We Speak to Ella Haynes, Event Director, Brand Licensing Europe 2023

The Bugg Report had the chance to speak to Ella Haynes, Event Director, Brand Licensing Europe (BLE) about all things about the upcoming 2023 Brand Licensing Europe event at ExCeL London.

Ella Haynes — Event Director, Global Licensing Group at Informa Markets

We’re just over a month out from BLE now — how’s it all going?

It’s going well, the team is buzzing, especially after such a great Expo and last year’s BLE.

What did you feel you learnt from last year’s show and the build-up, and how are you applying these learnings this year?

Well, we experienced a state funeral, flood and middle of the night fire alarm, so we have learnt to always expect the unexpected.

Apart from that, BLE 2022 was amazing. We had incredible quality retailers and the widest possible range of brands available for license, our day three day of purpose was phenomenal, and the fashion theme and catwalk were icing on the cake.

BLE 2023 will build on those successes to bring even more brands, content and people to the show to inspire attendees and help them create the next generation of branded products for consumers to connect and fall in love with. Brands have the potential to shape our identities and consumer products allow us to buy into those brands and belong to those tribes. That’s possible because of brand licensing. And the brand licensing journey for European brands starts at BLE.

Tell us how BLE 2023 is shaping up?

We have 220 companies confirmed to exhibit representing more European territories than ever including Greece, Ukraine and Serbia, as well as further afield to APAC, and every possible brand licensing category you can think of — from characters and animation to music and celebrity, fashion and apparel, food and beverage, charity and heritage, art and design, sports and lifestyle, toys and gaming, and so much more.

There will thousands upon thousands of brands that are actively looking for licensing partners — brands like Marvel, Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Nadiya Hussain, Sarah & Duck, Gigantosaurus, Ed Hardy, Beryl Cook, International Space Archives, Moomin, The Little Prince, Farah, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Febreze, The Smurfs, Frida Kahlo, Bentley Motors, and English Heritage to name a few.

Ella Haynes, Event Director, Brand Licensing Europe

This year’s theme is Location Based Experiences (LBE) and we’ll also have a Green Zone, which is new and will run in partnership with Products of Change and feature lots of examples of sustainable consumer products.

Also, don’t miss the Ignite Brand pitches, which is a new feature for 2023, where five up-and-coming unlicensed brands ready to make their mark in the licensing industry take to the stage a thrilling, fast-paced session of live speed-pitches. Plus – this year our License This! finalists AND winner will be announced on stage ahead of this year’s opening keynote. And, of course, it goes without saying our adorable, much-loved character parade will return at 1130 on Wednesday and Thursday.

On the keynote side, we have confirmed Hasbro and Path Entertainment Group as our opening day keynote — they’ll be talking about how they collaborated to make MONOPOLY LIFESIZED such a massively successful experience. Our second keynote is still under wraps but expect big names and big brands and our third keynote will focus on our Day Three Day of Purpose.

Why choose Location Based Experiences as a theme?

We chose LBE for a number of reasons. As a licensing category, its growth is phenomenal, up 67% on 2022 according to Licensing International, and it’s only going to get bigger. It also appeals to everyone: consumers, brand owners, designers, service providers, licensees, manufacturers and retailers. It’s great to have a theme that applies to the entire BLE community.

If you’re a brand owner looking to break into the LBE space or you’re still figuring out how to start those conversations, then BLE is a must-visit. And if you’re a retailer desperately focused on creating that in-store point of difference, which must include experiential or retailtainment these days, then, again, BLE’s LBE theme is the perfect way to discover the innovation and excitement surrounding this category. And if you design LBE experiences then it’s a no-brainer — brands allow you to create a richer and more immersive experience and build on an existing and loyal fanbase to drive customers.

The first time exhibitor line-up is once again looking pretty healthy – how many are signed up to date and can you share some highlights?

Very healthy. To date, there are 52 new exhibitors on the list who have never exhibited at BLE before, which means they’ll be bringing lots of new brands and untapped opportunities to the show. New exhibitors include HARI International, last year’s License This! Winner Frobelles, Outerstuff, Pembe the Pink Cat, Rebellion, Naru Naru, The Wombles and Leo the Truck.

And, what’s happening ‘out of hours’?

Everyone is welcome to join us for the BLE Opening Night Drinks — 5-7pm across our cafés and bars on the show floor — and Licensing International is bringing back “Soho Nights” from 7.30pm till late at 100 Wardour Street Soho, central London.

What advice would you give to visitors (first time or not!) on how to make the most of the BLE experience this year?

Plan ahead. 100%. Set up your profile in the online Meetings Platform. Use the brand directory to identify which brands are a good match for your business objectives and start requesting meetings with exhibitors. They book meetings early, so it’s impossible to start too soon. Make sure you check out the BLE agenda so you don’t miss out on conference content. Then book your hotel and travel. There’s actually a really handy guide on our website.

If you are a retailer, our Head of Retail Laura is always happy to help you book meetings and arrange your itinerary. She’s laura.freedmandagg@informa.com. All first timers — or anyone who fancies a refresher — are welcome to join the Orientation Sessions on Wednesday and Thursday at 0915, and the Show Tours starting at 0945 — just meet in the License Global theatre.

How are retailer registrations looking? Are you noticing any trends at this stage? Are you finding the spread of retailers keen to find out more on licensing is expanding?

It’s going really well, and we are tracking well ahead of last year for retail registrations, which performed in line with 2019, so I am confident we will have more retailers this year and we have a strict qualification process so they will be high quality.

New retailers this year include several sportswear retailers, including Sporeo (France), Target Sport (UK), COPA (Netherlands), eyewear retailers MacV and Retropeepers, plus Paultons Park and Blackpool Pleasure Beach, which I’m sure is thanks to our LBE theme. They’re joining returning retailers including Deichmann, Next, H&M, John Lewis, Celio, Primark, Aldi, Tesco, Fat Face, Lidl, Ackermans, George at Asda, Liberty London, Amazon, PepCo, ASOS, Jules, Selfridges and many more.

It’s great to see the breadth and diversity of the retail names signing up for the show, in terms of category representation, seniority and job function. BLE gives retailers the brand meetings you’d expect, but also provides plenty of creative inspiration and strategic insight giving value for cross functional teams. It’s fantastic to see designers and marketers in particular register to join their buying counterparts.

Ella Haynes, Event Director, Brand Licensing Europe

If visitors only have a limited time at the show, what are the three things you would really recommend they see/do?

  1. Meet the right people and find the right brands to build new business relationships to create lasting partnerships and market-leading consumer products that will change people’s lives.
  2. Browse the floor — there are thousands of brands to discover and products to be inspired by and ‘inspiration’ is one of the top reasons visitors come to BLE. So, block time out of your calendar to see the products on display, immerse yourself in the Location Based Experience Pavilion, Green Zone and Licensee Pavilion — all new for this year and been designed specifically to inspire visitors. And talk to people and bring colleagues to spontaneously brainstorm with — tradeshows are a great way to break away from the day to day and develop new ideas simply because you are in a different space.
  3. Finally, don’t miss the new Advice Centre, which is also new this year of full of service providers available to offer you great takeaway tops and guidance.