Brand Licensing Europe 2015: interview with Darren Brechin, Event Director interview

Brand Licensing Europe, the Advanstar organised licensing exhibition, took place in London’s Olympia this year from 12th– 15th October.

Interview with Darren Brechin, Event Director, BLE 2015.

L.I. What are the directions/indications emerging from the 17th edition of BLE in London?

D.B All indications are good and exhibitor feedback has been extremely positive. There was a steady flow of visitors around the show consistently for the three days, and response shows that the quality of those visitors was extremely high.

This year there were more retailers in attendance thanks to the Retail Mentoring Programme which now works with 12 retailers.

L.I. Last year you underlined the remarkable development of the Sport Licensing: which other growing categories are nowadays particularly active in the Licensing industry?

D.B. The exhibitor line up this year was hugely varied and highlighted so many growing categories. Sports licensing was still a key theme at the show, reflected in exhibitor presence and through the educational programme – with specific sessions dedicated to this topic.

We also witnessed growth in automotive, food & beverage, beauty, music, publishing and heritage categories too with the likes of Volkswagen, Lee Stafford, Vimto International, Stanfords and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust all in attendance for the first time.

Help for Heroes attended BLE for the first time this year, and also hosted a session on the educational programme offering insights into what charities look for in licensing partners. The brand has already achieved notable licensing success with initiatives such as its Help for Heroes Blonde Ale with Marston’s Brewery, which has now sold its millionth pint. The charity attended BLE to expand its programme into other categories, and this is certainly another growth area we will be watching over the next 12 months.

L.I. Which are the most important novelties that distinguished the 2015 BLE?

D.B. BLE 2015 was officially the biggest yet in the show’s 17 year history. With 300 companies and 2,500 characters, images and brands on display, there were more exhibitors to meet than ever before. We welcomed 90 new companies to the show floor including Volkswagen, Pepsi, PGA Tour, Lee Stafford, Stanfords, Help for Heroes, Hot Pickle and Topps Europe, amongst others.

The free education programme was also the largest to date. A record 25 sessions, running between the Licensing Academy and the Brands & Lifestyle Theatre, covered everything from anti-counterfeiting to retail trends and food & beverage licensing.

As ever, the keynote sessions were extremely popular. On the first day, the focus was on the growing phenomenon of YouTube celebrities and their impact on licensing with a session from Blogilates founder Cassey Ho. Visitors told us it was useful to hear how entrepreneurs like Ho are building brands on social media and how licensing deals are often led by the fans.

The second keynote, from Moomin Characters’ Sophia Jansson, was also well received. Jansson took visitors on the brand’s 70 year journey from inception to its current footing in the market where it now has more than 600 licensees. The story was picked up by the BBC who interviewed Jansson the following day and delved deeper into the background and licensing success of this much-loved property.

This year’s character parade was also the biggest yet – with an eye-catching 80 characters making their way down the central aisle. The parade has become such an unusual spectacle that it featured in The Times and The Independent national newspapers, showcasing the industry to the wider world.

On the same note, during the first day a film crew from Channel 4 roamed the aisles filming for its ‘Super Shoppers’ series with the aim of explaining the licensing industry to consumers.

BLE is a visually beautiful showcase for the industry – featuring possibly some of the most impressive stands seen at any exhibition. The growth of the show and the national press interest this year demonstrates the strength and dynamism of the industry.

Brand Licensing Europe 2016 takes place from 11 – 13 October 2016 at Olympia, London.

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