People Profile — Rising Star Edition: Nick Manzo, Associate Director of Brand Licensing for IMG Licensing
The global licensing community is powered by an incredible group of professionals whose diverse backgrounds and creative energy drive innovation and excellence. We profile one of these professionals each week, and in this special edition of the People Profile series we are revisiting a former Rising Star Award recipient to shine a spotlight on their subsequent success.
How did you get into licensing (or how did licensing find YOU)?
I actually had the privilege of learning about licensing while I was still a student at New York University back in 2014. The course, “Introduction to Licensing & Merchandising,” was taught by a familiar face of the industry, Stu Seltzer (President & Founder of Seltzer Licensing Group). From there, I was lucky enough to join Stu’s namesake agency and eventually made my way to my current role at IMG Licensing.
When were you named a Rising Star? Where were you working at the time and what was your title?
I was named a Rising Star in 2018 and I was an account executive at Seltzer Licensing Group at the time. It’s wonderful to look back and appreciate the career advancement provided to me by my mentors and leadership teams in the ensuing years.
What was the best piece of advice you received early on in your career?
One of the most valuable learning experiences I was able to receive earlier on in my career was how to receive rejection. Especially as a licensing agent, I have heard ‘no’ many times in my career, but I think it was important to learn how to react in those situations. Whether it was learning how to turn a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’ or observing when/how to move on, I feel it’s important early on in one’s career to learn how to respond to adverse results.
What’s your biggest personal or professional accomplishment since being named a Rising Star?
I’m very proud of overseeing the brand program for the American Red Cross while at Seltzer Licensing Group. Through years of development, our team built a robust roster of licensees, culminating in a nomination for Best Corporate Brand Licensing Program at 2019’s Licensing International Excellence Awards. While we did not take home the final prize, it was a still an accomplishment I am proud of.
What’s a “typical” day in your current position?
What I love about my role (and working with an agency that manages licensing for a wide array of clients) is that no two days are ever the same. That said, I’d say a ‘typical’ day in my role consists of three main functions—client management, licensee management, and business development. Each client account comes with its own challenges and opportunities that keep my days exciting and fast-paced.
What keeps you up at night? What’s your biggest challenge these days?
One overlying issue in today’s economic landscape has been the unpredictable ebbs and flows of inventory at the retail level following the pandemic and leading into what is becoming a possible country-wide recession. With retailers over-leveraged on inventory positions, buyers have been much more risk-averse—taking less in the way of new product or not making any new purchase decisions at all. It’s been a tough nut to crack with our clients’ licensees.
In your opinion, what is the top skill every licensing executive should have in order to succeed?
We’re in a very people-oriented business so I would say the top skill is people management. Whether that’s managing an internal team, client, or licensing partner, a licensing executive must be able to interact with their peers effectively. With many companies and brands vying for limited shelf space, sometimes a great relationship is what can put you over the top.
What is your favorite licensing deal of all time? (It doesn’t have to be one that was signed by you.)
This is a tough question to answer as there are SO MANY great licensed products out there. But as a sports fan, specifically basketball, I’ve really enjoyed seeing all these fun collaborations with athletes’ signature sneakers—whether it’s LaMelo Ball x Rick & Morty or Kyrie Irving & General Mills, there have been a lot of creative and fun products that have come of these mash-ups.
The last licensed product I bought was…
A Brooklyn Nets hat from 47 Brand. I also need to mention how the pandemic reignited my hobby of collecting sports cards (from Topps/Panini and, soon, Fanatics).
What words of wisdom would you give to the 2022 Rising Stars?
I’d say to never think that an idea may not work. I’ve found that in all aspects of life, but especially in licensing, some of the craziest ideas are the ones that have seen the most success. With more and more brands, manufacturers, and retailers trying to fight for the attention of the consumer, no idea can be too outlandish or too big.
The Rising Star Award recognizes the next generation of leaders around the world for their commitment, passion, and contributions to their company and the licensing industry. For the first time, the Rising Stars will be recognized and celebrated at the Hall of Fame Gala Luncheon in New York City on December 7th, 2022. Nominations are NOW OPEN!