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Rising Star People Profile: Rebecca Barlow, Licensing Manager at Nelvana image

Rising Star People Profile: Rebecca Barlow, Licensing Manager at Nelvana

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 introducing one of the 2023 Rising Stars Award recipients to shine a spotlight on their success.

How did you get into licensing (or how did licensing find you)?
I was working as an analyst for a consumer goods company and knew the industry wasn’t for me—living and breathing deodorant and reviewing Nielsen data just wasn’t something that was making me jump out of bed in the mornings. I knew I needed to make a career change into something I was passionate about. One day, when I was absentmindedly scrolling through LinkedIn, I saw a job at Disney for licensing. I have always wanted to work within the entertainment industry, so on a whim I applied thinking I would never hear back but I got the job. I quickly fell in love with the industry and what we do, and now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

What’s a “typical” day in your current position?
Coffee and Coke Zero, emails, and meetings. Just kidding (sort of). I usually start my day by checking my schedule and emails first thing when I wake up (even though I know we aren’t supposed to do that), as I find it helps me mentally prepare for the day ahead. From there, every day is different but it always consists of emails, internal and external meetings, brainstorming, trend watching, and outreach.

What’s your biggest personal or professional accomplishment?
Other than winning the Rising Star award, my biggest accomplishment is forcing myself to establish a proper work-life balance. I come from a long line of workaholics, and I know how easy it is for me to fall into that trap, so I have been really prioritizing my work-life balance over the past few years. The one silver lining of the pandemic was moving to a full-time (or mostly full-time) work-from-home model that has been beneficial to me finding that proper balance. I find I am more creative and productive working from home, and it also grants me personal freedoms that allow me to really embrace a work-life balance.

What are the most significant trends or changes that you’ve seen in the business in recent years?
I think the patterns of micro trends we are seeing with the new generation, amplified by social media, has really interrupted our industry. Something can take off and be done within a week and, by the time our industry has product available, the trend has died. I have also seen “dead” properties come back to life as a part of a micro trend and quickly gain traction. We have to keep asking ourselves, how do we capitalize on these trends, how do we active against them in a timely manner, is there a way to shorten lead times for certain categories, and can more be made domestically? I think trend watching is going to become an even more important part of our industry. Where we were used to setting the trends to a certain extent, we now need to be nimbler in discovering and reacting to trends.

What keeps you up at night? What’s your biggest challenge these days?
From a Canadian perspective, it’s the monopolization of retail within Canada. It seems every week a different retailer is closing their doors, abandoning Canada, or being bought by a larger conglomerate. This shift is making retail options for traditional programs more difficult to secure. Not only are the number of retailers shrinking, but we are also seeing retailers becoming more and more risk adverse. Additionally, more power is being held by buyers who don’t often want to disrupt the status quo and take a risk on a new property. On the flip side, this has forced us to find alternative retail avenues and be more creative in our approach to getting products in front of the customer. This has allowed us to find some really exciting, nontraditional avenues that align beautifully with our product offerings.

In your opinion, what is the top skill every licensing executive should have in order to succeed?
Passion—I think to succeed in this industry you need to be a fan. If you are a fan yourself, you can pull out aspects of the property that others wouldn’t be able to. You also have intimate knowledge of what types of products the fans want because you are a fan yourself. You need to really care about the properties, the products, and the fans.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, or what’s your favorite quote?
“It’s not the will to win that matters—everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.” – Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Before I had this quote in my “about” section on LinkedIn, I had it written in marker on the bathroom mirror of my university apartment. This quote always reminded me that it’s the work we put in that pays off at the end of the day. No one gets to where they are overnight.

What is your favorite licensing deal of all time? (It doesn’t have to be one that was signed by you.)
The first one that comes to mind is the Margaritaville Crocs collection. It was such a fun collection that you didn’t even need to be a Jimmy Buffet fan to enjoy the product. Seeing the reactions to the collection on social media put a huge smile on my face and has stuck with me for that reason alone. It was such a great reminder that what we do is supposed to be fun and bring joy to the consumer.

If you weren’t in licensing, what would you be doing now?
Licensing is such a perfect cross-section of my two lifelong passions, sports and pop culture/entertainment, that I don’t know what I would be doing if I was not doing this. I would like to think I would have found my way into the sports and entertainment industry somehow, perhaps in media or reporting.

The last licensed product I bought was…
Montreal Alouettes 110 Grey Cup (Canada’s Superbowl) Championship sweater and hat. And since my partner is a starter for the Alouettes, it made it even more special.

The Rising Star Awards recognize the next generation of leaders around the world for their commitment, passion, and contributions to their company and the licensing industry. This year’s Rising Stars were recognized and celebrated at the Hall of Fame Gala Luncheon in New York City on December 6th, 2023.

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