Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Getting ready for Brand Licensing Europe, Oct. 4-6, 2023, London

InPark continues to help you explore opportunities in the licensing space through meaningful coverage of projects, players, trends and events such as Brand Licensing Europe (BLE), which takes place at ExCel London, Oct 4-6, 2023. The annual BLE conference and trade show is dedicated to licensing and brand extension, bringing together retailers, licensees and manufacturers for three days of deal-making, networking and trend spotting. In this exclusive interview, we hear from two on the Informa Markets organizing team for BLE: Ella Haynes, Event Director, Global Licensing Group and Ben Roberts, Content Director (EMEA), License Global.

What’s the typical mix of attendees at Brand Licensing Europe?

ELLA: BLE is home to the widest range of leading European brand owners at any event, so it appeals to any retailers, agents, manufacturers and service providers looking to do business or find out which brands are popular in Europe. Attendees come to experience thousands of brands and stay abreast of industry trends, shop the floor for new IP, make connections and find inspiration on how to successfully partner with brands. From the brands to the people who attend, BLE is the place to discuss the European brand licensing market.

Ella Haynes, Event Director, Global Licensing Group, Informa Markets
Who should make a point of attending the show this year in light of the LBE theme?

ELLA: What’s brilliant about LBE (Location-Based Entertainment) – and one of the reasons we are spotlighting it at BLE – is that it appeals to everyone: consumers, brand owners, designers, service providers, licensee, manufacturers and retailers.

We all crave experiences and have brands that we hold close to our hearts, and this passion for brands is why we love to experience them and connect with them in different ways.

If you’re a brand owner looking to break into the LBE space or you’re still figuring out how to start those conversations, then BLE is a must-visit. If you’re a retailer intent on creating that in-store point of difference, which must include experiential or retailtainment these days, then, again, BLE’s LBE theme is the perfect way to discover the innovation and excitement surrounding this category. If you design LBE experiences then it’s a no-brainer – brands allow you to create a richer and more immersive experience and build on an existing and loyal fan base to drive customers.

Would creative professionals and suppliers in the themed entertainment and attractions industry (who are very familiar with LBE platforms) find opportunity at BLE?

BEN: The LBE theme allows us to place focus on a developing market and run countless opportunities to keep ahead of the trend, invite expert insight to the stage, inspire people through massive brand-led showcases and curate vital opportunities to connect, meaning creative professionals and suppliers are no exception to those who can benefit from the BLE platform. No matter how experienced you are or what side of the immersive experience business you represent, there is always something new to learn and new brands and partners to connect with for the next big development.

What are the significant trends in licensing that are crossing/could cross over to LBE?

BEN: The immersive experiences offered by LBE are just beginning to gain momentum. The technology, creative approach and consumer engagement inherent to this platform are evolving rapidly. There is growing interest in creatively produced hybrid experiences, such as how AI and VR can enhance immersive experiences worldwide. On the other hand, licensed back-to-nature initiatives that bring families together have also shown great success.

From exploring the LBE market, I have learned that memories make an experience genuinely impactful. Experience engineers know this well, but brands can leverage this by creating engaging connections with consumers through intellectual property licensing.

Another trend gaining traction is the potential of location-based entertainment at retail. Retailers increasingly seek immersive experiences to drive foot traffic and engage consumers in ways that traditional retail cannot. This presents an opportunity for brands to leverage their intellectual property to create unique and memorable experiences that generate revenue and strengthen brand loyalty.

So, the creative development of the LBE business is driving new opportunities for the market to grow, but there is also a successful and equally exciting increase in intellectual property licensing that is driving the connection with the guest.

Ben Roberts, Content Director (EMEA), License Global, Informa Markets
For those who don’t know the organization, can you tell us about the Global Licensing Group and how it fits with License Global, Licensing International, and Informa Markets?

BEN: The Global Licensing Group is a collective of brands within Informa Markets – including Brand Licensing Europe, Licensing Expo in Vegas, the Brand & Licensing Innovation Summit (B&LIS), France Licensing Day, Licensing for Retail Day, Licensing Expo China and the dedicated media and insights platform, License Global.

As a collective, the Global Licensing Group is the world’s only media and events platform devoted exclusively to the global brand licensing industry. We work closely with industry body Licensing International as a long-standing partner to ensure best practices and that every brand is developed in line with the trajectory of the industry and community we cater to.

How does the BLE online platform support the live event?

ELLA: The online platform enables visitors and exhibitors to reach out to the rest of the community ahead of the show, search through the vast list of brands and IPs available to license, make connections, build personal agendas and plan meetings.

BLE attendees get free access to the online meetings platform where they can discover who owns which IPs and products through the directory listings.

The online platform builds the community before the show starts and helps everyone get the very best experience from the show by letting them schedule their agenda in advance.

We turn on the option to request and schedule meetings six weeks before the show, and what’s great about the platform is that, based on the visitor’s personal profile, their likes and areas of interest, it populates who they should be meeting with and what content they should be viewing; it’s mapped to match their personal needs.

What makes BLE the definitive event of its kind in Europe?

ELLA: Number one – the scale of BLE, and the number and variety of brands and categories on the showfloor. Because of this, it really is a one-stop shop for everyone, whether you’re coming to discover trends, or you want to see new products and IPs breaking into the market. 140 companies are already confirmed to exhibit including Paramount, Bravado, Jazwares, Capcom, Tour de France, Rights & Brands and MGA Entertainment.  Pokémon and Hang 10 will have an increased presence at BLE and Spanish license Stor, BioWorld and The Wombles are exhibiting for the very first time. 

Number two – the international element of BLE is standout. We have a global audience of thousands flying in for the show, with great representation of Europe with pretty much every country’s key players in attendance.

Does BLE differ in significant ways from its sister show in Las Vegas, Licensing Expo?

BEN: It does, yes, especially when it comes to where an IP’s rights are held. So, you might see the same exhibitor at BLE and Licensing Expo, but one may only deal with IP rights North America or Latin America, while the other has rights across Europe.

Expo is our flagship, global event where we see key representatives from all regions with a particular concentration from North America, LATAM & Asia as well as senior decision-makers from the UK & Europe. BLE concentrates on pan-European licensing – i.e. bringing the industry together to do business with, or in, Europe. Attendees are mainly from the UK, Western and Eastern Europe as well as senior decision makers from North America and LATAM.

What makes London an ideal setting for this event?

ELLA: London is such an exciting, vibrant, ever-evolving city and it’s the epicenter of so many brands, especially those touching on the LBE theme as I think London’s probably the most advanced experience-led brand location in Europe. The UK is also the 2nd biggest licensing market globally. It’s accessible for the rest of Europe – and for visitors from further afield, too – it’s really easy for everyone to get to London and also to have a great experience while they are in town.

Can you tell us something about the origins of BLE? How did it start and get to where it is today?

ELLA: BLE is 24 years old this year, and it has grown and grown since then – not only the scale of the show and the number of visitors, but the breadth of the show’s content, too, how we evolved to embrace brand & lifestyle, and art, design & image licensing as well as the character & entertainment IPs that most people would instantly recognize. Also, how we’ve evolved to shine a light on specific categories that may have still been under the radar, but had huge potential, like food & beverage, gaming, sport, publishing and heritage.

What’s your favorite thing about BLE?

ELLA: For me, it’s all about the innovation and the way our exhibiting brands continue to push the boundaries of their creativity at the show, whether it’s on the booth or through an experience they’re creating to support our theme, I’m always in awe of the effort our exhibitors put in to make BLE the most incredible experience for our visitors.

And, also, the industry itself. It’s just an incredible, creative and very welcoming group of people, which is one reason it appeals to such a wide audience. Even if you’re not necessarily in the licensing community at your first BLE, you will be by the time you leave.

BEN: Brand Licensing Europe is probably the best celebration of fandom I have witnessed in my many years of being a geek. It’s a sensory overload of childhood memories, nostalgia and current obsessions, from gaming to toys and superhero movies. Still, at the same time, there’s an incredible source of information for professionals, such as what’s coming up and key trends in the consumer space. It’s an all-round experience for any brand professional looking for inspiration. It’s also a great place to be a fan, no matter what you’re into.

Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin ([email protected]) is a leading journalist, content marketing specialist and connector in the international attractions industry. She reports on design and technical design, production and project management, industry trends and company culture. From 2005-2020 she ran communications and publications for the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). In 2013, she was honored with the TEA Service Award. She was development director of IMERSA and publicist for the Large Format Cinema Association, and has contributed to the publications of PLASA, IAAPA and the International Planetarium Society. Judith joined World’s Fair magazine in 1987, which introduced her to the attractions industry. She joined InPark in 2010. Judith earned a BFA from Pratt Institute. She has lived in Detroit, New York, Oakland, and now Saint Louis, where she is active in the local arts community.

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