The Bugg Report checked in with Anna Knight, UBM’s new Brand Director for Brand Licensing Europe (BLE), just prior to the show in October 2017. BLE is by the numbers the second largest licensing event in the calendar year. The most significant category of character & entertainment licensing is worth $38 billion in Europe and the show attracts close to 10,000 attendees over three days. Anna has been able to draw from the experiences at Licensing Expo and has been able to incorporate elements and apply them to BLE.
Anna, of the 2,500 brands that will be on show here in London, can you give us a snapshot of some of the newest and most interesting additions for this year?
It’s so hard to choose, but I’d focus on the new exhibitors this year including some brand new to the show and some brands we’re welcoming back after a few years away. Our new exhibitors include: 24H Le Mans, Admiral Sportswear, by Hartwig Braun, Ashcroft Designs, BroadTeck Co., Ltd, Country Colour, Crazy Bell Agency, DIC 2 Srl, Dicentium Films / Meteoric Entertainment, Ducati, Emoji, Endemol Shine, Hampshire Cultural Trust, Historic Royal Palaces, IHL | INHOLLYWOODLAND, Juventus, Kitkase, KOOKHAK SAEMI INC, Last Lemon, LCT Creative, Level-5 Abby Licensing Link Europe Ltd, Magic Light Pictures, Mandarin Licensing, Markosia Enterprises Ltd, May The Thoughts Be With You, Monika Suska Illustrations, Multera Ltd, Nudinits, Nuttery Entertainment, OpSec Security, POSH Original Art, Rugby World Cup 2019, TF1 Licences, The Gallerie Azerty, The Point 1888, Those Licensing People, Traditional Japan, Tulipop, TY Inc, White Space Entertainment, Striker Entertainment, SYBO Games…
We notice with interest that the match making service will once again be available at BLE. Has this proven to be a successful tool for licensing people to seek out meetings and connect with other parties?
Absolutely. Hot off the press I can confirm that we have already seen double the confirmed meetings than at the same point last year and we’ve also improved the functionality of the system so both licensees and retailers can connect more easily with brand owners and vice versa. Last year, we had over 40% of all attendees engage with the system and so many positive outcomes in terms of meetings and deals, in fact.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your vision for BLE now and in the future?
Of course. I’m a marketer by trade and have been working in events my whole career starting in 2004. I have been running trade shows (in a Show Director role) for three years now and I have to say, without doubt, that licensing is my favourite industry. I’m not just saying that! It’s full of some of the most exciting brands and the most creative and innovative people and you get to be at the forefront of so many consumer trends. My vision for the future is most certainly a focus on European growth – in terms of licensors, licensees and our sought after retailers. Also, I want to ensure that we grow the show in line with the industry and that shouldn’t be at the mercy of any part of the industry – instead working with all corners to find out where to innovate and make changes. This year, we introduced gaming from one of many conversations and I hope to announce next year’s theme shortly.
It appears that there will be a major focus on the Gaming category this year, including a keynote from Mark Howsen – Commercial Development Director at Sony. Can you tell us a little about this initiative?
It’s BLE’s responsibility to support all parts of the industry and shine a spotlight on the ones showing growth as well as the ones with opportunity for more licensing. Gaming is one of the highest growing sectors in licensing but it remains largely untapped when it comes to merchandise thanks in part to a lack of understanding about the end user, the products and the potential – we want to educate around the possibilities for licensees and retailers as gaming remains one of the most creative exciting, forward-looking and lucrative entertainment markets. So we’re introducing educational seminars, a brand new activation and a great line-up of gaming exhibitors.
GfK will deliver a seminar on the UK video games industry with an emphasis on the trends and opportunities. This will take place in the Licensing Academy on Tuesday at 11.00. Following this, we have a gaming keynote panel featuring experts from all corners of gaming licensing including Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe & Bioworld International.
The new Gaming Activation Area is a showcase and demonstration area, which aims to educate licensees and retailers on the journey of a video game IP from screen to store, including a mock retail environment where a range of IPs will be featured. It’s really exciting not just for the IPs that will be featured but also because it’s the gaming industry working together to showcase its combined potential. Exhibiting this year we have Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe, Ubisoft, Capcom, Sega, King, Activision Blizzard, Rovio, Pokémon, Tinderbox, Animal Jam, Level-5 Abby, Those Licensing People. SYBO Games, Striker Entertainment…
Anna, what will the conferencing program look like this year at BLE for attendees?
We’re hosting over 30 sessions across two seminar theatres and the themes covered will range from trend updates on fashion, lifestyle, toys, gaming and sport, to European focused sessions around the impact of Brexit and how to launch a pan European licensing programme. We’ve also got some amazing case studies in our brands & lifestyle theatre including sessions by JELC & The National Gallery, an interview with the V&A, Juventus talking about their recent brand transformation and the return of the hugely popular panel led by Richard Pink that includes speakers from Penguin Random House, Chupa Chups, Smiley & Fat Face.
The full programme can be found on our website by visiting us via www.brandlicensing.eu.
Can you outline your live stage and product showcase? I believe this is new this year?
The live stage is a bit under wraps at the moment but we will be announcing a very special addition to this soon. The product showcase is one of my personal favourites for this year and I strongly encourage EVERYONE to come and visit it. The showcase will highlight the vast diversity and creativity of licensed products targeted toward adults and will feature more than 20 exhibitors that have donated over 150 licensed products representing 60 brands and a host of categories including apparel, health & beauty, food & drink, accessories, giftware, electronics and furniture.
For example, from the museum/heritage sector, Historic Royal Palaces will showcase items from The Palace Collection with Hobbs, which is launching this fall. Other examples include the Natural History Museum, which has donated a range of greeting cards produced in partnership with Moonpig, as well as V&A and IWM, which have submitted giftware for the Showcase.
Large shows can often be difficult to navigate from an attendee’s standpoint. How have you gone about laying out this years show to ensure it can be easily understood?
Once again, we have divided the show into zones with Character & Entertainment exhibitors on the lower level and Brands & Lifestyle and Art, Design & Image Exhibitors on the upper level. We have worked hard on our signage to help visitors identify these zones but also identify where to find exhibitors more easily. It’s always difficult to “zone between zones” – as in have a sports zone or heritage zone as exhibitors don’t always wish to be with their counterparts but we often find that that happens naturally regardless. I’d encourage everyone to take a look at the online floorplan before coming to BLE as we have a vast range of exhibitors at the show and it’s essential to a) prebook meetings with matchmaking and b) plan your route to make the most out of those busy days.
Anna, what are the three most important aspects of this show that you are focused on developing?
There’s no one single thing for me – it’s about the sum of all parts. However, if pushed, I’d say that there are three major threads across this year’s event: 1. Gaming and the potential of gaming within licensing 2. Europe – we’ve got more European exhibitors, more European retailers and licensees are registering and we’re really focusing on the “Europe” part of Brand Licensing Europe in our educational content. 3. The continued innovation and versatility of the corporate brands and lifestyle properties, a part of the licensing industry that can sometimes be overlooked vs the ever-popular entertainment space.
How have you addressed the fact that the Olympia Hall is on two levels?
We continue to work on this, providing better signage, better access (staircases etc) and then also for me, it’s about the offerings on the two floors and ensuring our pre event communications really spell out where licensees and retailers should go to find out what they need. The zones help but it’s really the stories from our exhibitors about why their brand and properties are worth visiting that dictate where people go.
Next year, we are actually moving the show onto one level, with the upper level coming into the adjacent National Hall. This is the next natural move for us given that we have outgrown our current layout and also, it means that we are well and truly one, cohesive show. We will retain the zones and the Character & Entertainment Zone will stay where it is – Brands & Lifestyle and Art, Design & Image will move next door into National with their own dedicated entrance and three new cafes and new features due to be announced.
Now that UBM have 5 shows in their portfolio, can you tell us how you see them providing a connection in licensing around the world?
Absolutely. We have four shows with Licensing Expo, Brand Licensing Europe, Licensing Expo Japan and Licensing Expo China as well as our 5th brand, License Global. Not only do we have a presence in the largest and fastest growing licensing markets in the world, but we also now have an opportunity for our customers to do business wherever they need. Wherever your focus – be it domestic Europe or Japan, there is something specific for you and that’s very exciting for us.
Anna, thanks for your time during this busy run up to BLE. It is always valuable to have an insight into what goes into delivering a world-class event. I am sure your attendees this year will benefit from your many new initiatives and come away from the show with greater knowledge of the licensing business.