Welcome to the Brand Licensing Europe issue of License! Global. Here in London there's a definite feeling of excitement and anticipation among the licensing community.
This is not only attributable to the presence of the major U.S. film studios, which add their touch of glitz and glamour, but it's also because of the more than 200 exhibitors, 90 that are new to the show and more than one-third (76) that are headquartered outside the U.K.
This means the BLE show is going to be abuzz with new concepts, new people and new business. It's been insightful talking to this year's exhibitors about some of the major trends in licensing, including super heroes, movie franchises, forward planning at retail, the will to conquer the American market and the increase of European TV production.
One key trend is how longstanding entertainment brands are still relevant and that they are being introduced to children by their parents. This has always been the case with publishing-led properties such as Winnie the Pooh or Peter Rabbit, but less so with movie franchises. Once upon a time, children would discover new entertainment properties and then educate their parents about the goodies, the baddies and, most importantly, what stuff to buy and where. Lucasfilm's Casey Collins pointed out how the opposite is now happening. Many children apparently receive their first light-saber as a present from a parent or grandparent. And this isn't because of the cost. It's because the parents (and grandparents) want to introduce their children to the joys of the Star Wars film series and act as gatekeepers to the brand. (Empires Strikes Back is 30 years old this year).
Lucasfilm has thought all this through, of course, and the TV series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" has helped to maintain Star Wars' position as the No. 1 boys' brands in several countries, including the U.K. For younger children, the TV series is their very own Star Wars, enjoyed before their parents introduced them to the films.
And Star Wars isn't the only example. Warner Bros.' production of "Batman: The Brave and The Bold" has similarly given young children a Batman of their own, enjoyed before they can share the older-skewed films and books with their parents. At BLE this month, WBCP will be promoting its new Looney Tunes content and it's another example of a longstanding franchise that is more than 70 years old. The big opportunity is an updated CGI series called, "The Looney Tunes Show," designed to focus on the personalities of each character and embed them in the psyche of a new generation. Parents will love telling their kids about these iconic characters.
BLE is full of things that want discovering, too, of course. If you've not met them before, don't miss the chance to find out about Moomins at Bull's Press, or about the new series "Poppy Pig" at Coolabi or Puppy in My Pocket from Giochi Preziosi or BRB's Suckers.
In addition, there is 1950s chic at the V&A, which actively encourages an innovative interpretation of its designs, the European debut of the Sean Jean brand at Beanstalk and the opportunity to license Route 66 and other, soon-to-be-announced American icons. Turner will announce new Spin Master toy properties and Nickelodeon Europe has new live-action shows on its block.
As one studio exec says, "We're not out of the woods yet, so the more retailers through the door the better. The move to expand BLE to three days was exactly what the industry needed."