Forbes: The Branding of Dead Celebrities

June 12, 2017 | Written by Steve Olenski, Forbes Contributor

When it comes to celebrities, their brand value appears to go up once they have passed. Take Elvis, for example. He has been dead 40 years. While seeming to be somewhat irrelevant to the current generations, Elvis is still “The King” by remaining on the list of the highest-paid celebrities in the world.

It Pays To Be Famous And Dead

According to the 2016 Forbes’ list of highest-earning dead celebrities, Elvis made $27 million while David Bowie made $10.5 million, John Lennon achieved $12 million, and Prince garnered $25 million. Of course, many others continue to rake in the money long after they have passed. Eight years after his death, Michael Jackson has earned approximately $825 million in that time.

Although it is just one piece of the licensing pie, which totaled $262.9 billion in terms of global licensed goods and services sales in 2016, the licensing of names and images of dead celebrities is big business. “Delebrities” were all over the 2017 Licensing Expo held May 23-25 in Las Vegas. John Wayne and Bela Lugosi even had their own booths on the show floor. Additionally, companies like CMG Worldwide, ABG, Live Nation, Beanstalk (the only major trademark company to have a division specifically devoted to deceased icons), and Epic Rights offer the rights to a wide variety of “delebrities” for licensing programs.

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