The Bugg Report Catches Up with Anna Knight, Brand Director at UBM for Brand Licensing Europe

Thanks for speaking to us Anna. Can you give us a snapshot of some of the newest and most interesting additions for Brand Licensing Europe (BLE) this year?

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 have more sports exhibitors than ever, including Admiral Sportswear, Dorna Sports, FC Barcelona, Roland-Garros, International Basketball Federation, NBA, Juventus Football Club, Manchester City FC, Tour de France, Dakar, Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal FC, UEFA Euro 2020, the NFL Players Association, French Football Federation, Royal Dutch Football Association, the FA, Benfica, Real Madrid, FIFA, 4Play, Forever Collectibles and the Rugby World Cup. Of those, 4Play, FC Barcelona, Roland-Garros, International Basketball Federation, Sport Lisboa e Benfica, Forever Collectibles, French Football Federation, Royal Dutch Football Association and the FA are all new to BLE for 2018.

We have just announced our first keynote: the IOC’s VP Commercial Integration Elisabeth Allaman who will take to The Licensing Academy stage at 12pm on Wednesday 10th 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.

We have expanded our License This! competition in light of its ten-year anniversary, and we will have two winners this year: one for brand & design and one for character & animation. 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.

But the biggest change visitors will notice when they arrive at the show this year is the floor layout. We’ve reconfigured the floorplan – so we are now in the National and Grand Halls at Olympia for the first time. It’s important to us that BLE 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 will achieve this by having everyone on one level across the ground floor of the two halls.

How has the matchmaking service been received by the industry after its introduction at BLE?

2018 will be the third year of us running the Matchmaking Service and the rise in its use and popularity last year was incredible. BLE is a meetings event. People come here to do business. Exhibitors’ and visitors’ diaries are jam-packed from start to finish and the Matchmaking Service helps them to maximise their time at the show and makes it possible for them to meet people they may have otherwise missed.

Nearly 3,000 business meetings were pre-arranged for BLE 2017 using the service, a 150 per cent yearly increase. It connected 1,000 licensors with licensees, made 12,000 contacts available for meetings spread across a wide range of sectors and interests and attracted over 250,000 online user profile views. One Matchmaking Service user even secured business worth $1.5m, which is immense – it’s exactly the reason we introduced it and I’m looking forward to hearing more stories like that one this year.

What were some of the highlights from last year’s show?

Last year’s objectives were to attract more visitors and exhibitors from Europe, expand our European content, bring in more online retailers to meet exhibitors and celebrate and shine a light on two of the untapped areas of licensing – brands & lifestyle and gaming and we’re very happy to say we ticked all of those boxes.

What can attendees look forward to during the seminar programme this year?

They can look forward to top quality, free seminar content – 30 sessions across The Licensing Academy and Brands & Lifestyle Theatre; content that’s inspirational, practical and forward-thinking.

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 and we have a fantastic presentation about The Moominvalley animation series and how the Moomins team is creating a new take on a beloved heritage brand. 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.

Gaming was a major focus last year. How has this progressed?

It was, yes, gaming and sport. We had more sports exhibitors than ever and a brilliant Gaming Activation with a demo and retail area. It was such a success that all our gaming exhibitors are coming back this year, which is brilliant news. This year, our theme is food and beverage; a theme that unites licensees and licensors.

This year’s theme will be food and beverage which is new and sounds exciting. What will this look like?

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 theme will be carried through the entire show, from keynotes and seminars to celebrity appearances, cook-offs, demos and on-stand sampling.

What can attendees look forward at BLE this October?

In addition to the great seminar content, the Product Showcase, F&B content and License This!, 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.

We’re indebted to our many exhibitors who return year on year and we’d also like to extend a special welcome to the more than 50 companies who are exhibiting with us or the first time in 2018 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, French Football Federation, Forever Collectibles UK, Freddy Leck seine Vertriebsgesellschaft, Guangzhou Liuhua Fashion Wholesale Market, GWCC Apparel Masters, HCA Creation, Hearts by Tiana, 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 Dutch Football Association, Royal Museums Greenwich, Sailor Ted, Smidt-IMEX, Sport Lisboa e Benfica, Swissbrand World, Sylphe, TCC Brands, Tractor Ted, Tradheir, TOHO (representing Godzilla), UCLA, UEFA Euro 2020, University of Cambridge, Ventana Licensing Group and Viewpoint Games.

It has now been announced that BLE will be moving to ExCeL London in 2019. Can you tell is more about this exciting more?

Yes, we are moving next year, and let me tell you the thinking behind this. We constantly talk to our customers about their requirements from BLE and those requirements had begun to change – from the wish for a more experiential event to the need for more flexible space options. We started to look at venue options vs those requirements and it became clear that there was another, potentially more suitable option in ExCeL London.

We’d distill our reasoning into three main areas:

  • European growth – European attendee and exhibitor growth is extremely important to BLE to ensure we are fully representative of the European licensing marketing and we already have over on third of attendees travelling in from continental Europe and beyond. Close proximity to City Airport and the arrival of the Elizabeth Line will provide a direct, quicker connection to Heathrow Airport offers the opportunity to grow this audience yet further.
  • Space – we need space to grow but most importantly the most flexible space possible to host the event. Increasingly, exhibitors are asking for more flexible stand options, meeting spaces, screening rooms and more and we simply can’t cater for these requests at Olympia. These requests are coming from across all our exhibitors, not just those taking larger stands. Our attendees are also rightly demanding more from us in terms of their experience at the event and we need to be able to respond to this. From meeting spaces, seating areas and catering points to retail showcase spaces and experiential activations, ExCeL gives us the flexibility to transform the space for the better.
  • Experience – ExCeL is a modern, purpose-built exhibition centre with excellent facilities. We get a lot of feedback on needing to provide better catering, WIFI, air-con, toilets, seating etc. and ExCeL provides that. It’s not just about the amenities though, although they are extremely important. It’s also about creating an amazing experience and ExCeL gives us the space and facilities to be able to do that.