Gifts Today magazine

BLE opens today

Brand Licensing Europe celebrates its 20th anniversary today at London Olympia, and runs through until Thursday. Gifts Today caught up with show director Anna Knight to learn more

Anna, congratulations on BLE's 20th anniversary this year. How are you celebrating?
It's a pretty big deal to reach 20, isn't it? We've reached this milestone because we never lose sight of our number one purpose, and that's to provide a relevant platform for everyone in Europe who is involved in licensing to come together and learn, do business and network. We have always listened to our audiences - suppliers and visitors - to ensure the content we provide them each year is up to date, on trend and will help them do business better and smarter. We must be doing something right because last year was our biggest show to date with over 7500 visitors (including 37% from outside the UK) and 289 exhibitors. We fully expect this year to be even better.

How has BLE changed over the last 20 years?
BLE has changed so much since we launched 20 years ago. We originally launched as Brand Licensing in 1999 - a small hotel-based event in London. We moved to the Business Design Centre, then Earls Court and then to Olympia, which has been home ever since. The show was re-branded as Brand Licensing Europe in 2007 to reflect the international nature of its exhibitors, properties and visitors.

Who's exhibiting this year?
We're expecting to have around 300 suppliers exhibiting 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.

How many new exhibitors, who are they and is there a common theme?
One theme that shines through is sports - after focusing so heavily on sports last year, we have even more sports brands exhibiting in 2018, which is fantastic. It's a really exciting and relatively untapped category. There will be more than 50 new exhibitors across many different areas from gaming to sport, toys to heritage. They include Elves Behavin' Badly, Royal Museums Greenwich and University of Cambridge.

How big is the range of fields/business sectors that exhibitors come from?
We pride ourselves on representing every corner of the licensing industry - whether evergreen sectors or up and coming areas; that's why we break down the event into three key areas: Character & Entertainment, Brands & Lifestyle and Art, Design & Image.

Tell us about this year's conference

BLE hosts top quality, free seminar content every year - 30 sessions across The Licensing Academy and Brands & Lifestyle Theatre; content that's inspirational, practical and forward-thinking.

What's new at the show this year?
We've reconfigured the floorplan - so we are now in the National and Grand Halls at Olympia for the first time. This means that all our exhibitors are on the same level, increasing their discoverability and making it easier for visitors to be inspired by licenses they may not have otherwise seen. Our theme for 2018 is food and beverage (F&B). It's one of the fastest-growing and most robust categories within licensing. 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.

What about License This!?
The competition returns for its 10th outing this year. Launched in 2009 to give unlicensed brand and image owners the opportunity to enter the licensing market, this year's will have two award categories for the first time - Brand & Design and Character & Animation - giving entrants an even greater chance to win and enjoy valuable exposure to industry experts and mentors. The winners will get a free stand at BLE 2019, plus a year's membership of industry tradeshow LIMA and PR and marketing support.

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