Purple carpet on the main aisle wasn’t the only new addition at Brand Licensing Europe this year. The event welcomed more exhibitors than ever before, highlighting the vibrancy of the EMEA licensing industry.
For its 16th outing, Brand Licensing Europe continued the momentum of past years with a 6 percent increase of exhibitors, making this the largest show ever in terms of physical floor space.
More than 9,500 professionals from all over the world attended the annual event, which took place Oct. 7-9 at London's Olympia exhibition hall.
Of the 306 brands and companies that exhibited this year, 88 were newcomers and included such well-known companies as Bandai Namco, Chelsea Football Club, Hearst Publications, King, the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Jim Henson, The Franklin Mint, Ty and Von Dutch.
But perhaps the most notable increase this year was in the number of retailers that attended the show, up 28 percent from 2013.
"We couldn't be more thrilled with this year's event," says Darren Brechin, event director, BLE. "Our key objective for 2014 was to deliver more qualified buyers, so to witness a staggering 28 percent increase in retail attendees has surpassed all of our expectations. We are in a fast-paced and exciting industry, and this year's show was a true reflection with so many new properties, and many well-loved favorites, brought to market to explore the endless opportunities licensing offers."
The Retail Mentoring Programme also had its biggest year yet, attracting more than 50 buyers from 10 major U.K. retailers.
New this year were a number of charitable partnerships including one with the Battersea Dogs & Cats home that saw the show get its first mascot–Squirt the Dog.
It was standing room only for the two keynote sessions featuring the British Olympic Association's Team GB and Mojang, the creator of "Minecraft," with both companies discussing their approaches to licensing and brand development.
And as always, the show was a hotbed of new brands, new licensing opportunities and new deals. Read on for some of the biggest news to come out of the 2014 show.
Brand Licensing Europe 2015 will take place October 13-15 in London.
Character & Entertainment
The first floor of Olympia was home to all things entertainment, filled to the brim with characters and brand activations like the Table Dennis ping-pong tournament, hosted by DC Thomson (licensor of Dennis the Menace), the Bounce Alzheimer's Therapy Foundation and Table Tennis England.
Redan Alchemy's Sooty and Sweep went head-to-head in a contest to see who was the nation's favorite character, with Sweep ultimately taking the crown.
Nickelodeon Viacom Consumer Products announced plans to create Nickelodeon stores in a variety of international destinations, beginning with a flagship specialty store in London in partnership with Entertainment Retail Enterprises. Opening in the second quarter of 2015, the London store will include interactive elements as well as a broad range of products based on Nickelodeon's properties.
The world's largest licensor, Disney Consumer Products, also had a swath of announcements around its upcoming properties including the unveiling of toys across multiple categories for Walt Disney Animation's Big Hero 6 film from Bandai. Swarovski and Supertrash were named as some of the first licensees for the March 2015 Cinderella live action film. Finally, DCP presented the TV movie Descendants. The film will be the biggest Disney Channel movie production since High School Musical. Slated for 2015, the movie will star the teenage offspring of Disney's most iconic villains including Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Jafar and Cruella de Vil.
2015 is looking to be a big year on the movie front with the much-anticipated Jurassic Park sequel, Jurassic World, hitting theaters in June, 20 years after the first film. Universal Partnerships & Licensing unveiled a huge roster of partners for the film, in addition to Hasbro, the brand's long-time master toy licensee. Among the new U.K. partners for the brand are Dreamtex (home furnishings), Smith & Brooks (apparel), Unique Industries (party goods), VMC Accessories (accessories) and Zak U.K. (dinnerware), alongside a host of U.S. and international licensees.
Another classic brand getting a new treatment in 2015 is Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds. ITV Studios Global Entertainment announced the first licensing partners for the new series "Thunderbirds Are Go" at BLE, including Vivid Imaginations as worldwide master toy (excluding the U.S. and Asia), DC Thomson for an annual and monthly magazine, Kokomo in the personal care category, Danilo for stationery products and Posh Paws for bags.
DHX debuted its new preschool brand Twirlywoos and announced that Golden Bear would serve as the property's master toy licensee. The new TV series from Anne Wood and Ragdoll Productions was commissioned by CBeebies and will begin airing in spring 2015. DHX Media, which co-funded the project, is handling global distribution and merchandising for the show.
Entertainment One continues to build Peppa Pig's global presence with the announcement of plans for a themed area in the Leolandia theme park in Milan, Italy. The four-year deal will see the development of a water play area, playground, tours of the Pig family's two-story home and character meet-and-greets.
Following the success of the premiere season of Showtime's TV series "Penny Dreadful," CBS Consumer Products unveiled a robust lineup of new partners in apparel, accessories, collectibles and publishing including Titan Books, Bif Bang Pow!, Rizzoli/Universe, Cryptozoic and Changes.
Warner Bros. Consumer Products highlighted a series of brand collaborations between Tom and Jerry and Puma, Looney Tunes and the National Basketball Association (which signed its first deal with Allegre for plush) and a continuation of the Hello Kitty/DC Comics Super Heroes crossover.
Meanwhile, FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment continued to expand its preschool series "Tree Fu Tom" across Europe with the appointment of licensing agents in France (Biplano), Spain (El Ocho) and Greece (Partner Plus).
Brands & Lifestyle
Perhaps the area of the show that saw the biggest changes this year was Brands & Lifestyle, which expanded within Olympia's gallery level, growing a whopping 25 percent from 2013.
Additionally, a new Brands & Lifestyle Theatre hosted 17 educational sessions organized in partnership with Brand Jam.
Heritage brands made a big showing in this area, with new exhibitor the National Museum of the Royal Navy signing a number of licensees for the warship HMS Victory including Willow and Warson for wooden accessories made from the original timbers of the ship, Cheatwell Games for games and puzzles and Star Editions for prints of the ships in the NMRN's archives.
Marks & Spencer launched a new line of menswear inspired by the University of Oxford under the Blue Harbor brand during the show. Produced by TVM Fashion Lab, the collection features 14 collegiate-style pieces as well as the university's coat of arms and crest.
The National Gallery, the fourth most visited museum in the world, appointed JELC to develop an international licensing program for its collection of paintings.
Sports company Extreme gave away free tickets to the 2015 Extreme Drift Allstars U.K. Grand Prix car drifting competition to all show attendees and offered the chance to get behind the wheel with GT/Rally and drift rig simulators.
Beanstalk showcased its new consulting division, Blueprint, which specializes in advising companies on how to evolve their brands. The agency also announced two strategic alliances with the Wild East Group in India and Click! Licensing in Southeast Asia to bring Beanstalk client brands to those regions and develop local properties.
Art, Design & Image
Participation was also up in the Art, Design & Image section of the show, with a 9 percent increase in exhibitor numbers from 2013.
Last year's License This! winner, Mr. Trafalgar, made its BLE debut, showcasing its first consumer products including homewares and tech accessories from TaylorMe.
Character-based brand RaNT! was named the 2014 winner of the competition for new creative concepts. The judging panel, which was led by Ian Downes, managing director of Start Licensing, said the property stood out "for its originality and topicality."
As the License This! winner, RaNT! will receive a fully furnished stand at Brand Licensing Europe 2015, worth £5,100, to bring its property to market next year.
Art Ask Agency showcased new partnerships for some of its top properties including Anne Stokes, Muy Pop and Frida Kahlo. The agency will expand its Frida Kahlo fashion brand in 2015 with new partners LPP for a capsule collection, Fix Design and Ditexmed for apparel and Acme for writing instruments and accessories.