By Barry Janoff
April 29, 2015: It certainly pays to be a popular athlete or celebrity when it comes to marketing, activation and endorsement income, as both Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao can attest.
But in some ways it also pays to a popular dead celebrity.
Authentic Brands Group, which oversees a global portfolio of fashion, sports, celebrity, media and entertainment brands, has signed a "strategic partnership" with the Estate of Michael Jackson "to further grow the Michael Jackson brand in the areas of endorsements and consumer products."
Thanks to the controllers of his estate, Jackson has remained in the public spotlight since his death in 2009 at the age of 50. According to Forbes, Jackson was the "top-earning dead celebrity" in 2014, with his estate pulling in some $140 million from music, shows, licensed items and other marketing and activations.
Elvis Presley was second at $55 million.
ABG said it would provide "global representation for Michael Jackson, pursuing new licensing and retail partnerships working with the Estate to broaden the brand's reach across key markets around the world."
Among others, New Your-based ABG also handles licensing for Muhammad Ali and for the estates of Presley and Marilyn Monroe; and includes in its portfolio such sports brands as TapouT, Above The Rim, Bobby Jones and Prince.
Financial terms of the deal with the Estate of Michael Jackson were not disclose.
As a point of reference, ABG in 2013 acquired the controlling rights to Elvis Presley Enterprises for $125 million, according to industry analysts, allowing it to manage the licensing and merchandising rights to Presley's image, name and likeness, in addition to a massive collection of music, photos, movies, TV appearances and performance specials featuring Presley, who died in 1977.
Since his death, Jackson's estate has been involved in a bevy of theatrical and marketing deals.
Three films with the "King of Pop" have been released. Michael Jackson's This Is It (2009), which documents rehearsals and preparations from a concert tour that was canceled due to his death, has become the highest-grossing concert film ever, topping $251 million and counting in worldwide box office revenue, according to his estate.
Bad 25 was released in 2010 and Michael Jackson: The Last Photo Shoot was released in 2014.
This August, the estate is planning the third annual celebration of his birthday in the Michael Jackson ONE Theatre in Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Resort.
Other activations include: two posthumous albums, having his hologram perform onstage during the 2014 Billboard Awards and an array of such licensed Jackson-related goods as apparel, posters, songbooks, a Wii Michael Jackson Experience and even a re-issue of a Colorforms "Michael Jackson Dress-Up Playset."
"We are thrilled to be working with ABG on the continued development of the Michael Jackson brand," John Branca and John McClain, co-executors of the Estate of Michael Jackson, said in a statement. "With a proven track record in transforming icons into global entities, we are confident that ABG will help us take the Michael Jackson brand to the next level."
According to Nick Woodhouse, president and CMO for ABG, "As a visionary solo artist, Michael Jackson redefined the art of entertainment. We have great things in-store for the brand and will take a page out of ABG's celebrity, media and entertainment playbook to build global strategic partnerships that will extend Michael Jackson's tremendous legacy."
ABG's global portfolio of brands includes Jones New York, Juicy Couture, Spyder, Airwalk, Vision Street Wear, Hind, Ektelon, Viking and Sportcraft.
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