Brand Licensing Europe 2018: Anna Knight’s interview

Brand Licensing Europe (9th-11th October ) is organized by UBM (Las Vegas Licensing Expo organizer) in cooperation with the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA), the world’s leading trade organization for the global licensing industry.

Licensing Italia, LIMA Representative in Italy, interviewed Anna Knight, Brand Director, Brand Licensing Europe & Decorex International, UBM EMEA

Anna Knight
Anna Knight

L.I. Brand Licensing Europe reached the 20th edition: a great goal! What are the basic elements of this enduring success?

A.N. Thank you. It’s a pretty big deal to reach 20, isn’t it? We’ve reached this milestone because we never lose sight of our number one purpose, and that’s to provide a relevant platform for everyone in Europe who is involved in licensing to come together and learn, do business and network.

We have always listened to our audiences – suppliers and visitors – to ensure the content we provide them each year is up to date, on trend and will help them do business better and smarter.

We must be doing something right because last year was our biggest show to date with over 7,500 visitors (including 37% from outside the UK) and 289 exhibitors. We fully expect this year to be even better.

We love the licensing industry and very much hope to be a part of it for another 20 years. And we are beyond grateful to the exhibitors, visitors, partners and sponsors who’ve made that possible for us. We will be celebrating by honouring those people who have been with BLE from the very start. We will also be running a brilliant 20-day giveaway in the run up to the show with amazing prizes provided by our exhibitors. Keep your eyes peeled!

BLE has changed so much since we launched 20 years ago. We originally launched as Brand Licensing in 1999 – a small hotel-based event in London. We moved to the Business Design Centre, then to Earls Court and then to Olympia, which has been home ever since. In that time, we have become a well-established date on the licensing industry calendar attracting key industry players from all over Europe and the show was re-branded as Brand Licensing Europe in 2007 to reflect the international nature of its exhibitors, properties and visitors. 37% of all attendees to Brand Licensing Europe are international visitors.

In the last 20 years, we have launched the License! This competition, the Licensing Academy and Brands & Lifestyle Seminar Theatre, Matchmaking Service, Product Showcase, Sports Pavilion, Gaming Activation … the list can go on. In 2017, over 7,500 retailers, licensees and marketers attended BLE.

L.I. Which are the most important novelties that will distinguish the Brand Licensing Europe 2018?

A.N. There are a lot of new and exciting things happening at BLE this year. First and foremost, we are celebrating our 20th anniversary, which is an amazing testament to the show’s ability to remain relevant to this industry and for our exhibitors, licensees and retailers.

We’ve reconfigured the floorplan – so we are now in the National and Grand Halls at Olympia for the first time. This means that all our exhibitors are on the same level, increasing their discoverability and making it easier for visitors to be inspired by licenses they may not have otherwise seen.

Our theme for 2018 is Food&Beverage (F&B). It’s one of the fastest-growing and most robust categories within licensing. But it’s also incredibly innovative and dynamic, reinventing itself continuously in line with new trends and lifestyle choices. Health and fitness has been a huge influence over the sector since the 80s, but most recently the whole wellbeing and clean-eating phenomenon has had a huge impact on the category with no signs of fading any time soon. Previously, BLE has adopted themes that have unintentionally favoured brand owners, but F&B is more inclusive, embracing licensors and licensees. The theme will be carried through the entire show, from keynotes and seminars to celebrity appearances, cook-offs, demos and on-stand sampling.

Entries for this year’s License This! competition opened at the end of June and we have expanded it to two categories, with winners in both art & design and brands & lifestyle. Last year’s winner was a wonderful children’s animation called Ioguis. Since exhibiting at the show, Ioguis now have an executive producer in LA, who is pitching the brand to broadcasters, and they are hoping to sign a publishing deal soon. As part of their prize, they won a free booth at this year’s show so we’re really looking forward to seeing them again and watching the brand grow further. The deadline for entry is 14 September.

We’re expecting to have over 250 exhibitors at BLE this year from character & entertainment, brands & lifestyle and art, design & image licensing. We provide the most comprehensive, diverse and exciting sourcing opportunity for licensees and retailers anywhere in Europe. 

There will be more than 50 new exhibitors across many different areas from gaming to sport, toys to heritage. They include “Ahh” Inspiring Art, 4PLAY, Acamar Films, AEX Italia, Alpha Group, Art by Lis Goncalves, Aweirdmovie, Blues Clothing, Brand Alliance, Brand4Rent, By Myrna, Carbon 12011 Licensing, CHF Media Group, De Agostini Publishing Italia, Elves Behavin’ Badly, FC Barcelona, FIFA, Forever Collectibles UK, Freddy Leck seine Vertriebsgesellschaft, French Football Federation, Guangzhou Liuhua Fashion Wholesale Market, GWCC Apparel Masters, HCA Creation, Helz Cuppleditch, Infinity Lifestyle Brands, International Basketball Federation (FIBA), Ioguis, Jeep, Joseph Sankar, Kaiken Entertainment, Larkshead Media, Linda Wood Licensing, Lucy Pittaway, Maurizio, Distefano The Evolution of Licensing, MGA Entertainment, Monskey, Old School Art Studio, Roland-Garros, Royal Museums Greenwich, Sailor Ted, Smidt-IMEX, Sport Lisboa e Benfica, Swissbrand World, Sylphe, TCC Brands, The FA, The Royal Dutch Football Federation, Tractor Ted, Tradheir, UCLA, UEFA Euro 2020, University of Cambridge, Ventana Licensing Group and Viewpoint Games.

But the biggest change visitors will notice when they arrive at the show this year is the floor layout. For the first time, BLE will occupy both the Grand and National Halls to bring all of our exhibitors together on one level. It’s really important that the show represents and supports the entire licensing industry and that we offer maximum discoverability, so all of our exhibitors and visitors can have their best show. We are confident we can achieve this by having everyone on one level across the ground floor of the two halls.

L.I. BLE 2017 was focused on Gaming; which is the main topic of this year? Why have you chosen it? 

A.N. We did, yes, we focused on gaming and sport, and they were both really successful. We had more sports exhibitors than ever and a brilliant Gaming Activation. This year, our theme is food and beverage; a theme that unites licensees.

F&B is one of the fastest-growing and most robust categories within licensing but it’s also incredibly innovative and dynamic, reinventing itself continuously in line with new trends and lifestyle choices. Health and fitness has been a huge influence over the sector since the 80s, but most recently the whole wellbeing and clean-eating phenomenon has had a huge impact on the category with no signs of fading any time soon.

The show will feature exciting, immersive and interactive experiences, including cookery displays, celebrity PAs and F&B content in the seminar theatre.  

L.I. BLE usually has an important programme of interesting seminars: which are the leading themes of this year’s seminars?

A.N. BLE hosts top quality, free seminar content every year – 30 sessions across The Licensing Academy and Brands & Lifestyle Theatre; content that’s inspirational, practical and forward-thinking; definitely worth adding to your calendar.

In the Brands & Lifestyle Theatre we’ll have the three food and beverage sessions with great case studies from licensees and licensors, plus a session on ethical licensing, pre-school, sports and art and design. In the Licensing Academy, Kelvyn Gardner is planning a fantastic global licensing session, Sanrio will be discussing the invention of Little Miss Inventor, which capitalised so beautifully on STEM and the battle to get girls involved in these subjects, the Moomin team who will tell us all about the new Moominvalley animation, and Billy Langsworthy is back with a Playing with Brands panel and a fireside chat with Tech Will Save Us. We also two amazing keynotes lined up, the first of which is the IOC’s VP Commercial Integration Elisabeth Allaman, who will take to The Licensing Academy stage at 12pm on Wednesday 10 October to talk about how the IOC’s new licensing strategy has been developed with the mission to create a tangible connection to the Olympic Games and Olympism, through merchandising programmes that are aligned with the Olympic image and enhance brand value and goodwill. Watch this space for our second keynote announcement.

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