YOU)?
I don’t know if I can say licensing found me or if I was born into licensing. Like many people in the industry, I’m a “Gen2” licensing executive. I was born in 1985 and less than a year later my parents, Mark and Renay Freedman, formed Surge Licensing with their discovery of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Within months, I was actively working in product testing and quality control. There was no title or comp, but the medical, dental, and T&E package made it worthwhile
What’s your biggest personal or professional accomplishment?
My biggest professional accomplishment was getting my first product on shelf in brick and mortar. The first brand I discovered and signed was a webcomic called Axe Cop. Surge Licensing developed a full consumer products program and I will never forget walking into Toys ‘R’ Us and seeing the action figures hanging on pegs for the first time. Since then, part of my career motivation has been to recreate that feeling over and over again.
What are the most significant trends or changes that you’ve seen in the business in recent years?
The digitalization of the world has completely changed the landscape of how business is operated and how consumers and fans enjoy media and purchase their consumer products. While the landscape has changed, incredible tools have been built, increasing the pace of business, the pace of media, and efficiencies. Brands now have real direct relationships with their fans and communities have real destinations to enjoy their fandoms.
In your opinion, what is the top skill every licensing executive should have in order to succeed?
Being able to recognize patterns. The world evolves, business evolves, trends evolve, technologies evolve, consumer and fan sentiments evolve, but if you zoom out enough the patterns remain the same. If you recognize the emergence of the pattern, licensing executives can step ahead into the future and pull their brands forward.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, or what’s your favorite quote?
The Al Pacino speech from Any Given Sunday has been stuck in my head, ever since I first saw the movie. I don’t know if you’d consider it advice or a life motto, but the speech grabs my heart strings every time. “The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch…”
What is your favorite licensing deal of all time? (It doesn’t have to be one that was signed by you.)
Anything Carvel has ever done, whether it’s the Oreo deal or Nutella partnerships. As a loyal fan, aspiring participant of a Carvel-only diet, and a character licensing agent, a dream opportunity would be to find friends for Fudgie the Whale and Cookie Puss.
If you weren’t in licensing, what would you be doing now?
I’d be doing something that feels like the exact opposite of licensing but is strangely similar—running a farm. As a licensing agent, you have to transition your mind from industry to industry all day long. You work with a toy partner, then jump to a zoom with a sock company, and then speak with a vitamin manufacturer. In another life, I’d love to turn a plot of land into a thriving farm. The FRANCHISE OF FARMS! Or the bucolic multiverse of fauna and flora heroes!