Event Preview: Brand Licensing Europe

Brand Licensing Europe (BLE) will take place from Tuesday, October 1, through Thursday, October 3, at ExCeL London, where some 280-plus brand owners and agents and 7,800-plus retailers and manufacturers are set to congregate. Billed as “the definitive event for the European brand licensing industry,” the three-day gathering will see exhibitors from all sectors of the licensing and merchandising business networking and closing deals for properties across all categories, including entertainment, art, sports, gaming, heritage and more.

***Image***New this year to BLE—which is now in its 21st run—is the retail program, a packed lineup of events that will begin each day with daily retailer-only breakfast meetings. “The new briefings will be held between 8 and 9 a.m. at The Bridge Restaurant within ExCeL, and retailers can tuck into a complimentary breakfast and learn about that day’s highlights before they head into the show,” says BLE Event Director Anna Knight. “The BLE team will also be on hand to answer questions and queries.”

Retailers will be treated to a brand-new Retail Trends Lounge, which is for their exclusive use. Inside they can hold meetings, watch content specifically designed for them in the state-of-the-art theater “or just take a breather and enjoy the free refreshments,” Knight says. Also new for retailers is the Retail Trends Programme, which will feature five sessions delivered by four BLE ***Image***partners: Trend Bible, IMRG, GfK and The Insights People. Topics for the seminars include how e-commerce and tech are affecting the future of retail, big trends in licensing and why they matter, the rise of the in-experience purchase and the impact SVODs are having on consumer behavior. Meanwhile, the VIP Matchmaking Service will ensure that retailers not only have the opportunity to get in front of leading brands but that they also get help identifying which brands those might be from a special concierge team.

The program was launched due to the increasing attendance that BLE has seen from retailers recently, rising by 24 percent last year. “BLE is a big show with a lot of content and retailers say they hate to miss out on anything, but they also love to walk the floor,” Knight says. “This is why we introduced the briefings, but why we have also purposefully left 90 minutes between each screening and made the Retail Trends sessions bite-sized. The idea is that this new program will help retailers cut through the noise and focus on what’s exactly right for them.”

Attendees can also look forward to several themed activations, including publishing, animation and gaming and esports. Called “Beyond the Book,” the publishing activation will highlight the success of publishing brands, showcase a range of licensed products and feature author Q&As, meet and greets and book signings. It will delve into how creative IPs that began on-page have blossomed into successful licensing programs much-loved around the world, like those of Paddington Bear and Dr. Seuss.

Exhibitors from all over the world are set to represent the animation sector in the show-floor pavilion. The animation keynote, slated for Wednesday, will highlight British animators ***Image***this year, showcasing the success of various British studios, their properties and the licensing campaigns that accompany them.

Additionally, the gaming and esports activation—led by event co-creator PowerStation Studios—will celebrate the success of interactive entertainment, focusing on one of the biggest growth areas in the licensing industry for the foreseeable future. “Thursday is also an ‘unofficial’ gaming day, with some amazing games-focused content in the License Global Theatre, including a yet-to-be-announced keynote,” Knight says. The new activation will use a tech-forward approach to help BLE visitors see how brands can turn IP into an interactive experience using technologies like augmented and virtual reality.

Brand owners in search of licensing opportunities are encouraged to enter the License This! competition, which is aimed at unlicensed brands and properties and offers the chance for owners to secure new deals and extend their brands. The two categories for entries are Character & Animation and Brand & Design, and the finalists chosen will pitch against each other live to win one of two free stands at BLE 2020 and a Licensing International membership for one year.

The teeming slate of licensing and marketing activities available at BLE fosters burgeoning partnerships and offers opportunities for brands and properties of all kinds to make new deals.

Knight concludes, “BLE is designed to give our visitors the content and contacts they need to do better business, and this is what we want them to leave the show with. We also want them to have fun and make the most of the brilliant networking events we have to offer, including the BLE and License Global events at the Novotel and the official BLE after-show party hosted by Licensing International at the Museum of London Docklands, which is an amazing venue.”