Brand Licensing Europe (BLE) 2024: interview with Ella Haynes, Event Director

Brand Licensing Europe is Europe’s leading trade event and takes place from 24 to 22 September 2024 at ExCeL London.

Ella Heynes
Ella Heynes

Licensing Italia, Licensing International Representative in Italy, interviewed Ella Haynes, Event Director, Global Licensing Group at Informa Markets

by Maura Rastelli 

L.I. What’s new for 2024?
Ella Haynes: This year at Brand Licensing Europe (BLE), there will be a big focus on experience, so keep an eye out for the inspiring brand-led areas and experiences on the showfloor. But the really big thing, is our 25th anniversary.

We want this to be a celebration of the European licensing community and not just BLE; a retrospective on how the industry has evolved, and a chance to honour the individuals, companies and brands all over Europe that have evolved with the show. We will be hosting a birthday party on the first night so add that to your calendar now!

L.I. Brand Licensing Europe (BLE) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year: what are in your opinion the basic elements of its enduring success?

E.A.: For any product to be successful, it needs to really understand its customers and deliver solutions tailored precisely to them. And not as a one-off exercise; there needs to be a continuous feedback loop so the product can evolve in line with those customers’ needs. That’s the secret to BLE’s success: over the last 25 years we have evolved the event in line with the needs of retailers, manufacturers and brands. And not just to help them in business now, but to provide them with insight into the trends and innovation driving the European licensing industry over the next two, three, four years.

L.I. What are the main focus areas?
E.A.: The main reason European retailers and manufacturers come to BLE is to meet the people behind the brands they want to work with. The show lets them discover new innovations and IP from all over the world – IP that can help them grow their consumer base and business in their domestic markets as well as expand globally.

BLE represents every category of licensing – from sports to museums, character and entertainment to anime and gaming, and art and design to celebrities. It’s packed with inspiration – there are products on the show floor and insights in the conference theatre. And, of course, many networking opportunities, too, which can be so powerful in kick-startingnew ideas and partnerships.

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

E.A.: 176 exhibitors are confirmed including 14 first timers. Our Licensee Pavilion, which debuted last year, is already sold out and we have launched a new Service Provider Pavilion for businesses providing valuable support to the industry.

Returning exhibitors include Paramount, Crunchyroll, The Smurfs, Pokémon, FC Inter Milan, Miraculous Corp, Van Gogh Museum, Paul Frank, Tour de France, Ubisoft, Banijay, Fanatics, UEFA Club Competitions, Real Madrid CF, Le Petit Prince, Capcom, Walker Books, Moonbug Entertainment, Hasbro, SEGA, Rebellion, BANDAI NAMCO, Mercis BV (with Miffy), Acamar Films, BBC Studios, Manchester City FC, Yale University and more.

L.I. Compared to the 2023 edition, what do you expect from this year’s Brand Licensing Europe?

E.A.: Last year, 9,649 licensing professionals attended BLE. Visitor numbers increased by 28 per cent, and the show attracted record numbers of European retailers and visitors from France, Germany, Italy and Spain (also up 28 per cent), showing the strong appetite for branded consumer products at retail.

Attending retailers included buyers from Zara, Amazon, Benetton, The Entertainer, ASOS, C&A, H&M, Calzedonia, Carrefour, Fat Face, Galeries Lafayette, Harrods, Aldi, Decathlon, Diechmann, Next, El Corte Ingles, Forbidden Planet, Frasers Group, Primark, Poundland, Card Factory, Hamley’s, HMV, Iceland, John Lewis & Partners, Legends, Lidl, Lipsy, Selfridges and many more.

Most importantly, over 5,100 meetings were pre-arranged in the show’s Event Platform (a 17% increase on 2022) and many thousands more took place onsite.

This year, our goal is to increase all these numbers, with particular emphasis on attracting even more retailers and manufacturers from mainland Europe.

L.I. The executive summary of the 2024 Global Licensing Industry Study released that the global sales of licensed merchandise and services increased a 4.6% in 2023 compared to 2022: what is your opinion about these results?

E.A.: Today, brand licensing brings the emotional connection between buyer and brand to life through authentic, innovative, and creative consumer products or experiences. The brand licensing landscape is now a complex tapestry of opportunities that allows brands to engage with audiences (new and old) wherever they are. And it’s clearly working because the industry continues to innovate and grow – in maturity, creativity and value – year on year.

We are in a strong place with a lot of opportunities ahead of us such as the proliferation and impact of streaming and digitisation on the entertainment industry – they have encouraged us to be more agile, seize real moments to engage with communities and improve speed-to-market. And that’s a good thing.

L.I. Do you have any further comments to add?

E.A.: Yes! Two things.

BLE is less than four months away so please book flights, trains and hotels as soon as possible. European BLE visitors can access special discounts on the Eurostar as well as hotels close to ExCeL – just visit our website here.

Secondly, register for your free ticket now – this gives you access to the Event Planner, which means you will soon be able to start building your profiles and – from mid-July – book meetings with exhibiting brands, agents, licensees and service providers.

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