Event Preview: Brand Licensing Europe


Since launching as a small hotel-based event in London in 1999, Brand Licensing Europe (BLE) has changed its venue four times and adopted its current name to reflect its broadening focus. It has also launched the likes of The Kelvyn Gardner License! competition, Licensing U, the Licensing Academy, Brands & Lifestyle Theatre, Retail Trends Lounge, Matchmaking Service, Product Showcase, Sports Pavilion, Gaming & Esports Activation and Sustainability Activation, which showcase an ever-evolving industry.

***Image***“BLE offers an unrivaled opportunity for the European licensing community to meet, do business, network, share knowledge, be educated, inspired, communicate, collaborate and have fun,” says Anna Knight, VP of licensing at Informa Markets, BLE’s organizer. “We are the conduit for connecting—and reconnecting—this industry in Europe.”

While fully virtual last year, this year’s BLE will be hybrid, with a three-day in-person event taking place at ExCel London from November 17 to 19, followed by two days online from November 30 to December 1. Both last year’s month-long virtual Festival of Licensing and the Brand & Licensing Innovation Summit, which took place in June 2021, helped shape the hybrid offering for this year.

We know that people are desperate to get back face-to-face and that their priority is to spend that time meeting, doing business and signing deals,” says Knight. “We also know that not everyone is in a position to be able to travel, yet still have the same business requirements, so we hope our hybrid solution gives the industry what it needs. This is also why we have moved the majority of educational content online.”

This year’s BLE will host a pair of in-person keynotes—a session from ViacomCBS Consumer Products about diversity and inclusion and one with Team GB featuring two British Olympic gold medalists. There will also be live content in the Retail Trends Lounge, including the final of this year’s Kelvyn Gardner License This! competition. Among the exhibitors are Banijay Brands, ViacomCBS Consumer Products, Metrostar, Cyber Group Studios, Aardman, Moomin, Asterix, Xilam Animation, BANDAI NAMCO Europe, The Copyrights Group & STUDIOCANAL, Crunchyroll, MGA Entertainment, Hasbro, Illuminated Films, Mattel, Mondo TV, Studio Vandal Co., The Smurfs, Toei Animation Europe and Vivendi.

Day two of the in-person event has been nominated as Colour for Kelvyn, a tribute to Kelvyn Gardner, the former U.K. managing director of Licensing International who passed away earlier this year. “Kelvyn was known for his passion for colorful jackets, and we’d love everyone to attend on Thursday, November 18, wearing color for Kelvyn and make a donation to The Light Fund—our industry charity—of which he was a huge supporter.”

The theme for BLE 2021 is What’s Next, which was inspired by the pandemic. It “weaves throughout the show and aims to support the industry as it collectively looks to a post-pandemic future,” explains Knight. “It will give a platform to the people, ideas and practices set to change the face of brand licensing in the future, while focusing on three distinct areas to give attendees an overview of the most important considerations for doing business in 2022 and beyond.”

Under the Who’s Next branch, BLE attendees can discover and celebrate changemakers in the licensing industry through the Agents of Change gallery.

“Our BLE Sustainability Activation in partnership with Products of Change will inspire visitors on their journey toward a more sustainable future by learning how pioneering businesses from inside and outside of the licensing community are addressing the challenge of moving forward in a more ethical way,” says Knight. It will include product showcases from Hasbro, LEGO and Keel Toys, as well as exhibits from George at Asda, Tesco, the Natural History Museum, the Eden Project and Teemill.

And the third area of focus, What’s Next for Retail, will feature both in the Sustainability Activation and the Retail Trends Lounge, which will include five sessions that will delve into how the consumer, licensing and retail can and will look in the year ahead and further into the future.

BLE is teaming up with Licensing International, the event’s longtime headline partner and advocate, to host after-show drinks on day one on the show floor. Additionally, the industry trade association will be curating the European debut of the 13-session strong educational program Licensing U. “It is such a distinctive time for our industry when continued education is paramount, providing much-needed refresher courses for practiced professionals and serving as a gateway into the exciting world of licensing for those starting their journey,” says Knight. “There will be three content tracks: Basics of Licensing, Spotlights, and Tactics and Strategies. The content can be accessed from November 22 online and viewed for three months.”

As the effects of the global pandemic continue to reverberate around the world and within the industry and the events that support it, Knight believes that the future of the L&M business is bright. “The pandemic has reminded us that innovation doesn’t just come from good design; it can reference content, consumer-focus, delivery and distribution and, in those terms, I think creativity and innovation within licensing are at an all-time high,” she says. “Retailers have been more creative than ever when it comes to licensed product design, but also in-store and online experiences that build on the IP and nurture that fandom. And sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion are no longer ‘nice-to-haves’; they are critical business considerations, and we are seeing these being incorporated more into creative and design, which is brilliant news.”

All of this innovation—from good design and distribution to matters of sustainability and diversity—will be on display at next month’s BLE. “We’re so happy to be back doing what we do best, and that’s facilitating connections between retailers, brands, manufacturers and designers and supporting them as they evolve, grow and do business now and in the future,” says Knight. “We can’t wait to meet all of our 190-plus exhibitors and thousands of visitors at the show in-person, or to host them online if they can’t join us face-to-face.”

Registration for BLE, which gives access to both in-person and online events, is open now. The digital platform, enabling registrants to request appointments online and in-person, is also open.