Brand Licensing Europe (BLE) 2022: interview with Anna Knight

Anna Knight 2020Brand Licensing Europe is Europe’s leading trade event and takes place from 20-22 September 2022 at ExCeL London. Licensing Italia interviewed Anna Knight, SVP of Licensing, Informa Markets

Licensing Italia: Are there any news for the 2022 edition of Brand Licensing Europe?

Anna Knight: The big news for this year is our fashion theme and our big activation is the BLE Fashion Catwalk. We have nine fashion shows over three days. With Mattel, SEGA, NBC Universal, Sony Interactive, IMC Toys, Wildbrain CPLG, Perfetti Van Melle, 9 Story Media, Kornit and Pink Key Licensing among those taking part, the shows will be a spectacle of color and creativity with Barbie, Sonic the Hedgehog, TeletubbiesxEllessexGoGuy, Cry Babies and MentosxLobstars just some of the products rocking the runway.  

We’ll also have fashion displays throughout BLE to showcase additional partnerships and collaborations, and the show entrances will be taken over by Mattel, Paramount, Hasbro, SEGA, CAA-GBG and Products of Change to immerse visitors as soon as they arrive at the event.

The fashion theme runs through to our educational content, too, with Mattel President and COO Richard Dickson presenting the opening day keynote – ‘Barbie x Fashion’ –  focusing on the ultimate fashion and pop icon that is Barbie. This is on Tuesday 20 September at 1pm in the License Global Theatre. The day two keynote is the ‘Leaders panel: building a post-pandemic retail & licensing strategy’. And day three’s keynote forms part of our sustainability and DE&I day and will focus on brands with purpose.

Further sessions on the conference programme will discuss how consumer trends and behaviour impact retail, how the new age consumer is spending, sports and LBE panels, and the launch of Brands Untapped 100 amid an exploration of the creative strategies and design thinking that goes into crafting authentic, successful brand extensions, plus even more.

L.I. What are the main focus areas of the 2022 edition?

A.K. Retailers, manufacturers and designers attend BLE to discover the thousands of brilliant license-ready brands that their customers will love, soak up valuable information about the current and future trends impacting the sector, and to network and catch up with  industry friends old and new.  

This is why the main focus areas are a) the exhibitors on the showfloor b) the conference and education programme in the License Global Theatre, including the keynotes and sessions mentioned earlier, plus free drop-in sustainability advice clinics delivered by the Products of Change team, and c) the networking, including opening night drinks on the show floor on 20 September from 5:00pm – 7:00pm, four branded café areas and the Retail Lounge.

On top of that, visitors can enjoy the much-loved character parade, which takes place at 11.30am on Tuesday 20 and Wednesday 21 September. The Kelvyn Gardner License This! competition finale also returns but with a twist. The Product Design category is now open to entries from students and the final will be at 11am on Tuesday 20 September followed by the Brand & Design and Category & Animation showdowns at 10:30 am on Thursday 22 September.

Day Three is dedicated to spotlighting sustainability and DE&I initiatives to drive meaningful change. We are very happy to partner with Products of Change & Black Lives Matter Licensing again.

Products of Change will be hosting in-person and online free sustainability drop-in clinics – BLE will be the only place to meet the PoC team in-person outside of the Sustainability in Licensing conference in October so it’s a brilliant opportunity for anyone on their sustainability journey to get advice.

CEO and founder Helena Mansell-Stopher will be on our Day Three keynote panel The good fight: how purpose breeds success,’ alongside The Point.1888’s Will Stewart, Paramount’s Veronica Hart, English Heritage’s Kingston Myles and The Smiley Company’s Nicolas Loufrani. Helena is also hosting a one-to-one session with Catrina O’Brien, Head of Retail EurAsia – Licensing Consumer Products, at Hasbro to talk about Hasbro’s sustainability journey.

We have a very special catwalk show organised by PoC featuring global schools’ competition Junk Kouture, which challenges 13–18-year-old students to design fashion from 100 per cent waste. The UN and PoC will also talk about the importance of sustainable change and how the UN’s SDG’s (sustainable development goals) can drive the licensing industry forward.  

There will be product showcases on the PoC stand and also in the N4 entrance area, which will highlight inspirational examples of sustainable fashion, including some of the Junk Kouture students’ collections. And don’t miss the Sustainability Café, which in an old BLE feature area that has been completely upcycled for this year showcasing sustainable consumer products and fashion lines from 14 brands – retailers, manufacturers and brand owners.

Alongside Black Lives Matter Licensing, we’ll also be hosting another catwalk show at 10am on day three. Designed to unite and empower us to move towards positive social change, the Culture & Unity themed catwalk show will feature Black Lives Matter Movement fashion collections and spotlight Black-owned businesses looking to break into the licensing industry. You can also meet Saphia and the Black Lives Matter Licensing team on stand D200 during the show.

L.I. How many exhibitors are confirmed at the moment?

A.K. We’re approaching 200 exhibitors and expect even more companies to be on the showfloor. The sales team add exhibitors to Map Your Show as soon as they are signed so this is the best way to keep up to date with who will be at the show.

Current exhibitors include the likes of AC Milan, FC Internazionale Milano, Rainbow, Panini S.p.A., Sabor, AI One, Warner Bros, Hasbro, Mattel, Jazwares, IMG, Universal, Bravado, BBC Studios, Banijay Brands, Aardman, Paramount, MGA, SEGA, Bandai Namco, CAA-GBG, Perfetti Van Melle, Van Gogh Museum, Formula 1, Tour de France, UEFA Champions League, Cyber Group Studios, and many more.

We also have around 30 first timers confirmed for this year. These include DFB – German Football Federation, AM Experience, Balance Pictures, Dreamcatcher Licensing, Fanatics, Formula E, Hang Ten, Jazwares, Le Petit Prince Licensing, Moonbug, Nelly Jelly World, Ownic NFT Cards, Readymade License, UAF – Ukranian Football Federation, The Bean Team and Zayzay Group. 

They will be bringing thousands of brands to BLE in our Character & Entertainment, Brands & Lifestyle and Art, Design, and Image Licensing Zones. Some evergreen, cross-generational favorites like Peanuts and The Beatles, others in the early stages of their licensing journeys like Le Petit Prince and the Tour de France, many yet to be snapped up.

From The Batman, Barbie, Billie Eilish and Bluey to Peppa Pig, Peter Rabbit, Play Doh and Peaky Blinders, there really is a brand for everyone. So, if you’re planning to attend BLE this year, then please register for a free pass on our website right now, start searching the online brand directory and get those meetings booked in before you miss out.

LI: Compared to the 2021 edition, what do you expect from this year’s Brand Licensing Europe?

A.K.: I’m so proud of what the team accomplished in 2021 given we were still facing Covid-related restrictions, which prevented some visitors and exhibitors from attending and also impacted the onsite experience – albeit minimally. Everyone was so happy to be back in person and the feedback was amazing, and our goal this year is to build on that so that visitor and exhibitor numbers are closer to the phenomenal levels achieved in 2019.


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