Jessica Blue has been directing successful global events for well over a decade. She was responsible for steering Brand Licensing Europe in London from 2005-2012 where she introduced many new initiatives and demonstrated significant growth for the show. She has more recently been leading the Las Vegas Licensing Expo, before being promoted to Senior Vice President, Licensing for UBM. Her new responsibilities see her directing UBM’s Global Licensing Group, the UBM licensing portfolio which includes: Licensing Expo, Brand Licensing Europe, Licensing Expo Japan, Licensing Expo China, NY Summit and License Global magazine. We spoke to Jessica immediately prior to Licensing Expo in Las Vegas to learn more about how UBM develops knowledge of communities and builds personal environments within the licensing business.
Jessica, we notice with interest that UBM has moved quickly to secure a global network of events for the licensing community. Can you tell us a little about the specific focus for each of your now five events?
Our role is to unite Intellectual Property owners and licensees/retailers in one place at one time to meet and do business. We need to be where our customers want us to be, so our strategy has been to launch events in the largest and fastest growing licensing markets in the world. The US is the largest market, followed by the UK, and then Japan and China have seen the fastest growth. At each of our events, regardless of the location – China, Japan, London or Las Vegas; we are focused on providing brands and licensees with the best atmosphere to bring creative licensing opportunities to life. It’s important that we offer a consistent experience at all of the shows and a high quality event for all participants.
As Licensing Expo is currently the focus of the entire licensing community, can you tell us what to expect from this year’s event?
So that we could capture and communicate all of the networking, educational and social events taking place around Licensing Expo, we have re-branded the experience to ‘Licensing Week’. Licensing Expo is the cornerstone of Licensing Week, but our intent is that this new positioning will captures people’s imagination and communicate the different business opportunities they will experience during their visit to Las Vegas.
We have a vibrant show floor featuring the best in the business and our new initiatives, activities and programs will provide an enjoyable experience for the 480+ exhibitors and 16,000+ manufacturers and retailers that attend, allowing them to have some fun and create memorable moments along the way.
Given that the show has now been located in Las Vegas Nevada for several years now, how has this impacted on your attendance numbers?
Our attendance has grown incrementally each year, over the past several years and Las Vegas has been and is a great location for Licensing Expo. Las Vegas offers a campus feel for show attendees and many opportunities to extend the conversation with after-hours networking events and meetings.
We noticed that you introduced your new Matchmaking service in 2016. How has the industry embraced this new service?
The industry absolutely loved the Matchmaking Service and it was a huge success in 2016. We always want to go the extra mile to make conducting business easy and efficient and I think it was so well received because it made connecting with the right people so much easier for licensees and licensors. We’ve literally just closed the system with 3,358 confirmed meetings – 1,000 more than last year.
What is your plan to attract more international exhibitors to the show?
We are lucky that UBM has 70 offices in 20 countries across the world. We are working with many of those offices to promote Licensing Expo to potential exhibitors and attendees. Licensing is a global industry, so many of our exhibitors participate in several of our shows across the globe. For our show in Las Vegas we have a number of international pavilions and for both 2017 and 2018, we have been selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Buyer Program (IBP) Select, which will give our exhibitors more access to international licensing partners.
Jessica what are your three most significant new exhibitors for the 2017 Expo?
We have 80 new exhibitors this year, so it’s tough to pick just three! Three of the new heavy hitters joining the show in 2017 are BuzzFeed, Funko and The Scott Brothers/Scott Living, and they all have large footprints on the Expo floor.
For those in the industry who have not attended the show in the past, what can you point out as the three most significant reasons for attending your show?
I would say that the three biggest reasons to attend Licensing Expo 2017 are to meet new industry contacts that will help fulfill business objectives, create new business deals that will move your business forward and also have a fun and enjoyable experience with your colleagues and counterparts.
Immediately following Licensing Expo is the Expo in China, what are your suggestions for exhibitors and attendees for marrying up the two shows?
I truly recommend exhibitors and attendees try their best to attend both shows. Each event we host attracts a unique exhibitor and attendee mix. Over 500 brands will be on display, and the day before the show we are organising a retail tour for 20 international brands who are considering entering China.
What was your outtake from your inaugural Expo in Japan?
Licensing Expo Japan (LEJ) was very successful and brought together a great mix of licensees and retailers from all product categories. More than 13,200 people attended to meet with the 400 international and Japanese brands that were represented. The feedback from exhibitors and attendees was incredibly positive and demonstrates the need for this show in Japan. Apparel is the largest licensed product category in Japan and globally, and, IFF MAGIC was co-located with LEJ, which increased the cross-over of attendees between the shows and provided additional value to our exhibitors.
What is your vision for the business over the next three years?
I expect the market in China to continue to grow exponentially. New ‘Video on Demand’ players are beginning to enter the market, looking to licensing as a revenue stream. eSports will be one to watch. We will continue to love our evergreen brands but new and different ones will also drive growth.
Jessica it’s been great to catch you before the Expo this year. I am sure that the industry will be most interested in your views and plans for the showcasing of our brands and industry around the world.