Darren Brechin, event director, Brand Licensing Europe
This year's Brand Licensing Expo, set for Oct. 13-15 at London's Olympia, currently boasts 30 new vendors, educational classes and a behind-the-scenes blog. BLE will be once again divided into three sections–Art, Design & Image, Brands & Lifestyle and Character & Entertainment–that will be populated with new companies. To-date, 180 companies have signed up to participate in this year's BLE including well-known brands such as PGA, NOW That's What I Call Music, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Been Trill, Quantum Beauty Company, On Entertainment, Bravado and Vimto International.
As the U.K. licensing business grows (to more than $13 billion in 2014), so are certain categories within licensing. Case in point: the sports and automotive companies are showing the most growth at BLE 2015. Companies like adidas A.C. Milan, Arsenal Football
Additionally, licensing trade organization SPLiCE will be co-hosting new educational classes that will feature expert panels comprised of speakers from knowledgeable companies on subjects such as direct-to-retail, social accountability and anti-counterfeiting.
Now in its sixth year, the Retail Mentoring Programme gives buyers a wider understanding of the licensing business. Retailers will take part in various workshops and seminars, including the LIMA Licensing Essentials Course and Spring Fling in May (in partnership with the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association U.K.), which culminates at BLE. Last year, more than 53 buying professionals took part, a 60 percent increase from the previous year. Companies like Asda, Blackpool Pleasure Beach Limited, Claire's Accessories U.K. Limited, Lloyds Pharmacy, Matalan and Stanfords have joined existing participants Sainsbury's, Boots, Lakeland, Blue Inc. and Mothercare in the six-month program—the only one of its kind in the U.K.
"The Retail Mentoring Programme has been a real help to our buyers in understanding how the licensing world works," says John Carolan, head of buying, childrenswear, Sainsbury's. "It also gives them an insight into what they need to take forward to be a successful childrenswear buyer."
"We launched the Retail Mentoring Programme back in 2010 to bridge the gap between buying professionals and licensors," says Darren Brechin, event director, BLE. "Six years on, we are still welcoming new retailers which demonstrates the need for such a unique initiative. Licensing is a multi-billion dollar market with opportunities growing daily, and we're doing all we can to close that gap. We have already welcomed new retailers to our Retail Mentoring Programme this year, and are signing exhibitors across the three show zones, so we are looking set to achieve these goals."
Returning this year is The Licensing Academy, which hosts keynote addresses from high-profile speakers–past keynote speakers include Mojang, Team GB, Angry Birds, Lucas Licensing and Moshi Monsters.
Another feature of the 2015 show is the Brands & Lifestyle Theatre, which offers sessions tailored specifically to the business of licensing brands; while the Advice Center will provide visitors with a single destination for practical advice and consultations. Industry professionals are on-hand to give legal, financial and general contractual advice.
This year's License This! competition offers those with brand-new creative concepts the opportunity to break into the global licensing industry. Finalists are judged on the last day of the show by a panel of leading experts in front of a live audience, as they vie for the chance to win a stand at the following year's show. The grand prize is more than $9,000, plus a stand at next year's BLE 2016, LIMA membership for one year and one ticket to the LIMA Licensing Essentials Course and Spring Fling Networking Party in May 2016. Entry forms and competition rules can be found at www.brandlicensing.eu. Deadline for entries is Sept. 4. Last year's winner, RaNT!, an irreverent character creation from Adam Bestwick at Fourth Wall Brands, is working on new projects including a line of lunchware and stationery with John Lewis, a RaNT! microsite and exploring other product areas including babywear.
"License This! has consistently received a high standard of entries year-on-year," says Brechin. "It attracts high profile industry figures as judges who recognize the importance of fresh new properties, and provides a springboard for many who have gone on to achieve success as a result of entering."
Lastly, the Global Partner program, launched in 2009, is an initiative that rewards companies that exhibit at both BLE and Licensing Expo with up to 12 months of free publicity and networking opportunities, further expanding the breadth of brand exposure for exhibiting companies.
If you don't want to wait until October to get your BLE news, check out the BLE Blog, which premiered in March.
"The BLE Blog is the next step in the show's evolution," says Brechin. "We have so many initiatives running as part of BLE, we felt a blog would be an ideal platform to shout about what we do. Aimed at both visitors and exhibitors, the BLE Blog will feature posts from the team on getting the most from the show, as well as the latest news, initiatives and promotions. It will also publish a number of guest posts over the coming months from show partners, speakers and exhibitors on a range of topics including industry trends, legal issues, five minute interviews with senior attendees and a series of 'how-to' guides.
"Last year's event was the biggest to-date in its illustrious 17-year history, so we've set the bar high for 2015," says Brechin. "Last year's show attracted more retailers than ever before, and this is another focus for us as we aim to increase these numbers further."
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